Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just Pull it Apart

Yesterday, I found Aunt Sophie's recipe for coffee cake. It's not really cake because you shape all the dough separately and eventually they become a mass of cinnamon, sugar, raisons and chocolate that you can pull apart. But when she started baking, there was no such thing as a pull-apart, so she called it coffee cake. You make it with a yeast dough, and it has to rise several times before you shape and bake. Not that how many times you get to punch it down matters, (recipe to follow with punching included) but what matters is, that one recipe was enough to feed all the flight attendants who pass through the Milwaukee Airport in a day. But if they each had a small bite, they would never be able to fly, because the cake is so heavy a 757 couldn't get off the ground.

In order to deal with the emotion, as well as frustration I felt, (having found this priceless but incomplete list of instructions), I called my cousin Ro. (Aunt Sophie's daughter, who also a great baker.) The fact that there were no directions for the temperature in the oven,(everything was 375), was far less important than how to shape the dough in order to pull it apart, and how to cut the ingredients by at least half. Turns out that when she got married all the recipes she got from her mother were for at least 10 people. They were only two. In desperation her husband finally said, can you just buy 2 lbs of meat instead of 10. I am tired of eating leftovers for a week.

Our mother's never knew how to cook for two, or four. They prepared for at least six in case someone (family or stranger) appeared at the door in time for whatever meal was being prepared. As children, sometimes we ate at home and sometimes we ate at one of the Aunt's. This was never a decision made in the morning. We waited to see who was making what and then we would decide where to eat. That meant that our mother's would have as few as two to feed, or as many as many as ten.

What's all this mean? (When I write it is senseless to look for a meaning.). Life was like a restaurant. We had a plethora of choices about what to eat and where to eat it. There was always enough and the choices were only limited by weather and geography. (Aunt Helene's was much too far if it was raining or you were tired-- the longest distance from house to house was three blocks).

(you want to talk circuitous, watch this). Last night I watched yet one more Presidential debate. And like aunt Sophie's coffee cake, it wasn't really a cake. It was a pull apart. It tasted different than was expected. And yes, it was a little heavy. It was the same as all the other debates, but this time the target was Newt, instead of Rick or Mitt. (I've seen them so often, a first name basis seemed appropriate). Newt, however, who had nowhere to go but up, refuses to be a target. Having spent all those years learning how to play the game, he plays it very well. Maybe it does take an insider to play a game where there is permanent stalemate. And just like Aunt Sophie's coffee cake, the recipe doesn't change, the outcome is unpredictable, you can pull it apart, but it's never going to get any lighter.

The recipe, as written and interpreted for this blob: Melt 1/2 stick of margarine in 1 cup of milk, 2/3 cups water. do not overheat, the margarine doesn't need to melt. When cool (not warm, not cold), add 2 eggs, 3/4 cups sugar 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2pkgs quick rising yeast. I find that if you mix all of that and then slowly add 5 or 6 cups of flour, (it depends on the size of eggs, temperature, how quickly you add it -- I start with an electric mixer and finish with wooden spoon and then knead for about 10 minutes). The dough should be elastic, not sticky. Put a little veg oil in a bowl. Make a ball of the dough, roll it in the oil (just so it doesn't stick), cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel, let it rise til it doubles. Really punch it (it's very stress relieving), let it rise again, punch it silly again. With your hands make a jelly roll, fill with (your choice), raisins, cinnamon mixed with sugar, nuts chocolate chips. Then cut into muffin size balls. Make sure to seal the ends of each muffin. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Let it rise again. Pre heat oven to 375. Bake for about 40 minutes (til they are golden brown). Let them cool. How much sugar and cinnamon do you mix together? Start with 1/2 cup sugar and add cinnamon until you like the way it tastes. Oh, and FYI, no matter how much mixing the Presidential candidates do, you may never develop a taste for any of them. We're Just Sayin.... Iris

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