Friday, November 20, 2009

Scary Dangles

I've finally stopped to ask myself one very important question:  When did I become afraid of scary dangles?

When I was 3 years old, my living room housed a small, plastic jungle gym.  Bright red tubes made up the frame, with large plastic squares snapping into place to create walls and floors.  Perhaps you remember the type I'm talking about?  I loved that jungle gym, as only a 3 year old with an insatiable thirst for adventure could.  Oh yes, it offered endless possibilities for danger and excitement.  But the best game of all, the one that I returned to day after day, I had aptly named "Scary Dangles."

Scary dangles was simple enough in premise, yet never ceased to entertain me (and my parents, who I'm sure were tickled pink by their daughter's bizarre pastimes).  Here's how it worked:  1) Climb to the top of the jungle gym frame.  2) Hook an arm, leg, what-have-you (this is where you get points for creativity) over the top-most bar.  3)  Swing free, and dangle midair in the most precarious and "scary" way possible.  

Before anyone calls child protective services, please note that my scary dangles took place all of 10 inches above the pillow-covered ground.  But to Adriana the 3 year old, a scary dangle was the epitome of laughing in the face of danger.  Each dangle was unique.  And with each dangle I showed the world just how tough I was.

Now, here I am at 24, spending day after day sitting in my barren cubicle, reworking spreadsheets, and listening to my boss tell me once again that I'm not getting enough done (in other words, working at a 'stable' office job.)  Yet, I spend my nights in another world, in another life, attending culinary school and loving each and every moment.  Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that an office job was the only reliable way to make a living.  I persuaded myself to think that I could never seriously pursue cooking or writing as a career.  I pressured myself into believing that my office job was as much as I deserved and as much as I was capable of.

And now that I think about it, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the last time I took a scary dangle, threw my head back, and laughed in the face of precaution.  Well, I think it's about time, don't you?

Today I handed a letter of resignation to my boss, and then I went to school and churned out some flaky, buttery biscuits, ornamental, chocolate-dipped tea cookies, and three nearly excellent baguettes.

I don't yet know what will come next for me.  But you can rest assured that I'll be here to cook and write my way through finding out.  And for some reason I'm not worried.  Because suddenly I'm 3 years old again, grasping that tip top bar, closing my eyes, and swinging free.


Drunken Raisin Brioche Cinnamon Buns

These are perhaps the most indulgent cinnamon buns I have ever had the pleasure of barbarically wolfing down.  I've altered the recipe slightly from the version I made in class so that it's more friendly to the home cook.  If you're about to take on a challenge these buns will give you the courage to do it.


basic brioche dough
4 oz brown sugar
2 oz butter, cold pieces
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins

1 cup brandy

apricot jelly

2 cups powdered sugar


step one:  One day ahead, pour brandy over the raisins and store overnight until the raisins have absorbed most of the brandy.

step two:  Make your basic brioche dough.

step three:  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together.  Use your fingers to cut the butter into the mixture until only pea-sized chunks are left.

step four:  When the brioche dough has risen, roll out a large rectangle of it (about 20 in x 15 in) on a floured surface.  If you're having trouble rolling it out, do the best you can, let it rest for a few minutes so that the dough can relax, and then finish shaping it.

step five:  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture all over the top of the rectangle and all the way to the sides, except leave a 1in boarder on the top long side for sealing.  Squeeze the excess brandy out of the raisins, and sprinkle those liberally over the sugar mixture.  Use fingers to lightly press down filling.  Dip your fingers in water and slightly wet the top board to help with sealing.

step six:  starting with the bottom long side, carefully roll up the rectangle, being sure to keep your roll tight and even.  Pinch closed the seam and roll lightly to make the shape more uniform.  Trim off the ends, and slice into 1.5 in thick pieces.  Set in a buttered dish, giving them enough space in between to expand.  Set aside until they rise a bit, but not quite double in size.

step seven:  Cook in the oven at 400F until they are done to your liking.  Each oven is different, so I can't give you an exact time.  I find it best to slightly under-bake these beauties, and I suggest you do the same to keep them moist and gooey.

step eight:  Meanwhile, set apricot jelly in a pot on the stove over very low heat to melt.  Add a tiny bit of milk to your powdered sugar and mix until you get the consistency of a glaze, thicker or thinner depending on your preferences.  When the buns come out of the oven, brush immediately with apricot jelly.  Let cool, and then drizzle with sugar glaze.

Enjoy with a glass of milk, and your next big adventure.



  1. You're my hero. I'm so proud of you.

  2. Way to go! Love hearing stories like this.
    There is nothing worse than a cube for a creative spirit.....
    I've made a few flying leaps in the past few years myself
    and it's all working out just fine.

  3. Congratulations! I know how you feel -- I am working part time so i can do an un-paid, but awesome internship right now ... scary and thrilling.

  4. You are brave. Congratulations on taking a bold step. Best of luck.

    You post reminded me of my days at culinary school. Gorgeous croissant!

  5. Life is too short to waste by not being yourself. Enjoy the scary dangle and send me your business cards so I can pass them around!

  6. Balls of steel.

    Good writing. Great recipes. Wonderful story.

    What will happen next?? Can't wait to hear...

  7. The only nude picture of my son I ever saved from his early childhood was climbing up the side of the exact same red wall-less building that you are speaking about. He played just like you did with a joy and fearlessness that was delightful to watch. I took his picture in the back yard with his red house and his love of climbing and his naked 4 year old body swinging his legs from the top bar of the roof. Such fun. Now he is a soldier with far more scary dangles ahead.

    So lovely to remember.

  8. Oh my word. Courage. Boldness. Grace. It is well with you. Stay strong and look up....there's always a way

  9. Thanks everyone for your encouraging words! It's wonderful to know that I have people rooting for me as I take this risk :) And believe me, as soon as I figure things out, you all will be the first to know!

  10. What a lovely entry. :) And these pictures have my mouth watering!

  11. "On the day I was born said my father said he, 'tis a beautiful legacy waiting for thee . . ."

    The future is yours.




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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009