Cim-ple Memories

My weekday breakfasts are routine.  Besides a cup of coffee I’ll have yogurt and fruit one day, eggs the next.  That’s about it, alternating between one or the other.  Something about this relatively healthy repeat comforts me.  On the weekends, however, we fancy it up.  Maybe homemade waffles or pancakes.  An omelet with whatever leftovers we can find in the frig.  Or even breakfast out, where someone else does the cooking.  And very occasionally, especially on Sundays, I’ll step back to my childhood and bake the earliest breakfast I can remember – homemade cinnamon rolls.

Last week, my son texted to let me know he was making breakfast with his young daughters.  The three of them were putting together eggs, fruit, and rolls to start their Saturday right.  The rolls – the Pillsbury variety where you whack the tube on the counter and separate the rolls onto a cookie sheet – are topped with a distinctive orange icing my son remembers from many of his childhood breakfasts.  Now he’s carrying on the tradition in his own kitchen, which warms my heart.  But I also realized it’s time he joined the succession of family members who still bake our trademark cinnamon rolls.

If you’re hoping I’ll include a recipe at some point in this post – something with secret ingredients to make our cinnamon rolls the best ever – you’re about to be disappointed.  These rolls are as simple as it gets.  Begin with… Bisquick.  Maybe you’re not familiar with this breakfast-in-a-box product from General Mills but it’s still on the shelf.  You just add milk to the mix and voila, you’re making anything from pancakes to biscuits.

Our cinnamon rolls use the Bisquick biscuit recipe with the dough pressed out flat, adding sugar and spice, and then rolled up to be cut and baked in the oven.  The process is designed to crank out the rolls in hurry, as for a family of seven on the clock before Sunday church.

Now here’s where I pay homage to my father.  He steps into the story because he was the one who made the cinnamon rolls, almost every Sunday without fail.  I’d shuffle into the kitchen bleary-eyed from the night before and there’d be my bathrobed, unshaven father, preparing what we affectionately called the “cims”.  As soon as he rolled out the dough, a kid could help the rest of the way.  Sprinkle brown sugar from one end to the other.  Add raisins here and there.  Dust with cinnamon for a final flourish.  Roll up the dough from one side of the board to the other and cut into segments.

Some of my brothers didn’t like raisins so Dad upped his baking game a bit by leaving them out of some of the rolls.  Eventually he even made “jelly rolls”, substituting the sugar and spices with one of our favorite flavors from Smucker’s or Knott’s.

Speaking of ingredients, our cinnamon rolls were brand dependent.  Besides the essential Bisquick, the brown sugar came from C&H, the raisins from Sun-Maid, and the milk and butter from a local dairy called “Edgemar Farms“.  Funny how those come back to me like yesterday, yet I never thought much about the names until now.  “Bisquick” is literally “biscuit” + “quick”.  C&H is the “California and Hawaiian Sugar Company”, their product refined from sugar cane (instead of beets).  Their jingle still dances around in my head (“C&H… pure cane sugar… from Hawaii… growing in the sun…”)

The updated “Maid”

Sun-Maid put the spin on “Made”, of course, but I never “made” the connection between the name and the woman in the logo until now.  They’ve updated her image several times over the years the way KFC and Wendy’s updated theirs.

Here’s the real point of this post.  My dad and the family cinnamon roll recipe are forever inseparable.  Even though his sons (and their children, I hope) carry on the tradition, it’ll always be Dad and the rolls.  One is not a memory without the other.  I realize – all these years later – Dad made the rolls to give Mom a break from the countless meals she made the rest of the week.  Honestly, the only memories I have of Dad in the kitchen are mixing drinks, tending to the barbecue, or making the “cims”.

Soon after my son texted, I sent him the cinnamon roll recipe.  I hope he “cim-ply” abides as part of his Sunday morning routine.  I hope he refers to the leftover dough bits as “collywobbles” the way my dad did and his dad did before him.  I hope his daughters mispronounce “cinnamon” as “cimmanin” the way I used to (which maybe inspired the nickname “cims”).  But most importantly, I hope he remembers his Grandpa every time he rolls out the dough, preparing breakfast for the family just to give Grandma a break.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

21 thoughts on “Cim-ple Memories

  1. Now I’m hungry… and I just finished breakfast – bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola. Hubby ‘mixes things up’ Sunday morning with a run to Tim Horton’s for an egg and bacon breakfast sandwich and a cup of Tim’s Dark Roast Coffee.
    I love how children can create words that are better than the original word! Our young daughters used to ask me when their dad was coming home from working on the ‘drigs’. ‘Drigs’ were drilling rigs and the word stuck!

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    1. We have a franchise here called “Einstein’s Bagels” which makes excellent breakfast sandwiches (the coffee is meh). One of these days I’ll come across a Tim Horton’s and give it a try. It seems to the go-to up north for coffee and a lot of other things.

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  2. I remember those Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with the orange icing. I loved them with every fiber of my young self. I don’t have any memories of Bisquick cinnamon rolls, but my mother made their Velvet Coffeecake for special Sunday mornings. It was almost pure sugar, so I liked it very much.

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    1. I know there are a lot of fond memories of Bisquick out there, Ally, but my one and only is our cinnamon rolls. Come to think of it, now my mother used Bisquick to make the dumplings in her pot roast recipe. A versatile product!

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  3. I remember Bisquick, but my Mom made rolls out of the mix. Cinnamon rolls would have been better. Of course, we also had the Pillsbury rolls too. I hope your son follows in tradition too. It seems like he is, but maybe his kids will offer a different spin on “cims” if they can’t pronounce cinnamon, they use their “own word,” who knows. WONDERFUL STORY!

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  4. Nice memories Dave! I may have to buy some Bisquick. I used to use it for making biscuits but then switched to the Red Lobster Biscuit mix. I’m not sure I could handle orange icing though. I’m partial to that cream cheese icing Pillsbury puts in the round container you whack open. On the wrapping it says “Cinnabon” cream cheese after the franchise which makes my absolute favorite cinnamon buns. Unfortunately the nearest store is 2 hours away, so I may give yours a try. It sounds easy.

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    1. Yes, Joni, the orange icing is in the little round container just like the cream cheese version. I’m guessing the rolls themselves are exactly the same. Red Lobster Biscuit mix – oh my. Those Cheddar Bay biscuits are the reason we don’t go very often. We spoil our appetite on them before the entrees even arrive 🙂

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      1. You can buy a box in the grocery store for $2.99 – the biscuits are quite good on their own, without adding the cheddar, but the box also contains a little foil package of their special seasonings/herbs you can mix up with melted butter and drizzle on.

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  5. You missed a step Dave (or maybe I just didn’t see it), after rolling out the dough he would spread melted butter all over before adding the other ingredients. He would use a big spoon and I always remember that for some reason.

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    1. Yes, a lot of melted butter before the sugar/spice, and he’d use the bottom of the measuring cup to spread it evenly over the dough. I’ve used that clever technique in several other recipes!

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  6. I love cinnamon rolls!!! Don’t eat them much because of my doctor – something about too much sugar, my last blood tests, awkward questions about family history of diabetes.

    If it wasn’t for those darned blood tests, I’d be eating cinnamon rolls everyday – with raisins.

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    1. Good man, Andrew. I am a raisin fan too, and always thought they complimented our cinnamon roll recipe with just the right amount of sweetness. BTW our recipe has no icing, which I think is the downfall of many a cinnamon roll. You lose the taste of the pastry itself under all that sugar.

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    1. Buttermilk is one of those items I wish would be sold in smaller quantities (and easier to find). I use it very occasionally in baking but then I end up throwing out the leftover 75% when it spoils. But I agree, I think the best dumpling/biscuit recipes use buttermilk.

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  7. Oh now I want a cinnamon roll Dave and then to cast aside my hearty bowl of oatmeal that I eat 365 days a year. My mom used to use Bisquick too and made cinnamon rolls and also something that looked like a long danish, which she’d roll out, fill with raspberry jam, fold over and she’d drizzle icing on it when it came out of the oven. Yum. Mom would also make homemade biscuits with Bisquick and my special memory was every 4th of July weekend when she made homemade biscuits and gravy, a treat that was contingent on my doing all the window, a chore I absolutely hated, even more so as my mom would stand at each window on the inside, just like a taskmaster, taking a long-handled duster to point at every smudge or streak that I missed. I would sigh and grumble (in my head of course) and I was to tell her when I was almost done with the windows and she’d start making the biscuits and homemade sausage gravy. The days of enjoying real butter, fatty sausage gravy and white treats – sigh. Healthy eating is nice, but not so memorable.

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      1. That is interesting Dave and it makes sense. I haven’t seen that big yellow box around this house since my mom passed away. She used Bisquick all the time; I can just taste that peach cobbler now. 🙂

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  8. My grandma sometimes made scratch cinnamon rolls that I have yet to see equalled. Unfortunately, nobody in the family learned her method. My mother always made the Pillsbury versions in a round cake pan. My sister and I would fight over whose turn it was for “the middle roll” that lacked the hard crust on one side from the pan edge.

    My wife would occasionally make the Bisquick coffee cake, but it has been awhile.

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