Sometimes life can be hard. I think all of us die-hard GG fans can relate to the idea of Stars Hollow being a place where there’s a sense of contentment. Not in the sense that these characters never have any problems (we’ve obviously seen evidence against that in the series), but something about the town holds this characteristic satisfaction of who they are and what they do in their day-to-day lives. That’s probably one of the reasons we love to go to the show when we need to feel a sense of comfort and security.
I don’t want to throw you too far of track from why you’re here reading this, but periodically I go through these extreme bouts of aimlessness and self-doubt. It may have a lot to do with the fact that I’m still in my twenties, but I often feel like Rory did in the final episodes of the show. Like when she tells Lucy and Olivia that she feels like she’s standing on this cliff, looking out into this huge foggy abyss, not knowing what will happen with the rest of her life. Some days I feel that way too hard. That’s when I find the most comfort watching the show.
What I want to feel is the confidence of Lorelai. She knew she wanted to open an inn and she did. She got her AA in business and that was enough. As an audience member watching the motto “she knew she could so she did” be played out in the character of Lorelai Gilmore, I never felt that she needed to be anything more than she was, or that she sold herself short of what she was truly capable of. Opening an inn wasn’t her plan B because she got pregnant at 16. Her success was built upon her own definition and we watched her achieve it.
Luke never left his hometown but he built a successful business in his father’s honor. He clearly made enough to spend $100,000 to buy out the building next to the diner to keep Taylor from turning the store next to him into a plate shop for freaks. That was success for him.
Sookie was a critically-acclaimed chef in the tiny town of Stars Hollow who considered herself to be better than Alain Ducasse (just look at his Wikipedia page – dude has THREE Michelin stars, btw). She was great because she believed she was great. No one doubted that fact just because she had a couple of bad days when she lost her sense of taste during her first trimester of pregnancy.
On weeks like these when I’m feeling a little lost, what I want to feel is the warm welcome of Sookie inviting me to take one of her warm fresh cinnamon buns on the kitchen counter. Making cinnamon buns myself was the closest I could get to bringing this dream to reality.
Something I am really proud of is the sense of community my husband and I have built with our friends. We live in a tiny house on the corner of a busy street, where we constantly have people coming in and out of our home, it’s our own little village of Stars Hollow. In the wise words of a good friend – which we have since shared with other guests that have come into our home – hospitality goes both ways. We would love to share our home, but you also have to feel comfortable enough to take what you need. Offering fresh cinnamon buns to our group of friends last night brought me to the realization that to them, I am their Sookie St. James. They make me feel like I can do anything, and for that, I am so grateful.
However, before that realization I was definitely on the verge of an all-out identity crisis, which is why this post is a week late. The tricky part of this project is that I want to do it all. I want to come up with original recipes (most of which I’ve never attempted before – so I’m already setting myself up to fail there), I want them to turn out perfectly the first try and I want them to be as good as Sookie’s would be. There’s just way too much expectation bundled up in those ambitions, even though they’re good ones.
These cinnamon buns are a good example of these feelings. They’re absolutely a doughy cinnamon-y self-portrait of myself from this week. I could not for the life of me decide how I wanted to do this. I was confident I could make cinnamon buns from scratch, but I’ve just never taken the opportunity to try it out before. So I had no foundation to go off of. I asked you all on Instagram what your fave recipes were, and I got a ton of great examples, but the overwhelming majority of you said Pioneer Woman’s recipe was the best. The only problem was her recipe was literally enough to feed an army – or I guess in her case, a ranch. There are EIGHT cups of flour in there!! I know I could half the recipe, but I also did some more research to find what else was out there. I chose to go with a combination of recipes from the Pioneer Woman and Tasty’s cinnamon rolls because I couldn’t let go of the idea of having these be an “original” recipe.
While the final product came out great, and received high praise from my husband’s book club, there were still a couple of things I would want to change in the recipe. I’m not gunna lie, I got super lazy this week due to my quarter-life crisis and didn’t shop adequately for this recipe. I ran out of butter (a cardinal sin in my kitchen) after using what I had in the fridge in the bread dough base, so when I added the cinnamon sugar filling it definitely could have used more of a binding agent to moisten it up a little more and aid in caramelizing between the layers of the rolls.
I also was adamantly against using a cream cheese frosting. Don’t ask me why, because I couldn’t tell you. I guess it was just another trip to the store I wasn’t willing to take this week? Being without any butter, I was left with just powdered sugar, flavoring extracts and milk. No matter how much vanilla I put in frosting it just couldn’t drown out the taste of the powdered sugar to my liking. So the other change I would make is having a thick sweet buttercream to spread on top. I haven’t carried these changes out myself, but I’m going to go ahead and reflect them in the recipe below, so you all will just have to try it out and tell me how they turn out!
These are not a hassle to make – at all! I know it sounds like they may not have been super delicious, but you’ll have to take a leap of faith that I’m just critiquing in true Sookie fashion that they have the potential to be even that much more delicious. There’s a fair chance this may spiral into a risotto episode and my kitchen will be covered in cinnamon rolls the rest of the week… I don’t see any fair objections to that idea…
Rating: Delicious, with even more potential.
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup salted butter, melted
1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
Warm the milk until it’s warm to the touch, not yet boiling. Melt the butter into the milk and add the white sugar. Tasty recommends the mixture be between 100-110° before adding the yeast. Sprinkle 1 packet of active dry yeast to the top of the liquid and let sit for 5 minutes. Add the flour and baking powder using 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated before the next addition. Cover the dough with a moist warm towel and leave in a warm place to rise for at least an hour (I did 2 hours). Use the dough right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to rest overnight. Fold the dough 10 times and then roll into a large even rectangle. The longer the rectangle, the smaller the rolls will be. Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar in a bowl and set aside. Spread a stick of softened butter over the rectangle and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter. Starting from a bottom corner and working your way over, begin to roll the dough tightly until it becomes a long log. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1 ½ – 2” rolls.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 9-inch cake or pie pans and arrange the rolls by placing one in the center and fill the rest of the pan with rolls around it. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden.
Prepare the frosting by whipping 1 stick of softened butter for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extract. Mix in the powdered sugar a half cup at time, mixing until fully incorporated before the next addition. Whip the frosting on high speed for 2 minutes. Add directly to the hot cinnamon rolls.