experiments in cooking

The Michelangelo of Rolls

Before starting to assemble and bake my first apple pandowdy this past Saturday, I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun to have homemade rolls with dinner?

Only, I’d never made my own rolls before.

I wasn’t sure where to start. I bought some quick-rise yeast recently, but I didn’t have a favorite recipe of my own, or even one I was sure I could do. Then I remembered that Angela Zeller, a student who worked in an office with me several years ago, was proud of her family’s favorite roll recipes and had photocopied a page from an old Home Economics Teachers’ Cookbook for me. On it I found a recipe titled “One-Hour Rolls.”

That’s the recipe for me, I thought.

Here is the recipe:

One-Hour Rolls

2 pkgs dry yeast

1 ½ cup lukewarm buttermilk

¼ cup sugar

½ c. melted shortening

1 tsp salt
4 ½ cups sifted flour
½ tsp baking soda
 
Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water.

Combine buttermilk, sugar, shortening and salt in bowl. Stir in yeast, mixing well.

Sift in flour and soda, mixing well.

Let stand for 10 minutes.

Shape into rolls and place in greased baking dishes.

Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15–20 min until brown.

As I set out everything I would need to make the rolls, I realized the recipe said nothing about what type of dish to bake the rolls in. I decided to use a baking dish and bake the rolls with their sides touching, as pull-apart rolls. But I didn’t know what size to use.

First I pulled out a 8-inch round dish, but it looked too small. Next I set out an 8×8 square dish, but it looked too small too. So I set out a 8×11-inch dish and sprayed it with canola oil, then set to work making my dough.

When I had the dough ready, I began rolling it gently into balls and dropping them in the baking pan. After one row of rolls was in the dish, I got a feeling this dish wasn’t going to be big enough either. So I set it aside, pulled out my largest cake pan, and put the rolls into it instead. To my surprise, in a few minutes, I had filled the big cake pan with rolls and was filling the previous dish too. I guess with most older recipes, you were cooking for a crowd—not a family of four, including one child who gags on rolls because they might be gross.

I wondered if the rolls would rise much, since the recipe calls for letting them rise for just 30 minutes. But, they did rise, albeit not to twice their original size. And it was a good thing I hadn’t crammed them all into one baking dish.

In just 20 minutes at 400, the rolls were done—golden brown and smelling delicious.

The finished rolls tasted slightly biscuit-y, because they aren’t allowed to rise long and contain buttermilk. But they are definitely real rolls. They remind me of rolls I’ve had at many little Baptist church potluck dinners over the years.

Is it wrong that I feel so proud of myself? I mean, I made rolls! I rather feel that now, I am one with my ancestors, with my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother and my father’s mother’s mother’s mother … Are they looking down on me now, pleased about the baking talents of this female descendent of their line?

Oh, to be honest, I suppose that if they do see me, they’re probably laughing—because they could have made rolls in their sleep. While churning butter, trimming the kerosene lamp, and the sow out of the kitchen. And here I am, thinking I’m Michelangelo of the kitchen.

I know, I know.

But, hey, I made rolls!

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