1. Grandmas in the kitchen. (More on this in a forthcoming mega-post!)
2. Friends tackling gorgeously photographed and very tricky-looking Martha Stewart recipes. (More on this coming soon too.)
So when my friend Ashley (a poet), after having witnessed my failed attempt at Martha's dinner rolls, emailed me with her Grandma's recipe and techniques, I practically blew a gasket. I couldn't be happier to share this guest attempt for her Grandma's dinner rolls. Here's Ashley!
Recently I saw that Bon Appetempt and I have been having similar dinner roll woes. I have been trying to mimic my grandmother's yeast rolls lately, to no avail. So when I went home to Alabama for Christmas, I said, "Mama Merle, you gotta show me."And lo and behold, after watching my grandmother go for it, I have been able to mostly-successfully recreate the smoothly rounded, fluffy yeast rolls of Merle lore.
When I gave it a shot, now far away from the warm-melty-butter-glow of my grandmother, I was sure I would lapse back into dense non-balls as a finished product. But I am happy to report I’ve now got the knack.
Mama Merle's “Versa” Rolls:
Keep handy a bag of all purpose flour (indeterminate total amount. One thing I noticed watching Mama Merle in action was she, of course, ignored her recipe years ago and intuited her flour needs.)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 pkg dry yeast (I use Fleischmann's Rapid Rise)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs (room temp)
In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.
Combine milk and butter in saucepan and heat to very warm (melt butter).
Gradually add milk/butter to the dry ingredients. Beat 2 minutes with electric mixer.
Add enough flour to make soft dough. (Wooden spoon at this point.) I only add
enough flour until I can successfully lift the mass out of the bowl and onto the board.
Place in buttered bowl, and also butter the top. Cover. Let rise.
This "let rise" thing was too vague for me. Mama Merle's house is perpetually 98 degrees in winter and boy did that dough double on up. My apartment's thermostat said "47" this morning. So my dough takes way longer to double than does Merle's. Likely no one other than me is letting it get down to 47 inside. But I turn on the oven and let the dough sit on top of the oven with a towel covering it.
Now, what Mama Merle does is takes a smooth surface of the dough mass in her hand between the thumb and index finger in the crook there, and she pinches off a little bulbous heap. Sort of looks like a khaki mushroom.
Let those rise a second time, covered, in a warm environment, doubling in size again.
Tasty to note: Lately I have been turning this recipe into cinnamon rolls. Rather than "pinching one off," you pound your risen yeast ball and flatten it with a pin into a rectangle, coat it with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Then you roll that long-side to long-side in a long swirled log, cut uniformly into the individual rolls, and let that have its second rise. Bake the same way. Cream cheese icing recommended, on the side. I've found people like coating their own roll. (Mama Merle likely has an inventive phrase for that as well...)
Hope this helps!