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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

A friend is entering the cinnamon roll business. That sounds good. The cinnamon roll business. Actually, you don't even need "business" at the end of the phrase "cinnamon rolls."

Cinnamon rolls are stand-alone strong. Consider a box of doughnuts. A cinnamon roll looks out of place in a box of doughnuts. Cinnamon rolls require their own box. They don't need company, nor are they asking for it. They like being among their own kind and, if not, don't be surprised if they flex their sugary muscles.

Cinnamon rolls are like the California economy when it's humming. California doesn't rely on the other states. We're OK with the other 49 being there, but we're not going to worry about them.

I ordered 12 cinnamon rolls. They were $3 each. I gave Suzanne Prasser of TooLicious Sweets & Treats $36, and we were square.

A cinnamon roll is not cheap, but I would not advise trying to get a deal on it. Beat somebody up over the cost of a glazed doughnut if you must, and I don't even think that's very good sportsmanship. However, a good double-rise cinnamon roll is a labor of love.

Awhile back our son Herbie was in town with his girlfriend, Kristin. She remembered the cinnamon rolls from Hodel's, although she couldn't remember the name of the iconic restaurant. Hodel's has an excellent cinnamon roll, which comes in a flexible round aluminum tin.

That's not a $3 cinnamon roll because it's not a big cinnamon roll -- unless you want to eat three at once -- but the icing is thick, the rolls are soft and the inside is cinnamony.

During the holidays, this is a call-ahead cinnamon roll. Without giving Hodel's notice, you could be barking up a tree whose fruit has already been picked.

In an article several months ago about the reintroduction of the Hostess products, I mentioned the Honey Bun. The Honey Bun was to cinnamon rolls what Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill was to wine. It primed the pump and prepared you for the delicious treats ahead.

"Do the ones you bought have raisins?" asked Sue, my wife, who fancies herself somewhat of a cinnamon roll connoisseur.

That's the thing about cinnamon rolls. Everybody thinks they are an expert, and maybe they are. Each of us remembers one great cinnamon roll to which all others have to pay culinary homage. You can't talk somebody out of a cinnamon roll memory. Better to listen with your head bowed.

Suzanne's cinnamon rolls were delicious (these had raisins). They were light, but not too light where you're chasing them around the plate. You want your cinnamon rolls to have gravitas but not so much gravitas that they become like horseshoes should they harden.

A cinnamon roll is always better warm, but if it isn't, that's what microwaves were made for.

I don't know if you've noticed, but it's cinnamon roll weather. Frosty cold mornings. Dark cool nights.

The other day at breakfast, I had a problem. A good problem. I had to decide between a cinnamon roll and one of Herb's Famous Homemade Muffins. Guess what won? Guess what went back into the freezer into the homemade muffin bag?

It was a fine cinnamon roll. I went back and forth between using the fork and my fingers. I wanted contact with the cinnamon roll but too much contact and you have a sticky situation a napkin can't conquer.

Better to go paper towel. Use the cloth napkin for the less challenging homemade muffin and its ilk.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at