At the Farm Gate: Homemade for the Holidays

At the Farm Gate - Joanie Stiers.2

For the family’s love of homemade cinnamon rolls, I quietly step through the silence of our predawn home and into the kitchen to get rolling.

Still dark outside, I work from the glow of Christmas tree and the light of the kitchen island, where I had staged the final roll-making supplies the night before. I softly stream holiday music and savor the early morning peace, interrupted only by the tick of a warming stove and gentle blow from the furnace vents. That moment continues a home-baked holiday tradition at least three generations old, taught by my mother and grandmother before me. Now, my daughter often joins me.

Two hours later, the fragrance of baked cinnamon rolls fills the house, something like the loving aroma of a Thanksgiving meal. The household stirs, ready for the sweet, warm richness we enjoy around the holidays. When age 4, our son provided the only objection that I can recall. Mind you, I had sacrificed sleep to make the family-recipe rolls when he awoke and asked for pancakes. I managed to laugh at his innocent, insulting request. Now 10 years later, the cinnamon rolls have won him over.

As a kid, I remember cinnamon roll dough rising in every warm spot of the house. I recall the rhythm of Mom rolling the dough at the counter and the way she uniformly sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon across the dough, free from the over-applied globs I struggled with as a newbie. The timing at which to frost them seals the deal — slightly melted to a transparent sheen to reveal the cinnamon-brown sugar swirl, but thick enough to sit atop a warm roll.

Dozens upon dozens of foil pans full of fresh cinnamon rolls left the farmhouse in which I grew up. Mom topped them with a bow for neighbors, landlords and relatives. I preferred mine at the dining room table with a glass of store-bought chocolate milk, which she purchased only around the holidays. I would slowly unwind the roll, eating it from tail to core every morning when they were available. I’ve eaten far more cinnamon rolls than my age for this annual tradition.

While much about the farm has changed with time and technology, we remain rooted in our favorite traditions. Nothing warms the soul quite like the homemade instructions that fill my recipe books. Even if it’s pancakes.

Joanie Stiers farms, writes and bakes in west-central Illinois where her family honors the morning of her December birthday with a candle in a homemade cinnamon roll.

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