Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Heart Recipe

 "I have good news and bad news.  Which do you want to hear first?,"
I asked my parents as we arrived to our annual trip to Cambria.
"The good news I guess," my Mom answered.
"I've cracked the code!  I've finally figured out Grandma's cinnamon rolls!"

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents would come visit us from Illinois and my Grandma would bring a large shopping bag filled with small tin foil packages.  Each one contained a single cinnamon roll that she had made.  She would bring these delightful treats hundreds of miles to us and we'd be over the moon about it!  The tiny foil packages would quickly go to the freezer where they'd remain until we took a selected amount out and placed them in a hot oven to warm up.
Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls are a part of my childhood like roller skating, water skiing and ballet.
As I got older, I begged to learn to make these fantastical buns and finally, with my crimped hair and acid-washed skirt, Grandma Jones and I made her cinnamon rolls in our very own kitchen.
She was rather particular.
I don't think she liked much help in the kitchen and liked to do things herself -
especially her famous cinnamon rolls!
But she let me help a little, grabbing the rolling pin out of my hands from time to time and correcting my mistakes.
Boy I wish I would have paid more attention that day! 
I was probably a junior in high school and had no idea then that those rolls would stump me for years to come!
My Grandma passed away just after I graduated from college.
Years later I decided to try to make Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls on my own as a surprise for my family.  With her bread recipe I jotted down on some scratch paper, I started out on the all day adventure.
"Place 3/4 of a 5 pound bag of flour in a large bowl.  Heat the milk and let it cool, test the temperature with your elbow..." These mysterious instructions left much room for interpretation!  My first batch was pretty, but lacked flavor.  There were not many specifics on what exactly to put in the rolls.  Cinnamon, sugar and butter obviously, but how much?  So each year I added more ingredients to try to make the flavor match my Grandmothers, and each year mine came up short.
My Grandma never frosted her cinnamon rolls,
so I couldn't mask the mistakes with a layer of sweet, white confection.
I began to write notes on the recipe of what I tried and if it worked or not.  What became my New Years Day tradition of making Grandma's cinnamon rolls, also became the day of trial and error!
This year my children were eager to help in the day long festivities.

 I did a little research of other cinnamon roll recipes to see what I might do differently. 
For the past several years, my focus has been on the filling of the rolls - more butter, more sugar, sprinkle sugar in the pan and on top before baking, more cinnamon, try brown sugar...  They just needed more flavor!

I snapped a quick photo to text my mom, announcing what was filling my day.
Her reply said it all! 
"Remember, Grandma Jones put a bag of sugar on top!!"
In other words:
If we're going to eat these things one more year, please, for heaven's sake, add MORE sugar!!!!
 The dough was mixed and rising for 2 hours.
It looked like a cream colored moon, rising to fill the sky.
My favorite part came - "punch it down."  There's nothing like putting your fist in the center of a heaping mound of soft yeasty dough!
The dough was turned over and let to rise again for 1 1/2 hours.
All was going well.
It was now time to punch it down again and start rolling out the rolls.
Looking at the tempting ball of dough, I pinched a small piece off and put it in my mouth.
The sensation was not what I expected.
I rushed to the recipe.
Had I forgotten the salt?  Had I put in the right amount of sugar?
This dough had no taste!
Making Grandma Jones' cinnamon rolls this year was different.  Over the past year, I have started baking my own bread almost weekly and by now I have the recipe almost memorized.  I know that for 2 large loaves of bread I need 1 Tbsp. of salt and 1/4c. of sugar or honey.  With my Grandma's bread recipe which yields 3-4 loaves of bread there is less than half that amount of salt and sugar! 
AH HA!  I've cracked the code of Grandma's cinnamon rolls!
It's the dough that's the problem, not my lack of cinnamon and sugar in the rolls!
The dough itself lacks flavor!
Remember at the top of this tale I said I have good news and bad news?
Well, you've heard the good news - I figured out why for years my cinnamon rolls don't taste as good as Grandma's!  And now for the bad news -
I figured this out after I made this labor intensive batch!

The parallels to real life are all over this cinnamon roll fiasco!
There is something missing in our life, something just isn't quite right.
We search for answers in our attempt to have the fulfilling life we long for, but adding more things just doesn't seem to make the difference.
Year after year we make new resolutions, try new things, buy new clothes, new cars, change careers... we do everything we can think of to change the flavor of our life, but the problem doesn't lie on the outside. 
More cinnamon and sugar won't change the heart of the cinnamon roll! 
What we need to change is our heart!
A life that is following God's recipe for living is a full, flavorful, delicious life.  When we lay down our own thoughts of what life should be and surrender the recipe we've always used, then God opens our eyes to all sorts of surprises and possibilities we never imagined.
We often place our time and energies in things that won't yield eternal rewards and we keep coming up short, year after year, trying to dress the problem in a different outfit, but the problem still remains.

Until we change our heart recipe, we will continue to lack flavor.
What recipe are you following to live a flavorful life?
So look out.  Next year I'm changing the bread recipe and making the best cinnamon rolls yet!

*all photos on this post were taken by my children!
**my apologies to all the friends I dropped off a hot batch of these tasteless rolls to! Next year will be different - I promise!

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