John: “Are these healthier than your family’s sweet rolls?”
Me: “Yes, probably.”
John (said with sadness): “I can taste it.”
Me: “Well would you eat them (as well as the family sweet rolls) if you had both?”
John: (An incredulous look)
This was our conversation about whether I would serve 2 kinds of rolls at our Thanksgiving or only the famous sweet rolls. He would only want the famous sweet rolls. Alas, another attempt at branching out down the tubes.
But really with good reason in the end. I am not so attached to tradition when it comes to holiday meals, so I suppose it is good to have one enduring tradition that makes me taste home, my mother’s kitchen, my grandmother’s dining room table, my siblings poking at one another and generally being siblings, my dad and grandpa presiding over the table, with every single bite.
These rolls were actually one of the first things I learned to cook as an adult–and definitely the first thing I baked. Oddly, none of my siblings have done so. I guess, like me and apple pie, they just want to eat Mom’s. But for me, these rolls just seemed the right way to bake your way into other people’s hearts and homes. My first boyfriend, my friends in college, my mother in law’s Thanksgiving dinner the first time I was there… you name it, I made these rolls.
These rolls defy baking laws as we know them. I have never carefully measured much of anything in them and to my knowledge neither has my mom. I am not sure about Grandma; I do know that my mom has always said that she, my mom, makes these rolls with less flour because that is how my dad likes them. Grandma of course made them more floury because that is how Grandpa liked them.
I confess I’ve never asked John what he thinks.
*My* favorite way to make them is with buttermilk with a bit of cream (or a higher fat buttermilk) and maybe a tad more flour than my mom uses. I also use about 2 cups of white whole wheat flour–not that anything will put these rolls into the realm of health food. I have also recently discovered that the best results come from making the dough in the morning and then punching it down all day long, for repeated risings. This works well for holiday meals, when you want to get making the dough out of the way–but you want to bake the rolls later, in order to serve them warm from the oven.
The point being, that while you will decide how you like these rolls best, you will never have a dud batch. The recipe is extremely forgiving. And, I would venture to say although I have never polled my family on the subject, they are usually our favorite thing on a table laden with tons of other delicious dishes. When I was younger I ate them slathered with strawberry jam; now I usually eat them with European salted butter. And the best next day use EVER is a sweet roll sliced open and piled with mustard, salami and provolone cheese. Or ham if you had that with the meal the previous day.
I am sending this over to Wild Yeast‘s Yeastspotting–be sure to check it out every Monday. They are also my submission to November’s Family Recipes, hosted this month by HoneyB over at The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s HoneyBunch.
2 cups scalded milk (or buttermilk–I use a splash of cream and then top off with buttermilk)
1 cup unsalted butter
2 t salt
1 cup sugar
3 scant T dry active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
1 cup lukewarm water (100 – 120 F)
6 well beaten large eggs
10-12 cups flour (less for moister roll; can sub a little white whole wheat flour if desired)
Begin heating the milk or buttermilk on the stove in a small saucepan. In a large mixing bowl, place the butter, salt and sugar. When the dairy is bubbling around the edges and thoroughly hot, pour it over the butter/sugar. Set aside for the butter to melt and the mixture to cool (for the first time recently it did not melt the butter–if this happens, place in the microwave for 30 second increments).
When the butter mixture is cool enough to insert your finger into it comfortably, add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Then add the foamy yeast/water. Mix again. Add 2 cups of flour and beat thoroughly for 2 minutes. The dough with be lumpy at first, which is fine. Then finish adding the flour, 1 cup at a time and mixing to completely incorporate inbetween each cupful. The dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but otherwise will remain quite moist and sticky. If you are not sure how much flour to start with, I recommend 11 cups–next time you can adjust to preference.
Cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise. Every time the dough threatens to rise over the edges of the bowl, i.e., it has about doubled, punch it back down. About an hour before you want to serve the rolls, clean a large workspace and generously dust it with flour. Grab a handful of dough (it will be sticky), place it on the counter, generously dust the top with flour, and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Using a sharp knife, slice a pie wedge shaped piece out of it (you do NOT need to be particular about this) and roll it, starting at the wide edge, into a rustic butterhorn. Place it on a greased cookie sheet. How close you place the rolls is up to you. I like them to rise into one another, because I like the soft, fluffy middles the best. My sister would prefer they be spaced apart to get more crust. When you have filled a pan, cover it with a damp or floured towel (either will work) and set aside to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
20 minutes in, preheat an oven to 375 F. You can do one tray in the center, or 2 trays in top and bottom thirds, rotating halfway through. Bake for 17-22 minutes, until browned. Serve as hot as possible.