Kitchen Alchemy

I think it was Michael Pollan who said bread is the original alchemy. Or something like that… The idea that you could take flour, water, salt, and a little bit of magic (starter/yeast) and a few hours later have a loaf of bread _is_ pretty miraculous.

Unless of course you haven’t figured out how to bend yeast to your will and none of your creations rise…ever.

I love to bake (see cookies), but I have always been intimidated by anything that relies on yeast. I was curious of course, and so often family or friends would say of their amazing yeasty creations, “Oh, I go by feel.” Or… “You know it’s good to go when it looses it’s sheen.” Don’t get me started on kneading and the window pane method.

I’ve attempted recipes with yeast. I can make pizza dough. I can make fried scones. I tried sourdough from a starter and failed… I tried cinnamon rolls and could never go the distance. I gave up. Yeasty goodness felt like too much of a risk. If I’m going to spend time in the kitchen I need _results_! Bring me the butter and sugar. I have cookies to make. Cookies are a sure bet. Every time.

Last week I had a texted conversation with my brother, who is both a doctor and an amazing home chef. The things he makes in his kitchen, when he isn’t powering through a slog of night shifts, are delicious and inspiringly delightful. The term “foodie” was invented to describe people like him.

Anyway, we were texting about baked goods, as one does. And he shared that he is in a perpetual state of wanting a donut or cinnamon roll.

I had just made donuts…

These donuts:

Strawberry glazed and good old vanilla glaze.

Our text conversations are filled with some amazing pictures.

I then shared that I love cinnamon rolls, but have terrible luck making them.

My brother sent me his cinnamon roll recipe:

The Softest Brioche Cinnamon Rolls

Now ordinarily I would have said, “OOO.” Or begged for him to make me some the next time I’m in San Diego. My identity in the kitchen is formed. I can bake many delicious things, but cinnamon rolls ain’t in my repertoire.

But those look really good. And the only place I’ve found that has really good cinnamon rolls is an hour away in the mountains–the snowy mountains. And even so, they don’t approach the homemade level.

I’m not sure what it is, but I have always found homemade cookies and homemade cinnamon rolls to be superior to the offerings in bakeries. Not true with cake. Not true with muffins. But always true with cookies and cinnamon rolls.

I decided that try this recipe was worth the risk. Especially since it was snowing.

I’m no good at going by feel… So I used a thermometer to get the temperature of the milk right, a scale to measure out the ingredients, and the bread proof setting in my oven(because it’s cold and dry in Colorado).

And I made cinnamon rolls. Kept my brother updated the entire time.

So it turns out I can make cinnamon rolls. I just need some trusted mentorship and a few adaptations.

And this story has made me wonder what other parts of me that I claim as part of my identity, I’ve gotten wrong. Also made me reflect on how much of alchemy is really just mentorship/good teachers.

What do you think? Have you ever realized you _could_ do something/be something with a few tweaks? Has a good mentor tipped the scales for you? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

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