Last week I dreamt about my Mom for the very first time since she passed away over a decade ago. In my dream I was laying in bed and she was sitting on the edge looking down on me, reassuring me that “everything was going to be alright,” an expression that I don’t remember her using when she was alive. The whole dream was unsettling, but I decided that her message was worth holding on to, and so during this particularly stressful summer, I have tried making an effort to weave some childlike innocence back into my life, at least during August, my birthday month. It’s easy to remember what it was like when world news could not be farther from my thoughts and the biggest worry I had on any given day in August was deciding which flavor I would pick from the Italian ice cart as it made its way down the Grand Concourse on those hot summer days in the Bronx.
So what have I done this summer? We had lunch at the original Farmers’ Market which consisted of a delicious grilled cheese sandwich at Short Cake, with a tall glass of iced blueberry lemonade (blueberries were a very important part of my childhood summers). We saw How to Train a Dragon 2, during which I treated myself to a childhood favorite, Malted Milk Balls. Last Sunday was spent at the beach with Shira and Norm, and enjoyed the feeling that with each set of receding waves, another set of worries were being washed away. Shira and I spent an afternoon at a Korean Spa, (o.k. that is not from my childhood) an experience so relaxing that I fell asleep while having a spa treatment. And then today. Today is my actual birthday and so after my daughter-in-law arrived in town we went to Joan’s On Third for breakfast, definitely a favorite of mine, and I ate two soft-boiled eggs, something my mother often made for me and always served in shot glasses. Joan’s makes them just the way I like them, 4 minutes, not 3 which produces a runny white, and not 5 which makes the yolk too hard. It has to be four, four is the perfect number to achieve the right balance between too soft and too firm. We then drove over to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, came home, ate fresh (peaches and cream) corn, brushed with melted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Elizabeth and I, her close friend Rachel and baby Orly, retreated to the den and Norm “put up” some pickles, and baked a batch of cinnamon buns for dessert. They should be ready in a few minutes and I expect that when I bite into that rich yeast dough, and all I smell is that quintessential childhood combination of sugar and cinnamon, that I will remember my dream, and the words of my mother, and I too will be sure that everything will be alright.
1) Make a half recipe of your favorite Challah dough, using about 3 1/2 – 4 cups flour. (Click on the link for my recipe)
2) Mix dough and allow to rise at room temperature till double in bulk. While dough is rising, make sugar and cinnamon combination.
3) Combine 3/4 cup brown sugar or a combination of brown and white sugars with 3 Tb good quality ground cinnamon. Whisk together till smooth, and lump free.
4) Sprinkle counter with flour, punch down dough, and roll out to a large rectangle, till thickness is about 1/4 inch.
5) Melt 2 Tb butter and using a pastry brush, paint surface of dough.
6) Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar combination leaving a 1/4 inch border around the perimeter of the dough.
7) Roll dough into a tight log, starting with the long side. Slice into 16 equal portions.
8) Grease a 9″ square pan and place buns, spiral side up, snugly into pan.
9) Allow to rise for about 2 hours.
10) Preheat oven and bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, rotating after 1o minutes, till rich golden brown.
Make a fondant or cream cheese glaze of your choice.
Serve slightly warm.