by Keetha DePriest Reed
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Homemade yeast rolls are an act of love. Anyone who doesn’t believe this clearly has never made them before.
Like many things children take for granted (bills being paid, groceries that magically appear in the refrigerator, and your being at the center of the universe around which your parents revolve), I never appreciated my grandmother’s yeast rolls. I like them all right, especially alongside her chicken and dumplings or fried chicken. But I had no idea the time and work that went into those rich, flaky, crisp-with-butter-on-the-bottom rolls.
A few years ago when I was doing a great deal of catering, a customer called and asked if I did yeast rolls. Without hesitating, I said, “Sure! How many do you need?” I called my mother and said, “Um…do you have a great recipe for homemade yeast rolls? Because I’ve got to make six dozen by Saturday.”
Mom had several recipes but liked Grannie Annie’s best. She wanted to know why on earth I had told this customer I could and would make them. I’m still not sure of the answer to that question.
I got the recipe, read through it, and remember thinking something along the lines of, Well, this shouldn’t be too hard.
Then I broke my own cardinal rule by not completing any of the steps ahead of time. I called Mom a time or two to ask her something about the recipe. I remember telling her that I certainly never appreciated Grannie Annie’s work. “Did she get up at four in the morning on Sundays so we could have those rolls for dinner?” I wanted to know. Mom said no, she’d mix up the dough the night before or two nights before. She left gently unsaid the fact that I should have done that also.
After working on those rolls, which I foolishly – no, make that stupidly – did all in one day, I didn’t want to see yeast rolls again. I didn’t want to make them or smell them. And possibly not even eat them again.
I threw away the scraps of dough from the first rolls I cut out, scraps that could have been re-rolled at least one or two more times. Both my mother and Mee Maw gasped audibly when I mentioned that.
The rolls were delicious. The customer loved them and never suspected (until now) that I was a novice to that particular recipe.
I’ve made them since (splitting the steps over at least two days) and each time I wonder what on earth I thought was so difficult that first time. And I have never, but never, thrown away a piece of dough since.
Omega Blanton was a friend of Grannie Annie’s.
She taught my mother typing at Houston High School.
1 quart sweet milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
packet of yeast (get ounce measurements)
2 heaping quarts of flour (get measurements)
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan. Place on heat and just let come to boiling point (do not boil). Remove from heat. Cool to warm. Dissolve yeast into the mixture and stir to combine. Sift in enough flour to make the mixture the consistency of cake batter (one heaping quart is usually enough).
Let rise for two hours in a warm place. Then sift in salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Work in enough flour to make a dough (about one quart). At this point you can cover and refrigerate the dough. That’s what I do because at this point, frankly, I’m tired of fooling with this dough and don’t want to see it for a while.
When you’re ready to make rolls, let dough return to room temperature before rolling out and cutting out as many rolls as you wish. Set in a warm place, covered, for two hours before baking. Return remaining dough to the refrigerator, where it is good for several (five to seven) days.
Preheat oven to 375˚. Bake rolls for 10 to12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Also delicious the next morning with honey or for lunch the next day with turkey or ham.
[Cookbook author Keetha Reed, left]
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