Living With January
New Year evokes such possibilities and I can’t negate its appeal. For some it is a powerful opportunity to start fresh and set goals. In the past years, I came to change the way I turn the calendar. I want to see how January unfolds, blending from December in a fluid timeline with very soft edges.
I try to slow down the transitions and not say goodbye from old anything or hello to new anything. I want the old to be like a sourdough starter or an existing fermentation brine kicking in the process of a new ferment. I want to add new recipes to my old recipe book instead of starting a new one. I want to let things ferment and develop from the old, and with the new, together. I want new ideas to be like seeds we plant in Fall to harvest in Summer. Life is full of mystery and wishes that I chase, hoping I can endure winter’s harshest days in the dark, hoping life will be sweet and bright at harvest time.
I think of how fermentation cultures slow down when we live at lower temperatures. Living in the Northern hemisphere, January is cold and gray. The days are slow and sleepy. I take these examples also as an invitation of how to live with the season. Being in the presence of nature’s daily transformation is a wonderful fuel, and a reminder that slowness is a powerful speed.
When I don’t race, time can flavor, digest, stain, mature, mark itself on my days and what I touch.
Maybe winter months are intended as a rest from color and brightness, but oh how I crave the sun. I wish I could do photosynthesis in my own body. One way I incorporate these thoughts in my daily life is by surrounding myself with reminders that I am in a process. I am a process. Even the still is moving. The still picture on my phone from last year’s tomatoes is moving me. The leafless branches of trees are holding to their buds and making future summer fruits.
In January, I bring in the colors, make small inside gestures against the white covered snow fields. I love to sprout and get a burst of greens from seeds into my plate, or to a bowl to admire in the center of my table. I love to regrow the ends of beets and romaine lettuce in little dishes placed on my windowsill. I love to chop carrots with purple cabbage and ferment them in salt brine on my counter. Seeing them shine in the glass, potent purple and red, breathing their cabbagey perfume of digestion! I love to roast orange butternut squash and add to everything we make. I love to save water from cooking beets to make sourdough bread.
I hope you are finding your way through time, too, and welcoming February with me.
Sourdough Cinnamon rolls made with Roasted Squash Butter
1/2 cup fed sourdough starter (you can also use refrigerated starter I talked about here before — meaning a starter that was fed and was moved back into the fridge to ripe over the course of several days.)
1 cup liquid (water, I used whey from making greek yogurt)
1/4 cup Squash Butter (squash butter made by blending roasted winter squash to a smooth puree)
3 – 31/2 cups flour ( 3 cups if using all whole grain, 3 1/4- 3 1/2 if using all sifted)
1 ½ tsp salt
Cinnamon Sugar Filling Paste
½ cup softened butter
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting:
¼ cup cream cheese
¼ cup soft butter
¼ cup maple syrup to taste or a combination of blended sugar and syrup to flavor.
- In a bowl, combine fed sourdough starter, water, egg, squash puree, flour, and salt. Knead the dough well, 4-6 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover.
- When you think of it or if you are around, do a few sets of stretches and folds to help develop the dough. I usually start this dough when I get home from work mid afternoon.
- Before going to bed or when the dough has risen 30 to 40 percent ( no need to let it double but look for bubbles and smooth, not tearing dough, giving us a clues that it is developed) If your house is cold, this cold, this process could take longer.
- In a small bowl, combine softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon to make a paste.
- Roll out into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
- Add butter and cinnamon-sugar filling to the dough and spread the best you can up to the edges.
- Roll the dough up to a log and slice to make 11 rolls on a 10 to 11 inches greased baking pan.
- Cover them and place the in the fridge overnight for a cold retard or proofing your sourdough rolls at cold temperatures
- The next morning, take the rolls out while you preheat the oven to 425F and bake them for 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are lightly browned or internal temperature of 190F.
- EDIT to add: During the winter months it may take a while for them to puff a bit after you take them out of the fridge. You can leave them out on the counter for up to a couple hours before baking depending on the temperature of your house. When you bring them out to room temperature completely, you may cut back some of the baking time so they don’t dry out too much.