What a messed up cinnamon roll teaches you.

It can teach many lessons especially if you didn’t start from a recipe.

What effects does the flour have? How much water to flour? Do I even want water, or should I use milk? How much fat should be added to the dough, and should it be butter, lard or something else? Do I want to use white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses or a mixture? How much salt? Cream cheese frosting, or vanilla icing? Should I use a tiny bit of yeast and let rise for longer, or more yeast and less rise time? Can I shape them uniquely? Can I cook them uniquely? Can I serve them uniquely?

If you went through these questions and came up with some different possibilities such as:

  • Liquid to flour ratio – 3 options
  • Milk or water – 2 options
  • Butter or lard – 2 options
  • More fat, or less fat – 2 options
  • White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup – 3 options
  • More salt, or less salt – 2 options
  • Cream cheese frosting or vanilla icing – 2 options
  • More yeast, or less yeast – 2 options
  • More rise time, or less rise time – 2 options

Those choices are more binary than the actual amount of choices you can make and yet they still represent 1,152 different ways to make a cinnamon roll. There is a huge amount of room for judgment, experience and artistry. These are the tasks where there is opportunity for humans to come in and say “This is how I do it.” rather than a machine to do something that is simply a task to be carried out.

A messed up cinnamon roll teaches you that there is more ways to do things, and more experiments to try. You tried one and it simply didn’t work. I’m sure one of the other 1,151 offers something spectacular, but I don’t think you’ll have to bake them all to get to that point, after a handful, you’ll start to see trends that lead you towards your “ideal” cinnamon roll.