Thursday, 17 July 2014

Planes, Helicopters and Cinnamon Buns

I recently returned from almost 3 weeks in the US. We visited the lush, mellow Hawaiian island of Kauai so in many ways it does not qualify as the US in my mind as it is small, tropical, quiet and remote place. I could write on and on about how nice and friendly my tribe, the Americans, are. Or, how there was such a variety of food and shopping choices. Or how I'd forgotten American everyday sayings as I am now use to Australian lingo and British ways of saying words and phrases. Instead I will blog about a new phobia, flying.
It is a 10.5 hour flight back to Sydney from Hawaii. After eating (at least there is free wine on international flights), watching movies ('Bridesmaids' gets funnier each time), reading (Shantatram - the 'Eat, Pray, Love' of an escaped convict) and taking a nap (who invented neck pillows...they never work for me)there is still time left. For recently anxious flyers like me, this time in the sky can seem like an eternity. One thing about living on a large island on the other side of the world is that it is a remote island on the other side of the world. It takes forever to fly anywhere. When we lived in California and flew to see family in New York, the 6 hour flight seemed very long; a flight you may only take 1-2 years due to the "long" flight. Now, living in Australia, a 6 hour flight would be heavenly. Here some flight times between Sydney and other parts of the world:
Fiji Islands = 4.5 hrs
Bali = 6 hrs
Shanghai, China = 10.25 hrs
Mumbai, India = 13 hrs
Cape Town, South Africa = 14 hrs
Los Angeles, USA=15.5 hrs
New York, USA = 20.5 hrs
London, UK = 21.5 hrs
Australians like to travel. Perhaps living on a remote island there is a need to get out and explore the rest of the world. Many high school seniors have a what is called a 'Gap Year.' After they graduate from high school, they travel, work and live overseas for 1 year. When they return, they start University. Primary and high schools have 4 school terms during the school year with 2 weeks off between each term resulting in a shorter summer. With kids having 2 week breaks throughout the school year, it is easier to travel without missing school. It is also standard to start a job and get 4 paid weeks off called annual leave. Australians work to live and will take their vacation time. It is accepted in the workplace and not frowned upon. So off they go, when they can.

For those born here and not afraid of flying, they don't seem bothered by these long flights. I guess they are use to them and have no choice if they want to travel abroad. This morning I bumped into an acquaintance at a neighbourhood shop. She told me that she just returned from Iceland (yes, Iceland) and was jet lagged. She said they split up the flights back to Sydney and the last one wasn't so bad - it was only a 10 hours from Hong Kong! I have a new found respect for globe trotters. My husband is one and he doesn't mind flying and rarely gets jet lagged (no fair). After about 6 hours on a plane, my overactive imagination starts running at full speed and I start thinking (il)logical thoughts like – what am I doing in a tin can at 30,000 feet? How does this big hulking airplane have enough gas to get back to Australia? What really happened to that Malaysian plane - could we disappear too? Who are all these strangers in such close quarters behaving so nicely - when will the riot break out? How big is the septic system on this plane as there seems to be someone in the lavatory every 10 mins? Only 4042 miles to go...are you serious?!
While I was in Kauai, I decided to face my fear by taking a helicopter ride. Kauai is a great place for a helicopter ride since much of the island is untouched, undeveloped and unseen. This was a bad bad idea. The 45 minute flight seemed like the longest minutes of my life. I was nauseous, shaking and praying in my head. I could have prayed out loud and no one would've heard as the chopper was so loud. They had us wear big heavy earphones so we could instead hear the pilot's corny jokes and songs by the Little River Band. This music selection put my husband's 70's music in a new, more positive light. There was also a foreign woman next to me who kept laughing. I wasn't sure if she was scared bleep like me, loving the flight, or laughing at me. I was ready to give her my barf bag if I used it. Luckily I didn't lose my lunch. I was shaken and stirred from this ride and very happy to get back to my family and a stiff drink at our timeshare.

Now that I am on the ground and safely sitting at my computer, I decided to do a little research in hopes of getting over my new flying fear. In speaking with my next door neighbour who is an international pilot, he told me that the only time to have concerns are on take-off and landing as that is when accidents mainly occur. In between, passengers should just relax. Even with turbulence, which scares the bleep out of me, I am suppose to view this like a bumpy road that has pot holes and will soon be smooth again when the plane tries another elevation. I like the analogy but at least potholes are already on the stable ground and not thousands of feet in the air. That said, I did some research and there was some interesting data. Would you believe that after pilot error, the second most likely cause of a plane crash is birds? I knew those pigeons were up to something. Your chances are very slim for getting killed in a plane crash. I was actually very surprised by these odds.
Odds of being involved in a fatal plane accident
Odds of being on an airline flight which results in at least one fatalityOdds of being killed on a single airline flight
78 major world airlines
1 in 3.4 million 
78 major world airlines
1 in 4.7 million
Top 39 airlines with the best accident rates 
 1 in 10.0 million 
Top 39 airlines with the best accident rates 
 1 in 19.8 million 
Bottom 39 with the worst accident rates 
 1 in 1.5 million
Bottom 39 with the worst accident rates 
 1 in 2.0 million
Source: OAG Aviation & accident database, 20 years of data (1993 - 2012) 

So now I really need to change my perception of flying based on the reality of how safe it really is. Perhaps if I can get over my fear of heights and claustrophobia I may be alright. Yeah...right.

While we were in Hawaii, my daughters had Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast a few times and loved them. I rarely see Cinnamon Rolls in Australia so I thought I'd try making them at home and sharing the recipe with you. I must say that is not an everyday recipe because they are time consuming to make. They took me about 2 hours to make from start to finish. That was because I had to let the yeast rise. No effort there, just waiting time. If you can find rapid rise yeast, you can make these in 1 hour. They are absolutely delicious, decadent and worth the effort. I was trying to be healthy after returning from vacation but I couldn't resist these buns; they are worth every calorie and so good with a coffee or tea. This is a really fun recipe to make with kids. 
Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Gimme Some Oven blog

Dough Ingredients:
1 cup milk 
1/4 cup/55grams cup butter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 envelope instant  yeast (approx. 2 1/4 tsp)
1 egg

Cinnamon-Sugar Filing Ingredients:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk

1) Pre heat oven to 160C or 350F 
2) Combine milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Continue heating in 20 second intervals, pausing after each to stir, until the butter is melted and the milk is warm to the touch but not hot. If needed, let the milk mixture sit for a few minutes until it is warm but not hot. * It is very important that the mixture is just warm and not hot. If it is too hot, it'll kill the yeast.*

3) In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour (not all of the flour), sugar and salt until combined.

4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add yeast and lukewarm milk mixture and stir by hand to combine. Add the flour mixture and egg, and beat on medium-low speed until combined. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue beating for 5 minutes on medium-low speed. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a warm damp towel and let rest for 60 minutes until it doubles in size.(Note: if you have rapid rise yeast, let dough rest for 1/2 the time or 30 minutes)

5) Meanwhile, make your filling by whisking together sugars and cinnamon in a bowl until combined.

6) When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Then use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 14 x 9 inches in size. (If you want all edges to be even, you can use a pizza slicer to cut the dough into a perfect rectangle.) Use a knife or pastry spatula to spread the softened 1/2 cup of butter out evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. THIS IS REALLY FUN FOR KIDS TO HELP WITH.

7) Using a pizza cutter or dental floss (unused of course), cut dough into long strips. Roll up dough pieces tight and place in well greased pan (I should have used a larger pan the the one in this photo as there were too many cinnamon rolls and they didn't rise as well as they could have, although they still tasted great). Bake at 160C or 350F for 30 minutes. 

8) While the cinnamon rolls are cooking, make the icing by stirring together melted butter, vanilla and powdered sugar until combined. If the icing is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of milk to thin. If the icing is too thin, add a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar to thicken. (Sorry no photo)
9) Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
10) Smooth icing on top and enjoy! They wouldn't last long.

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