Years and years and years ago, I had my first Cinnabon. We had just moved to Arlington TX (a suburb in the Dallas Fort Worth area) and I had just transferred to a brand new high school near the end of my Sophomore year. Within of a few months of us settling in, my dad actually got transferred to another state to work on a project there. It was a hard time for me – I missed my friends, I missed my dad, and the feeling of not belonging in this blonde-blue-eyed-football-loving-expensive-bag-toting-every-kid-gets-a-car-when-they-are-16 sort of world was painfully real. I know I made life difficult for my Mom, who was essentially bringing up me and my sisters by herself while my dad was away. We would fight about curfews, getting a car, grades, getting in trouble in school, and everything else under the sun. Looking back now, I see how much stress she was under and how she was trying her best. But explaining that to a teen angst filled 15 year old would have been impossible.
I also see now how she tried her best to give us all the things she could, in her own way. She would cut back on some non-essential groceries so we could get season passes for Six Flags (an amusement park close by), or a new jacket that was a pretty good knockoff of what all the other girls in my high school were wearing, or taking us all to a matinee movie . And then there was the time she were at the mall and we got Cinnabons. In that moment I was “normal”. I was doing what all the other kids were doing, and it felt nice.
Fast forward a few years later, and I’m back in Pakistan; back in a country that I considered to be part of my definition of home all those years ago. But things are a little different. I’m there with my husband, and our brand new daughter, living in a city that is not at all familiar and slowly realizing that the feeling of home I had always felt was tied to my family, and my Mom in particular. There are so many hurdles that keep getting in the way – court dates, release papers from the orphanage, strikes and bouts of violence throughout this unfamiliar city. This just makes the homesickness worse. I miss my parents and sisters, I miss my car, my apartment… my life back home in NYC.
On one of these days we get a cab to go to the mall to try and distract ourselves after spending the whole morning arguing with some office clerks about paperwork. At first I smell the familiar scent but shake it off as a case of craziness, and then I spot the familiar white and blue logo. Hah, I couldn’t believe it. A Cinnabons? In Pakistan? The familiar taste of the sugary frosting, and that soft doughy roll oozing with cinnamon and brown sugar practically has me in tears.
That brings us to present day. It’s been a year and a half since our little girl came into our lives and things have never been the same. I’m a mom now and I can already imagine all the fights we are going to get into when she starts growing up. In some ways, I may be more prepared to handle my daughter than my mom handled me. I’ll have grown up in a similar cultural context, we have more money to spend now, and I can always look to my own childhood / teenage antics to try and connect with her. But in some ways I’m sure I’ll be exactly like my mom. Setting curfews and rules, trying to protect her from things she may not care about at that moment or things she may not understand. She’ll hate me for it, and I’m ok with that. I just hope that when she’s 30 and looking back at her life, she’ll see that I did all I could do to keep her safe, and that I allowed myself to be the bad guy because it was what was needed in that moment. The same way I look back at my life now, and appreciate all the hard work my Mom put in to raise us, and all the sacrifices she made to get me to where I am today. Thanks Mom.
- ******For the Dough:
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk, warm
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup bread flour
- ******For the Filling:
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- ******For the Frosting:
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Add sugar, butter, eggs salt then flour and mix well.
- Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide. It should be approx 1/4 thick. I had a large cutting board about this size so used this to gauge size.
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling.
- Spread the softened butter (as part of filling) over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface, leaving about 1-inch untouched around edges. Gently roll into a fairly tight roll, trying to keep the filling inside.
- Using a string of floss, tie a knot around the dough log and tighten until you have cut off a piece. Do this until you have 12-15 small rolls (depending on how thick you want them). If you don't have floss handy, cut with a sharp knife.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and place each roll about 2" apart. Cover with kitchen towel, and let rise for another hour.
- When the hour is almost up, start preheating your oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls for about 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.
- Let rolls rest and cool.
- **** While rolls are cooling, start on the Frosting. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and butter for 6 minutes on low speed
- Bump up the speed to medium-high and mix for another 10 minutes.
- Turn off mixer. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and mix for an additional minute. Add the vanilla and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
- If serving right away, top warm, fresh-baked rolls generously with frosting. If not, store both frosting and rolls seperately in air tight containers. Once you are ready to serve, microwave rolls for 15-20 seconds, and frosting for 5 seconds. Top rolls with frosting.