Elizabeth Bauder is having an affair. Hey, it’s okay. Her husband, Damion, is fully aware, and he’s actually quite on board. For Elizabeth has fallen in love with dough.
Elizabeth, director of engagement for Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County and avid gardener, is on a bread adventure. You can almost feel her heart swoon.
“All of the women in my church bake really well,” she says. “They talk of how their grandmothers and mothers baked. Meanwhile, I’ve always been a terrible baker.”
When their dog, Winston, got sick, Elizabeth marked her days by visits to the vet’s office. She was lost in sadness at Winston’s worsening condition and in the realization that she could not alter the course of events.
She turned to baking. “It was tangible,” she says, smiling. “There is a specific recipe, you follow directions, and you can expect a result.”
Well, maybe not the result she anticipated.
Elizabeth began with French bread. Her first many loaves were dense and gummy, suitable perhaps for the building material that she and her log-home builder husband have been using in the construction of their Brown County home.
Nevertheless, she persisted. She worked on her relationship with the dough, getting cozy and more familiar with its texture and its yeasty aroma. She got bolder and played with quantities and types of flours. She teased out more elasticity and made sure her oven was just the right temperature for the dough. When her 11th French loaf came out of that hot oven with a “singing crust” — when it crackled like breaking glass — she knew she was a novice no more.
It was just a matter of time before she moved on from French loaves to Italian candied-lemon-peel panettone sweet breads.
Elizabeth is smitten. “I’ve always been drawn to functional art,” she says. “Baking is an art that people consume. It’s a creative outlet. It’s a way to love people. An expression of care. Where everything is so fast, you can’t rush dough. There’s no immediate gratification. There is a rhythm and a diligence, a lesson in submitting yourself to the structure of a recipe. And hope.”
Patience and hope are ingredients for any good relationship of the doughy kind or the human kind.
Lately, Elizabeth has been flirting with cinnamon rolls. Because of her experience and confidence, it has been a much quicker courtship.
When she took a batch to Wagler Construction where Damion works, the consensus was unanimous: “We’re going to throw you a parade!” they declared.
Elizabeth’s Throw-You-a-Parade Cinnamon Rolls
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm (not hot, just warm, 105-110°F) evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated pure cane sugar
1/3 cup softened (not melted) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 heaping tablespoons cinnamon
Dash freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup softened (not melted) unsalted butter
1 cup raisins and/or chopped nuts (optional)
Cream cheese icing
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dissolve yeast in warm milk in a large bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes; as the yeast activates, it will bubble and froth.
In a separate bowl, blend sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour, and mix well. Pour mixture into the yeast/milk and mix until incorporated.
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 8 minutes.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place (Elizabeth puts it in a 170°F oven) for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
While dough is rising, make filling and preheat oven to 350°F (if you aren’t using it for the dough to rise). To make filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter in a bowl until it is “gooey-crumbly.” Set aside.
Once dough has doubled in size, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface, until it is approximately 16 inches long by 12 inches wide and approximately 1/4 inch thick. Spread filling mixture evenly over surface of the dough. The back of a spoon works well for this step. Scatter raisins and nuts over filling, if using. Once filling is evenly spread, lightly dust entire surface with a light sprinkle of nutmeg, if using, and additional cinnamon.
Fold the short ends in before rolling the dough to prevent dried out ends. Carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough jelly-roll style so that it looks like a long log. Cut the rolls into 1-inch-thick slices using a piece of floss. Place the cut rolls, with a flat side up so you can see the filling swirl, into a lightly greased pan. Cover with damp towel and let rise again for another 30 minutes until they double in size.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a light golden brown.
While rolls are baking, make your icing. Mix icing ingredients in an electric mixer until fluffy. When rolls are done, allow to cool slightly. For soft, melting frosting, spread generously over warm rolls. For thick and firm icing, cool rolls before spreading. Use a heavy hand!