Monday, August 05, 2013

Aunt Erma's Dinner Rolls

My Mom was the youngest of three sisters. This is my favorite photo of the three of them. You can feel the love, just looking at it. Aunt Erma (left) and Aunt Myrna (right) each had her specialty. 

When Mom and Dad married the older sisters wanted to share with their baby sister the most important one thing in their kitchens, the one thing each sister could not live without. Myrna, the gardener, who wasn't really interested in cooking, gave Mom the 1944 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. It was her cooking bible. (The book, by the way is still in print. It's now called the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.) Erma, the cook, gave Mom a cast-iron Dutch skillet (i.e. chicken fryer). Mom said both of those presents stood her in good stead through her 55 years of marriage. (And yes, I still have both the cookbook and the skillet. I hope to pass them along to my daughter and granddaughter someday. Iris)

Aunt Erma’s dinner rolls have been a family favorite for years. I used the recipe recently to make a harvest loaf. It was delicious! I share it here for others to enjoy.

Aunt Erma's Dinner Rolls

Yield: 3 ½ dozen rolls

1 cake (2 ½ tsp.) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (not more than 120o F.)
6 Tbs. sugar
1 cup milk
1 ½ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. shortening
1 egg
6 cups unbleached flour (approx.)

Soften yeast in water with sugar. Let work until yeast is bubbly. Set aside.

Scald milk with shortening and salt. Cool to 120F. Add 1 cup flour. Beat thoroughly. Add egg and yeast. Beat well. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. (I stirred in the rest of the 6 cups of flour, then sprinkled more flour into the bowl, stirring it in, until the dough was not sticky and could be kneaded.)  Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny (about 10 minutes).

Place in oiled bowl and let rise in warm place until doubled. Knead down. Shape rolls and let rise until doubled again. Bake at 425o F. 15-20 minutes.

Harvest Loaf
Divide dough into 1/3s.  Shape first 1/3 into round loaf and place in the center of greased baking pan. (ungreased baking stone). Divide second third into six parts. Roll ropes about ½” thick from each piece. Take three sections about 12” long and braid them. Place around left side of round loaf. Repeat for right side. Roll one section of rope into ¼” thick rope. Divide into three parts and place stems for wheat onto round loaf. Roll another ¼” rope. Divide into threes and braid. Separate three pieces to become wheat heads. Place on stems. Roll a round of dough (about the size of a small dinner roll) into a flat. With sharp knife, cut a grape leaf shape. Place over the join of the two braids at the bottom of the loaf. Shape several small balls of dough. Place over grape leaf in roughly triangular shape to form bunch of grapes. Roll one last thin rope to form grape stem. Place at top of bunch of grapes. Use leftover dough for rolls.

Brush top of loaf with beaten egg white. Place aluminum foil around edges to keep them from browning too fast. Bake at 425o F. 10 minutes. Check darkness. Remove foil if loaf appears about half-way cooked. Bake another 10 minutes. If bread is browned to suit you, knock on the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If it does, it is done.

This doesn't take as long to bake as a regular loaf of bread but may take longer than rolls. Watch it closely after the 10 minute mark because it will get done quickly.