Friday, April 20, 2007

Cinnamon Bread

I made it until 4:30 this morning, waking up to pee and then realizing that my nose was stuffy and my mouth was dry. I came back from the bathroom, already half knowing that I was not going to be able to breathe easily when my head hit the pillow -- heaven knows that I love the pretty spring flowers and blooming trees just as much as the next girl, but they kill me.

My climbing back into bed makes my husband stir. He turns over, heavy with sleep, and says in a groggily cheerful voice, "Hello! I'm pleased to meet you!"

"What?" I ask, surly. Sometimes when I stir in the middle of the night, it jolts him into speech. He's capable of coming up with some really funny stuff, once sitting bolt upright with his arms held out, palms up, in front of him. "Please," he urged me earnestly, his eyes still tightly closed, "will you hold this tray?"

This time, he simply repeats, "I'm pleased to meet you," a little more distinctly and lapses into gentle snores.

"I'm pleased to meet you, too," I sigh, and punch my pillow into a more comfortable shape, wondering if he was selling cars in his sleep. Or maybe he was dreaming about meeting me, all those years ago. I stretch out without really relaxing, breathing through my mouth, thinking that if he's dreaming about me in my mid-twenties -- thinner, bright of eye, with that bloom of youth -- he's going to be sorely disappointed if he wakes up now and sees me -- fat, congested, with mad hair in a pointy ponytail. Out of respect for my marriage, I sneak out of bed and head downstairs, pulling on a sweatshirt over my nightgown and pushing my feet into my yellow Crocs.

Downstairs, what is there to do? There are library books a-plenty. There is allergy medicine. There is EWTN and this new blog. But there is also a bread machine sitting on the kitchen counter and I am inspired.

My bread machine is about ten years old and makes 1 1/2 pound loaves of oddly-shaped bread. If I need to produce an aesthetically pleasing loaf, I put it on the dough setting and pull it out for the last rising, baking it in the oven in a regular loaf pan. But today, there is no one I need to impress, so I decide to let the machine do it all.

The recipe for cinnamon raisin bread is pretty simple: warm water, bread flour, two tablespoons of dry milk powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, butter, yeast. A very basic, easy bread that I can throw together in about fifteen minutes. There is enough time that this loaf will finish baking just as the alarm clocks go off upstairs.

We will have coffee for breakfast, rich with cream, and homemade cinnamon raisin bread toast. With butter. Everyone will be pleased when the scent of baking bread and brewing coffee drifts up the stairs. Meelyn will want her coffee in her huge Starbucks mug and Aisling will wait until my back is turned before using half a stick of butter on her toast. She will look at me in all innocence as I tell her to put some of it back: yes, I know there are crumbs, but she's not eating all that butter. Aisling will comply, wounded, feeling that her motives in not wishing to put back the butter are perfectly pure: the next family member to come along will be offended by the toast crumbs. I assure her that we'll cope. Meelyn will roll her eyes above the rim of her mug and get out her math book.

Aisling's favorite kitchen

I'll have my buttered cinnamon raisin bread, with coffee as black as I can bear it, hoping that it will have restorative powers after this, my fifth night in this cycle of wakefulness.


Lilly said...

Your great-grandmother used to live with us during the winters, and she was also an insomniac baker. She slept in the room with me and my sister, and I heard Grandmother every night come to bed and brush her long gray hair, lulling me to sleep. As I rolled over, I heard her slip out of bed and walk downstairs. When the sun came up, my nose awoke to the smell of pies -- apple and cherry, usually. Downstairs was Grandmother with about six pies and a plate full of cinnamon twists made from the leftover pie crust. So Shelley, you got your insomnia and baking genes honestly -- from Grandmother Marshall.

Kbg said...

What is it with kids and butter??? Alex does the same thing...half a stick of butter is a good start (maybe a Paula Deen wannabe) while Matt eats no butter at all...wait...isn't there something about Jack Spratt (rhymes with Matt)...our two A's are a lot alike, aren't they? It sounds lovely waking up to warm bread...I can't see that happening here anytime 5:00 a.m. we are at the pool for swim practice! Pop Tarts are as good as it gets on the way out the door...I hope they don't get on Oprah and tell all someday! Yikes!