I decided to start with a crowd-pleaser. I have yet to meet a person who dislikes this book. Some people love it more than others. I was surprised at how much I loved it. Fantasy is usually not on top of my reading list (aside from Harry Potter, of course ♥) In a nutshell, this book is a “phantasmagorical fairy tale set near an ahistorical Victorian London.” Need I say more?
This book has many colourful characters and a rather complex story. So much happens often at the same time, yet you never feel overwhelmed by the plot. I don’t read fantasy novels often and one of my reasons is that most fantasy novels have way too many characters, many of whom come and go with little impact just to complicate the storytelling. Erin Morgenstern does a great job of creating captivating, unique characters each with a quirk of their own. Stars of the show are Celia and Marco the power true controllers of The night circus. This circus is all in black and white, only runs sunset to dawn, and it’s the arena to a secret competition between Celia and Marco. Or rather between their teachers: Celia’s Father and Marco’s guardian and sponsor, the mysterious Mr. A.H.
Now here is the kicker: the rules to this competition–if any–are never discussed. I’m not sure if the teachers even know them all. The two young proteges basically take turns demonstrating their magic. I can only imagine their frustration. Imagine entering an “art” competition and that’s all the info you get. You have no idea what form of art the judges are looking for: who even are the judges? Is there any form of rubric? No? Shut up and create art like your life depends on it?…Okay…
While the regulations around this competition are rather arbitrary, one thing is made clear: things will not end well for the loser…or the winner for that matter. Along the way, we meet the winner of the last match with countless battle scars and a sorrowful tale to tell.
As if all that is not bad enough, we soon learn that the participants are not the only ones in danger. The life and health of every single character we come to know and love is at risk by just being on the arena: The night circus.
Give it a shot. I’m sure you will get hooked and find yourself asking, “HOW IS THIS NOT A TV SHOW YET?!”(I say TV show because there is no way any two hour movie can capture even a fraction of this tale of magic, love and loss. )
Now…onto the NOMsss:
There is this one part in the book that has very little to do with the overall plot actually. However, I remember I stopped chuckled and kept thinking back to it as I read on.
In this part, a teenage circus attendee Bailey and his new friends, the red haired twins, Widget and Poppet (who are performers at the circus) are planning to get a snack and the twins suggest to try the latest item added to the concession stand. They call them “cinnamon what-nots” and are too new to have a name. And then we read this conversation:
Widget: – “it’s layers of pastry, cinnamon and sugar rolled in a twist and covered in icing. What are they called again?”
Popper: “Fantastic, delicious cinnamon things?”
Ummm…so….Cinnamon rolls???!!! I mean correct me if I’m wrong but that’s exactly what a cinnamon roll is, right? For some reason, I could not stop laughing at this. It sounds bizarre that a pair of extraordinary twins travelling the world with a magical circus have never heard of cinnamon rolls.
Anyways, here is how I like to make fluffy, steaming cinnamon buns. In the book they drink hot cocoa with their “cinnamon what-nots,” so I have also included my favorite hot cocoa recipe.
What you need for the buns:
Note: You should make the dough first since it needs time to rise.
For the dough:
- 2 full tsp dry yeast
- ⅓ cup warm milk
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup unsalted margarine**
**salted margarine will do here, but skip the salt. If you substitute butter, do not melt, let it soften at room temperature.
For the filling:
- 1 cup brown sugar (I prefer the dark kind,make sure its soft and not lumpy)
- 3 tbsp cinnamon
- ⅓ cup margarine (Or softened butter)
- 6 tbsp margarine (or softened butter. Note to self: go back and just add the butter note on top or at the end…stop being a broken record)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cream cheese
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (if you can get real vanilla extract, it improves the taste)
- ⅛ tsp salt (unless you know…yeah
I have listed the ingredients in the order that you need them.
- Put the yeast in a bowl, pour the warm milk in, whisk and let it sit for 5 minutes while it does its magic.
- While that happens, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
- Add in the sugar and margarine. Mix well.
- Slowly add in the yeast mix. Stir and then roll till you have a smooth dough.
- Coat bottom of a bowl with a little oil to prevent sticking. Place the dough in, cover with a cloth and let it raise for an hour.
- Mix the cinnamon and the brown sugar together. Make sure it mixes evenly.
- Take your risen dough, kneel and roll it into a rectangle.
- Cover the dough with a thin layer of softened butter.
- Sprinkle your brown sugar mix on top.
- Slowly and carefully roll the dough along the long side of the rectangle.
- Cut the roll into 1 ½ inch pieces. Use a Sharp knife coated with cooking spray, or unflavored dental floss.
- Grease a 9X13 baking pan. You could also use a large round cake pan.
- Place the cut rolls in the prepared pan. Cover them with a damp towel. Let them rise again for another 30 minutes until they double in size.
- While the rolls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 350 F
- The rolls should take about 20 minutes to bake, if a bit longer. Bake till the top is golden brown.
- While the rolls are baking, make the icing by mixing all the ingredients together. Use an electric mixer if you have one.
Let the rolls cool a little before covering them with icing. I’ll bet they taste better than the ones in the book!
If you’d like to copy Bailey, Widget and Poppet and wash them down with hot cocoa. Here is how I make mine. It’s usually a hit!
What you need:
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 cups milk (Whole milk would be my choice, skim or 1% won’t make it as hearty)
- 170 g Dark Chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips, 170 g is about a cup)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Whipped cream to top and serve
- Bring ¾ cup water to a simmer in a saucepan, lower the heat to medium and add in the cocoa powder. Add it in slowly and whisk until there are no lumps.
- Add in the milk and bring the heat up to medium-high to bring the mix back to a simmer.
- Slowly add in the chopped chocolate and sugar alternating between the two. Continue to whis as you do so.
- Lower the heat to medium again. Keep whisking frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy and chocolate is melted.
- Serve with whipped cream on top and a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top. Enjoy!