Mario Batali’s Cinnamon Rolls and the Power of Rage Baking
It was less than a week after Eater published its report on Mario Batali and his sexual misconduct that the chef wrote an “apology letter” to his fans and readers that ended with, none other than, a recipe for cinnamon rolls. Most of the reactions to this recipe addendum pointed to the obvious: that Batali and whoever was in charge of his newsletter didn’t take these allegations seriously enough. Ending what should have been a heartfelt apology with a self-promotional recipe is in fact cause for (even more) outrage.
It was especially rich then when, a month later after this incident, blogger Geraldine DeRuiter of Everywhereist decided to actually make the cinnamon roll recipe that Batali linked to and write about that experience. DeRuiter’s article blew up last week, and she says while most of the feedback has been positive, there were a few incidents — including her Twitter account being hacked — that were negative.
I talked to DeRuiter a little further about her piece, including the recipe she says promotes self-confidence, and that moment in her story when the cinnamon rolls, shall we say, popped.
1. What inspired you to make Mario Batali’s cinnamon rolls a month after his newsletter? —
I hadn’t had the chance to make them a first time. I was on the road when the article first came out and didn’t have access to my kitchen. After I got home, the fact that he included a recipe kept tugging at me. It was just so strange and completely out of place. I figured the only way to exorcise that demon from my head was to make the cinnamon rolls.
2. What kind of response have you received from your piece?
So many people have reached out with wonderfully kind and supportive comments. It’s been heartbreaking to see how many people related to the piece personally — and how many reached out to me letting me know that they loved it but that the circumstances of their work meant that they couldn’t say so publicly.
And yes, there’s been plenty of negative responses, too. I’ve had a couple of hateful comments on the blog, and yesterday my Twitter account was hacked and taken over (and Twitter is telling me I might not be able to get it back. I’ve had that account for nearly a decade and had 50K followers, so I’ve been pretty distressed about it).
3. What were some of the most egregious parts of the recipe?
Honestly, the fact that he used pizza dough in the first place is really surprising. Batali’s pizza dough recipe is decidedly savory — it has white wine and a tablespoon of salt in it. And the recipe literally makes about a cup-and-a-half of icing for a very small quantity of rolls. It’s like they didn’t test it at all.
4. Walk me through what happened during this “erection” moment with the cinnamon roll. What was that like?
When I opened up the oven and saw that one of the rolls had … popped up, I couldn’t believe it. It was all just way too much. But thinking about Batali as I baked the recipes, honestly, I just felt … betrayed. I expected more from him. I’m not sure why.
5. Have you made any other Mario Batali recipes where he cut corners?
I have one of his cookbooks and I’ve always been pretty happy with his recipes, but I’ve also used my best judgement, whereas in this recipe, I followed it to the letter — I didn’t want to fill in the huge gaps that he’d left in the recipe. I wanted to show people what happened when you made the recipe exactly as Batali had written it.
Later I used the leftover dough to make a pizza and it was good. It’s not a bad dough recipe — it’s just not a cinnamon roll recipe.
6. You mention in your piece that “good baking means you have to trust yourself.” What are actually good recipes that boost trust in yourself?
I love America’s Test Kitchen’s chocolate chip cookies — they basically make everyone think you’re a baking genius.
7. In your post you say that “good baking requires an attention to detail and care that is hard to muster when you just don’t give a shit or you are distracted by your own rage.” Do you have any recipes to make when you’re filled with rage?
Anything sweet; anything that requires a hefty amount of stirring and kneading. Breads, rolls, cakes, cookies — I tend to lean towards sweets because I find they temper my anger the best for some reason.
Do you have anything you like to make when you feel rage?