Slackness, Show Tunes, and Cinnamon-Roll bread

Yikes. It’s been a few days, eh? I really meant to be better about this blogging thing. The whole intent was for me to write down recipes so that I can replicate stuff we like, with a secondary intent of showing folks how easy veganism can be (i.e. you don’t need to buy all those fancy, pricey faux-meat and fauz-dairy products, nor do you have to have all sorts of wierd and unusual ingredients to make vegan food). So really, I should be blogging every day or every other day to accomplish these goals. Oh well. It’s been a rough week, mentally, for me, but things are picking up. In addition to my running goal, I’m going to challenge myself to blog 5 out of 7 days this coming week, starting Monday.

Business first: Running. Eh, almost non-existent….I haven’t done more than a few 3-mile runs this week. Today I ran pushing the girls in the stroller, which always seems like it should count extra. I will run long tomorrow, but not likely long enough to meet the 25-mile goal. Oh well. Life happens. This week, I’m going to shoot for 4 out of 5 week days, at least two of those being 4 or more miles, and then one at-least-10 miler on the weekend. Oh, and weights and crunches, again. We’ll see.

Today I had the opportunity to spend most of the day playing music. It is a nice break from my normal life of lawyer-professor-mommy. I sub in with a sort-of-local brass quintet; they call me when they need me. They had a wedding gig this weekend and needed an extra horn player. It was a lovely ceremony at a woman’s house; we then played the reception in her backyard, right on the lake. We did not play any truly extraordinary music, or even any music that was challenging to the listener at all, because this was not an arts-type venue; we were there for entertainment. It was kind of nice to just let my mind go and just play, without having to engage in huge amounts of intense thought and concentration. The guys I play with are all good musicians, at least in terms of technique, so we end up sight-reading half the music we play at such gigs. That always keeps me on my toes; it keeps my mind awake, and lets me think only about the notes on the page as they go by. It’s a different sort of playing than one does when working up a big, serious work. One of the nice things about the reception today was the reaction we got from some little old ladies (they really were) who were sitting near us. We played something from some musical, and they just loved it, so then we started playing a bunch of showtunes. At the end of every one the little old ladies hooted and clapped; one in particular kept telling the trumpet nearest to her how much she loved it. It was nice to bring some joy and brightness to someone’s life, unexpectedly. I usually get bogged down in heavy, intellectually-and emotionally-challenging music; I love it, and it provides a certain service for my mind and soul, but every now and then it’s nice to see (and participate in) the fun side of music. We did that today, and it was truly enjoyable.

Onto a recipe…..I made this the other day. We’ve been eating it for breakfast. I love making bread. It is a very sensory experience, and somehow earthy and natural as well. It is also surprisingly easy. I’ve run into a lot of people who are completely intimidated by the idea of making yeast breads. It is SO easy one you learn the basics. Homemade bread is delicious, and cheaper than what you can buy at the store. I usually just make a standard half-whole wheat, half-white loaf, but when I have the time and mental energy, I get creative and make bread with herbs, or other seasonings, or shape it free-form instead of using a pan; then, when baked at a high heat, it gets nice and crusty.

I digree, however. If you’ve made bread, this is an easy recipe. If you haven’t, this will teach you the basics and give you a nice, cinnamony treat.

1 package active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cups warm, not hot, water

salt, 1-2 teaspoons

4-6 cups flour; I use half whole-wheat, half white, but you can use all white (all whole wheat is hard to pull off, at least without a whole lot more sugar and oil)

1 tablespoon oil

for the filling:

2-ish tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine

2-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Method:

Put yeast, sugar, and warm water in a big bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast proofs – this means the mixture gets all bubbly; little bubbles will rise to the surface, and there will be a tan foamy substance on top of the water. It’s a fun process to watch, if you have time. After the yeast has proofed, add about 3-4 cups of flour, the oil, and the salt. Stir. Add more flour until you can’t stir any more. Scrape the spoon and bowl, flour your hands, and starting kneadin’ that dough! I like to knead it directly in the bowl. Add more flour as you knead, as necessary. Any time the dough starts sticking to you, add more flour. Usually, 5-6 cups will do it, but it depends on the humidity, the kind of flour you use, etc. You want the dough to be soft to the touch, but not sticky. So, when you have nice mass of dough, to test it for doneness, just poke it with your finger; if the dough attaches itself to your finger, keep going!

Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with warm water. Place it somewhere warm and let it rise. Usually, an hour or so is enough for the first rising; you want it about double the original size. Punch the dough down. If you were making regular bread, this is when you’d put it into bread pans. However, we’re making cinnamon roll bread! so there’s an extra step…

Divide the dough into two. On a floured surface, spread out one of the sections of dough. You don’t need to use a rolling pin; just use your hands/fingers to smush the dough into a rectangle that is about 6 inches by about 12 inches, approximately. Smear the dough with 1 tablespoon Earth Balance and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Roll, starting at one of the 6-inch sides. Gentle pinch the ends together.  Put the rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Gently pinch the end of the roll. You don’t need to completely attach it, though. Do the same with the second piece of dough. Let the dough sit, covered with the wet towel, for about 1/2 hours to rise again. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden on the top.

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