Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Best. Thanksgiving. Rolls. Ever.

When I was small, my grandma let me help her make the rolls for Thanksgiving. How much fun! Making rolls involves enjoyable tasks such as punching down an enormous ball of risen dough, and shaping them into crescents or balls for muffin tins.

We made these old-fashioned dinner rolls the old-fashioned way every year, my sister usually helping out, too. It became The Thing We Did. Making rolls with my grandmother is one of my best memories of her. She died when I was almost 13.

Every year for Thanksgiving and usually for Christmas, too, my sister and mom and I made Grandma's Rolls. Because they are super-yummy and because it reminded us of her. It's one of my most cherished holiday traditions. Today, Ryan will help for the first time. How cool is that?

The roll recipe comes from an old cookbook entitled, and I'm not making this up, Woman's Home Companion Cook Book, published by Collier in the 1940s. The edition I have is from 1951. My mom got my sister and me each a copy when we moved out of the house. Besides the roll recipe (which is YUMMY if I haven't mentioned that before), this cookbook is a treasure of recipes from the days before fast food and microwaves. Actually, I think there are a few microwave recipes in there--they were still quite new. Oh, and if you ever need to know how any kind of sauce is really made, this is a great cookbook--Bechamel, etc., all kinds of sauce. Sauce is important in my family.

I love flipping through this book, because it's interesting to see how recipes have changed (or not) over the years. One notable difference is the use of lard. You can also find recipes for:

  • Molded Corned Beef, which is a gelatin based "dish" (think Jell-o mold) that includes corned beef and pickled beets
  • Oxtail Ragout
  • Tripe, oh yes indeedy
  • All kinds of organ meat dishes, including brains and hearts and tongues

But really, most of the recipes are good and normal. Honest!

Anyway, if you'd like the roll recipe, here it is:

Rich Rolls (aka "Grandma's Rolls")

Milk, 1 cup
Shortening, (part or all butter or margarine), 1/3 cup
Sugar, 1/2 cup
Salt, 1 1/2 tsps
Yeast, 2 packages
Water, warm, 1/4 cup
Flour (sifted--I usually don't), about 5 cups
Eggs, beaten, 2

Bring milk to a boil; add shortening, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle yeast over warm water. After 5 minutes, stir and combine with cooled milk mixture; add about half the flour; add the beaten eggs; beat well. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough; mix thoroughly.

Turn out on lightly floured board and knead about 10 minutes, or until smooth and satiny.

Place dough in a warm greased bowl; brush surface very lightly with melted fat (butter); cover and let rise in a warm place (80-85 degrees) (I put on top of slightly warm oven) about 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Turn out on a board and shape into rolls as directed below.

Place on a greased baking sheet; cover and let rise 1/2 to 3/4 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Brush with milk, melted fat (butter), diluted egg white or diluted egg yolk. (I use butter.) Bake in a moderate oven (375) 15 to 20 minutes.

Usually I roll out the dough into a big circle and cut it into eighths with a pizza cutter, then roll the pieces up into crescents. I also roll little balls of dough and put three in each muffin holder.

So, that's it! I suppose I'd better stop writing about rolls and start making them. Probably this afternoon.


Anonymous said...

I'm making my batch this afternoon too! Great story and entry on the blog... How amazing that this wonderful tradition continues across our families as our families have expanded! My in-laws (who will be sharing Thanksgiving with us this year) and many friends know those rolls to be My Grandma's Rolls. I love that almost more than the rolls. And, my, but they're delicious -- with butter, jam, cinnamon (they make the best cinnamon rolls)...

Or even plain!


Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

Thank you for this heart warming story. I truly enjoyed it and it has served to start my holiday season off in a most excellent manner. :-)

MamaJen said...

I've heard you talk about these rolls for years and years - I have always wanted to ask for the recipe! Thanks for sharing, both the recipe and memories of your grandma. Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Monica said...

Awesome. This goes in my recipe box, to be tried soon!

Monica said...

i am sure a comment on this old post is the last thing you'd expect in the heat of July! But this is the best roll recipe. I made them at Thanksgiving but also at a few other times this year for company. I had it written down somewhere but thought I'd just come here and print it out instead. Robb's parents are visiting today so I think I'm going to make these rolls to accompany our chicken dinner this evening. Yummy, and thanks again!