“Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand.”
So begins Munro Leaf’s tale of the bull who would not fight. Rather than play and butt horns with the other little bulls who dream of one day fighting at the bullfights in Madrid, Ferdinand enjoys the simple pleasure of smelling the flowers. One fateful day he goes to sit under his favorite tree and accidentally sits on a bee. The bee of course exacts revenge by stinging him, Ferdinand jumps, and then runs around crazily trying to soothe the pain. Seeing this, the men from the bullfights think he must be wild and fierce. He is taken off to Madrid to fight, but upon arriving he sees all of the ladies with pretty flowers throwing their roses into the ring. When it is his turn to fight, he simply sits down in the middle of the ring and breathes happily…just smelling the flowers. No matter how they poke, prod or provoke him, Ferdinand will not fight and he is sent home.
“And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy.”
If I had to wager a guess, the first place I read The Story of Ferdinand was probably at the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Other than The Giving Tree, it is one of the few stories I remember reading as a child that seemed to stick with me and speak to me at every age.
Maintaining self confidence is something that has always been a struggle for me. I was a kid who was mostly content to go along with what my friends had planned. As long as the people I was with were in good spirits, I probably was too. I was very self-conscious about the things I liked. The first time I met someone with the same musical interests as me, my head almost exploded with joy. I saw a lot of really terrible movies throughout high school purely because I didn’t really want to speak up and say, “No, I’d rather not see that.” In my head it was better to go along with things than be a bother or be difficult.
And I would think of Ferdinand…
Ferdinand didn’t feel guilty about not wanting to fight. He ignored everyone yelling at him and simply enjoyed the smell of the flowers. Ferdinand was in control of his own destiny, even if that was just to sit under his favorite tree.
That’s what I always wanted out of life: to be content with myself just as I am, to enjoy the things in life that make me happy, and to let the rest roll off of me like water on a duck’s back. In the face of others telling me what I should do, like, or think, I wanted to be able to make my own decisions and stand by them confidently.
I would think of Ferdinand every time I stepped up to sing at karaoke, stood in front of my mirror before a job interview, or decided all on my own to stay in one night and learn how to make croissants instead of going out to a noisy bar. And his story reminded me to just be myself and BE HAPPY.
And so I decided to have him join me permanently…
While he is still healing, I thought it would be nice to make some little “flowers” that smell so wonderful I think almost anyone would stop to enjoy the scent.
Cinnamon Rosettes (aka Flowers for Ferdinand)
These aren’t your typical ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls, but they are soft, sweet, and have lots of bits of caramelized cinnamon-and-brown-sugar for you to enjoy since each one is baked in its own little tin.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tsp. dry active yeast
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
Warm the milk and a pinch of sugar to between 110 to 115 degrees F. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, then slowly whisk in yeast mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt.
Turn the mixer on a low speed and add the egg mixture, stirring until combined. Add butter and mix until incorporated. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and let it knead the dough for a minute or two, then knead by hand until smooth and elastic.
Roll the dough into a ball and put it in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm draft-free place for one hour or until it doubles in volume.
Prepare filling by whisking together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Butter a muffin tin and set it aside.
Once dough is doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, deflate gently, and then roll into a large rectangle (about 10 x 14 inches). Brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough’s surface.
Place one piece in each muffin cup and then loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow the buns to rest for another 30 minutes. The dough will not rise a lot, but they will puff slightly.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake rosettes for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and brown. The final internal temperature should be between 190-200 degrees F. Gently remove them from the muffin tin and cool on a rack.
I’m pretty sure that Ferdinand thought these were the sweetest smelling flowers he’d ever smelled, and I bet you’ll enjoy them too. Plus, there is no better way to start a crisp, autumn weekend than with a warm cinnamon bun, a cup of coffee, and a reminder to just be yourself.