Sweet roll dough is a living thing. Born of ordinary ingredients, flour, milk, sugar, salt, butter, lemon rind, and a bit of yeast, it came alive in my mother’s hands. Mom made bread for the family every week, but she dedicated Saturday mornings to making sweet roll dough. After pulling open the stainless steel lined flour bin that Dad designed for a deep kitchen drawer, Mom repeatedly dumped cup upon cup into her huge ceramic bread bowl. Warm scalded milk and melted butter cooled until the glass thermometer granted permission for yeast to be added. Magically the mixture foamed and swelled. Swish, it splashed into waiting flour mounds. Mother let me help mix the mass with a wooden spoon until my nine-year old arms grew tired. Plop, out it went, lifeless, onto the thick wood block countertop for kneading. I wonder how many times during my growing years I watched my mother pull, fold, and push dough into being. Under the heels of those strong hands grew a soft, warm, elastic lump. Then, as gently as Mom held my baby brother, she placed the powdery form into oiled crockery where snuggled under clean linen it grew until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, I drifted in and out of the kitchen watching and anticipating the very moment for filling and shaping. Mom always saved me a portion of her dough. While she crafted a pecan coffee cake ring, I selected my own fillings. Raisins, chopped dates, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and cold lumps of butter lined up across the counter. I had the freedom to create whatever Danish delight I could imagine. Pushing and stretching the resilient dough into a rectangle with a large rolling pin I scattered flavorful bits of nutty sweetness across my canvas. Satisfied, I carefully jelly rolled my collage and then scored the top in three inch intervals. Another rising and Mom popped it in the oven.
Riding my bike back and forth by the open kitchen window, I sniffed the air for the enticing scent that said my coffee cake had baked to perfection. Throwing down my bike, I raced inside for the first taste of freshly torn bread, steamy and sweet. Warm as my mother’s hug, the tasty morsel more than satiated my hunger; it filled me with a sense of accomplishment and belonging. The indelible bonding between mother and daughter achieved during those sacred Saturdays in the kitchen became a perpetual treasure. The life she gave to our sweet roll dough is mine to keep forever. Thank you, Mom.