Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Man cannot live by Bread Alone, or Can He?

My paternal grandmother Dorothy, or “Dottie” as she was known by her family, was a culinary inspiration who enjoyed cooking as much as I do. I remember spending summers and holidays with her in anticipation of my next lesson under the tutelage of “Dear Dear”. I would forego playing video games with my cousins just to gather some precious jewels of culinary wisdom. After all, we lived nearly 800 miles apart and time spent together was few and far between. Among the many recipes she shared with me included biscuits, cookies, cakes and pies. She would give me helpful hints and secrets learned over the years from her mother, sisters and through her own experience. Since she passed seven years ago, I’ve inherited several of her recipes scratched on old pieces of paper, newspaper clippings from the 60’s and even a baking cookbook published in 1959. The most significant recipe, though, was not one that we normally created together, but one passed on to my mother who then added her special touch. The yeast roll. Dear Dear’s original recipe was received from a neighbor, church member or relative, written on a most valuable piece of paper that now exhibits its age of 40+ years. The rolls are an extended family favorite as I’ve witnessed first hand, relatives devour 6 or 7 before the meal even begins. On several occasions, family members were seen hiding rolls from each other or even smuggling a bag of rolls under their shirts. Scary, I know.

The roll is made from a batter yeast dough more common during the post-world war II era, and contains more moisture and less gluten due to mixing instead of kneading. Mom added a bit more sugar to the recipe resulting in a sweeter, more tender roll. I would spend hours watching her make rolls for church repasts, Christmas & Thanksgiving. Anytime a family at our church experienced a death, Mom would show up at their front door with a paper bag containing a ham (remember the repast episode on Good Times?) or a batch of freshly baked rolls. Over the years, I memorized the technique and added my own small twist to yield the ideal texture and flavor of the buttery yeast roll. You see, it’s not just about the ingredients that make the rolls unforgettable, but the love the baker has for cooking and for the ones who will partake of this bread. With my generation pursuing our careers and raising families, preparing homemade yeast rolls is typically a thing of the past. Many families opt for heat and serve rolls but I encourage you to try out the recipe below. It is an abbreviated version of our family’s traditional yeast roll and more suited to today’s lifestyles.

Should you be graced with the opportunity to share a holiday meal with a warm, fluffy, buttery yeast roll, take time to enjoy the moment with loved ones by sharing a great meal and making new memories.

Quick Yeast Rolls
Adapted from “Quick Yeast Rolls”
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temp.
¼ c. sugar
½ c. hot water
½ c. warm milk
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
½ t. salt
2 ¼ - 3 c. all purpose flour
¼ c. melted butter
1) In a muffin pan, grease 8 muffin cups.
2) In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, milk and hot water. Cool to lukewarm then add the yeast until dissolved. Add the beaten egg, salt and flour. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
3) Gently release the gas in the dough and divide into the prepared muffin cups. Brush with melted butter, cover loosely with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
4) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
5) Bake the rolls for 10 minutes or until slightly browned on top.

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