My grandmother was an avid baker. She made absolutely everything from scratch and was busy in the kitchen seven days a week. My sister and I spent countless school-day afternoons at her house working beside her. When I read recently that the average American kid spends 23 hours a week watching TV I shook my head in despair. As kids, my sister and I spent 23 hours a week prepping home cooked meals side by side with our grandmother, and as a consequence we learned to love to cook and we learned to place a huge priority on family meals. My children spend 2-3 hours a week watching TV and a huge amount of time in and around the kitchen. I’m busier than my grandmother was with other obligations and my focus in the kitchen is on healthy, tasty foods that I can get from fridge to the table in under an hour – so my children don’t log quite as many hours doing kitchen prep as I did – but they are already turning into skilled cooks and they are completely wedded to family mealtime.
Two years ago when I first began to pull together our family cookbook I made a commitment to cook and photograph every recipe included in the book. Truth be told, some of my grandmother’s baking recipes were well out of my comfort zone. I had never made dinner rolls on my own, only with her (and she left us at age 99 about five years ago). It turns out that my grandmother’s rolls are perhaps the easiest homemade rolls on the planet. They take all of 10 minutes to pull together. Tell your friends they took HOURS to make. I’m certain that they’ll believe you.
- 1 package yeast
- 1½ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 – 3½ cups all-purpose flour (I use white wheat flour, but whole wheat or white will work too)
- ½ cup stick margarine or butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
Dissolve yeast in warm water. In case you don’t know what this means, you just add the yeast to warm water in a small bowl (a cereal bowl will do, and stir). If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast, and if it is too cold the yeast won’t dissolve. Stick your finger in the water to check the temperature. It should feel warm to the touch, but not scalding hot. Add sugar, 2 cups flour, shortening, salt and egg. Mix well. Knead the dough and gradually add the additional flour until you have a moderately stiff dough.
Chill at least two hours in refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator. Punch down (this literally means hit the dough with your fist and knock it down). Cut the dough into small balls and drop into greased muffin tins and let rise 2 hours before baking.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls 20-25 minutes until brown.
The dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to 20 hours before the rise cycle and baking.
You can jazz up these rolls by adding Parmesan cheese to them when you initially blend the sugar, flour, shortening, salt, etc… You can add fresh or dried herbs, or sprinkle cheese, salt or herbs on top before you bake them. Consider this recipe as a foundation and build on it in whatever way makes sense to you.