Improvised Baking? Not As Bad As You’d Think

I love baking. However, it’s so much harder when you don’t have the tools you need. In a rental in San Francisco, without even a liquid measuring cup, with yeast a year old, baking bread gets a tiny bit more interesting.

For summer vacation, I decided to hit San Francisco and hang out in a little rental house. The parks are gorgeous, with beautiful, gurgling streams, and the nearby town is a great place to walk to the store. Even better, the kitchen of the house is stocked with pre-made frosting, cake mixes, sugar, flour, salt, cookbooks, and almost everything that a baker would need. I felt like making some bread, so I flung open the Doubleday Cookbook, and found a recipe called, “Basic Sweet Dough”. Instantly, I had a budding idea for a delicious new treat. For the beginning, here’s the Basic Sweet Dough recipe.

Basic Sweet Dough

1 cup scalded milk (that means a skin has formed over it)

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115  degrees F)

2 packages yeast (3 teaspoons)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

5 cups flour

(I also added about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon for my recipe)


Mix milk, butter, sugar, and salt and cool to lukewarm, and set aside. Pour warm water into a large bowl, sprinkle in yeast, and stir to dissolve. Add cooled milk mixture, eggs, and 3 cups of the flour and beat well. Mix in remaining flour and knead lightly on a lightly floured surface until elastic. Shape into a ball, turn in a greased bowl to grease the dough, cover with plastic wrap or a moist towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Shape dough however wanted.


To begin with, I only had dry measuring cups, not liquid, which slightly complicated the measuring of the milk and water. Secondly, I didn’t have a thermometer, so I had to try and compare the heat of the water with what the water felt like in previous baking extravaganzas. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had to walk to the store to buy butter, milk, and eggs for this. The kitchen was already stocked with the other stuff. I used a wet napkin instead of plastic wrap or a clean towel.

After leaving the dough, cleaning up, hiking, and coming back to check the dough, I found that the dough had barely risen, although I’d been gone for hours.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll just go on with the rest of the recipe…

Sticky Cinnaballs

1 Basic Sweet Dough

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

a little milk


Shape the dough into medium-sized balls. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan, and arrange the balls inside the pan. Dough balls should be lightly squeezed together. Cover and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Combine cinnamon and sugar. Melt the butter, and put over balls of dough. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over dough.

Place pan in a 350 degrees F oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. When buns are done, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. While still warm, drizzle with icing, and eat, marveling at the yumminess. Yields about 16 buns.

Something that was pretty irritating to me was that the kitchen didn’t have a pastry brush, which I would have used to coat the balls with butter, so I had to use a spoon. Even so, it all worked out, and the things were epic. I suggest cutting them with a knife before pulling a piece off, and heat for about fifteen seconds in the microwave when cold. They get stale in two days if you don’t have something to keep them in, which I didn’t, but they barely last long enough.

I apologise for missing two Fridays, but I’ve been working on my current story, and a short story to enter in a contest. The short story will eventually be posted up here. It’s also a kind of prelude to my novelette: its set in the same world, which is one of the most amazing ones that I’ve had the honor of creating. I love that world, but you’re going to have to wait and find out what it’s like!



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