Winter gained momentum after Christmas. The temperatures here dropped, frequently falling below 0 at night and rarely rising above the teens by day. It snowed several times, leaving a good crunchy base below our feet and tires. There are heaters in every trough, making sure the animals will drink plenty of water, as they don't like to drink much when its cold and icy water is not so refreshing in the wintertime.
The wildlife is having a hard winter. The birds can find nothing to eat and daily, the local quail, mourning doves and crows hover over EmmaLou's corral hoping to pick thru droppings seeking undigested grains.
Coyotes, cougars and bobcats are stealthily roaming the ranch. The Maremmas are staying busy at night, patrolling and running packs off from kills, discouraging them from coming any closer. The sheep remain locked in a small pasture where the pups spend daylight hours and some nights, with them. They'll have to be in there 24/7 the week we are gone, which will be in just a few days.
Bruno remains alert, keeping the crows out of the pasture where the lambs are, as they are known to cause injury to them when there is nothing else for them to scavenge.
Notice that "Salty" sticks her tongue out in a 'neener neener' as she remains tucked safely behind her guardians.
All the cows and horses have to be hay fed as there is no forage at all to be found right now.
Luckily, Wimpy shares my metabolism and loses no weight, regardless of how little he might consume.
Normally, our little rock house stays pretty cozy with the small gas stove that heats it. This past couple of weeks however, even with the heater running 24/7, the oven on with the door open and the small heaters on in the bathrooms, we were unable to get the indoor temperature above 55 degrees. One day it stayed as low as 48. Today is much warmer and it is up to 61. Long johns are a nice thing to have and there are periods during the day I will even don cotton gloves to keep my hands from hurting too much and a light down comforter remains on the couch to snuggle under during breaks from whatever I may be doing.
I think of how much more difficult it was for the pioneer women and for the first inhabitants of the ranch, with no indoor plumbing. They had wood heat which was probably sufficient, but there is not a lot of wood here on the desert. I have great respect for the women who lived here then, who also only got supplies for food and clothing once a year, after sending someone with a buckboard on the two week long wagon trip to Winnemucca.
We got a little better taste of what that might be like, when the pipes froze for 4 days and we had no water in the bathrooms. Luckily, it did run in the kitchen so I could wash dishes. Still, I'd rather face these challenges than live in the city. There are benefits to attend the hardships here.
Even with the below freezing temperatures, the winter sun shines from time to time and melts just a little snow, creating awesome yet treacherous, icicles on some of the old rock houses. One such day, there were rays of sunlight and a light snow falling from the clouds around it. It was so cold the snowflakes came down in tiny crystals, reflecting the light and resembling glitter falling all over the world surrounding us. It was truly breathtaking.
The beauty of ice laden trees around the ranch headquarters
EmmaLouMoo ventures out of her 'cave' for a peek
Another benefit of our battle against the elements is that baking warms up the house a bit.
Lately I have been making a lot of cinnamon rolls because I finally found the PERFECT Sourdough Cinnamon Roll recipe. It’s a no yeast recipe that is so easy it almost makes me suspect the “Awesome flavor fairies” must come and do something magic to it. There is nothing quite as wonderful as a hot, homemade sourdough cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting oozing all over it, unless of course, you have gooey, warm caramel pecan rolls. It’s really a toss up. So Randyman decided he wanted both.
Because it is hard for me to get up mornings as a result of it also being hard to sleep at night, my man is kind enough to go out in the incredibly cold temperatures, (the other morning it was 1...yes that is ONE degree, fahrenheit) to slip and slide over the ice and snow and feed all of my critters for me. EmmaLou and SushiMoo, Mister, the sheeples and the chickenhearteds. He also lets the polar-bears in to keep me company if they happen to be back from night patrol. They look forward to the visits as much as I do. Often times, after doing this kind and thoughtful service for me, he will even make coffee, which he does not drink, as well as make breakfast from time to time, before starting his long, cold day of work outside on the ranch. How could I possibly refuse him two kinds of breakfast rolls? I would have to be a truly heartless fiend. I think I did originally tell him it wasn’t possible but that is because I was still experiencing my ‘morning fog’ and hadn’t realized I only had to split it in half and make them in 2 pie plates instead of the big 9x13 casserole dish.
So that is what I do.
To begin with, for the very first time I took my regular sourdough starter and made it into a ‘Herman’ starter. This is done by taking 2 cups of starter and instead of feeding with flour and water, instead give it 1/2 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Feed it twice (8 hours apart) the day before using.
My new friend, Herman
Here is the recipe I got online, but I cannot remember the source. My bad. I do so much web surfing and cut and paste things that look interesting and I get lost on where they came from. As long as I don’t lose the recipe, I am happy.
So, into the kitchen aid goes:
2 cups of Herman starter
3 cups flour (I haven’t tried this with my fresh milled flour yet)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbl baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
Mix it all in bowl and if hand kneading, knead 5-7 minutes. In the Kitchen Aid it only takes a couple minutes, and I turn it out on a pastry cloth to give it a couple turns by hand to feel it and make sure it feels nice and smooth. You can almost feel what a happy dough this is.
I put it in a well oiled bowl, cover with a well wrung out towel that was dampened with warm water. It will take HOURS for this to rise in a warm place, such as near the heater, inside the oven with a bowl of hot water underneat, or on a heating pad. (I would only use the latter during the day when it can be watched. I'm not a big fan of electric blankets or heating pads as I have known them to short out in the past. If you have one of the new seed starting mats, that might be a safer option) There is no yeast in this bread and sourdough always takes a long time to rise. If you put this together in the evening you could let it rise overnight in a warm place.Just know you won’t have it for breakfast that day, it's a slow process, but worth the time. I usually do this in the morning and let it rise most of the day then go to step #2:
STEP2-INNARDS for cinnamon rolls
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbl ground cinnamon
Mix together in a small bowl
After dough has doubled in size, dump it back out on the floured pastry cloth and pat or roll it out to about a 10x20 inch rectangle. For the Caramel Pecan Rolls, I skip the sugar/cinnamon step and just skip to the rolling up and cutting part.
For cinnamon rolls:
I take softened butter and rub it all over the top of the dough rectangle.You can melt it and paint it on with a pastry brush if you want. I just use my hand.
Next take the cinnamon sugar mixture and sprinkle it liberally all over the dough.
Roll the dough up longways. Try and make it as tight as possible, by sort of lifting the dough as you roll and letting the weight of it work for you.
After the dough has been rolled up, I cut it into 1" rolls. Randyman loves these so much and wants them so often, he made me a ‘roll cutter’. This is a very complicated piece of equipment made with dental floss and a lollipop stick. Break the stick in half and tie each end of a long piece of floss onto each half. Now you can just lay the roll on top of the floss, cross your ends and ta dah! Perfectly cut, unsmushed, raw cinnamon roll. Fabulous. I’d get very excited at his invention, but surely someone else will beat us to the patent.
If you are making a whole pan of cinnamon rolls, put these in a 9x13 casserole dish with space between them and cover them, set in a warm place and let them rise. They tend to rise quicker the second time, but it still takes longer than conventional dough. It’s worth the wait though. They will swell up and fill in the gaps as well as gain height.
Usually, it is just Randyman and myself, so I will, instead, put half the rolls in a glass pie plate and the others I quickly freeze on a baking sheet then put them in a ziplock bag for another day.
FOR CARAMEL PECAN ROLLS:
Before cutting your rolls, butter a 9x13 casserole, or if you are baking 1/2 the rolls, I butter a glass pie plate instead. Cover the bottom of your baking dish with chopped pecans.
Now cut and set your rolls in the dish with space between them so they have room to swell and rise and fill in the gaps. They should be touching by the time they are ready to bake.
The next step is to take a box of Cook N Serve butterscotch pudding and sprinkle the dry mix over the rolls. (This recipe is from ‘Overnight Bubble Bread’ on the AR Website.)
Next, take equal amounts of butter and brown sugar and melt in saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture just to boiling then pour over the rolls.
Cover with plastic wrap and let these sit and rise overnight.
When rolls are done rising and are ready to bake, place them in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.
For the Caramel Pecan Rolls, find a plate or a baking sheet, place over the top of your baking pan and invert them so the ooey, gooey pecan/caramel mix is on the top of your rolls. Caution while scooping the reticent bits with your finger...it is hot and will burn both your finger AND your tongue. I will not explain in detail how I know this.
If you made Cinnamon Rolls, hopefully you had the foresight to soften a brick of cream cheese, or if you are fortunate like me and have your own Jersey cow in milk, it will be a portion of homemade cream cheese.
For a whole pan of rolls I use:
1 brick cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
1 1/2 Tbl heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla (again, homemade is the best)
Beat until well mixed and fluffy then liberally slather it all over your warm cinnamon rolls.
Do NOT let anyone take pictures of you while eating your first roll, as you will look like a zombie with your eyes rolled back in your head. The gooey goodness of these rolls is a heavenly experience.
Our good friend the chef (there is no term to describe his amazing culinary skill, words truly do fall short) is opening a bakery far from here in one of the cold, cold states. He asked me to give him the recipe for these rolls and is taking some starter back with him when he goes home next month. I figured that was a pretty good recommendation for the rolls and I am sharing the recipe with you first. I wish I could remember where I got it, because whoever wrote the original deserves kudos. Oh well. If they should run across this blog, Bless you, whoever you are! You have made the world a better place.
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
● 2 cups Herman Sourdough Starter
● 3 cups all-purpose flour
● 1/2 tsp. baking soda
● 1/2 tsp. salt
● 3 tsp. baking powder
● 2 eggs, beaten
● 1/2 cup margarine
● 1 cup white sugar
● 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. In a large bowl combine Herman Sweet Sourdough Starter, flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and eggs until well blended.
2. Knead dough in bowl for 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture is smooth.
3. Let rise in warm place until doubled. (CAN TAKE SEVERAL HOURS)
Punch down. On a lightly floured surface, press dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. Combine melted margarine, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread mixture over dough. Sprinkle with walnuts or raisins, if desired.
4. Starting on long side, roll up dough, jellyroll fashion. Press ends together to make a seam. Cut in 1-inch slices with a piece of dental floss and place in an ungreased baking dish.
Allow rolls rise to double their size. This can be overnight.
5. Bake in a preheated 325 F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.