With the change in the weather, I begin to make different things. Yeast products come to the top of the list since we have not enjoyed homemade anything since the weather warmed up. In the summer it is just too warm to crank up the oven to bake biscuits or bread.
This morning I decided to make Grandma Swanson's rolls. I have several recipes for rolls but I like this recipe the best. It is simple and straightforward. I learned to make these rolls by watching my mother-in-law make them. I learn best when I can observe what is going on and write my own notes as to what needs to be done.
One day when she was going to make rolls I asked if I could watch her. As she dumped and stirred with ease I wrote down some hints that I picked up by watching. A few days later I took my hints along with her recipe and made my first batch of biscuits. The rest is history. The ultimate compliment from my husband was when he told me my rolls were as good as his mother's!
Now, these are not really what most people refer to as biscuits, but that is what my husband and father-in-law called them. They are a type of sweet roll that is not too sweet. When grandpa was having trouble eating while he was in the hospital, I took him a few homemade biscuits. He had no trouble getting those down!
I have been making this recipe ever since. There is something about the smell of yeast. Maybe it is because when I smell it I know either bread or rolls will soon be out of the oven. There is absolutely nothing as good as bread fresh out of the oven slathered with butter. Yes, folks, it must be real butter.
This morning as I mixed and stirred I thought of my mother-in-law. She is long gone, but her recipe lives on. I included it in my cookbook because it is one of my favorite things to bake. Each of my girls has the recipe in her personal cookbook that I made when they married. Many times I send the girls back to look in their personal cookbooks with the family recipes that I collected.
It is hard to tell someone how to make the yeast recipes because there are many variables. The amount of flour depends on the size of the eggs. It can even depend on the weather. I know by the feel of the dough when it is ready. It cannot be sticky or it does not work.
These rolls also reminded me of my grandmother. She made rolls and coffeecakes, but I think she used a box of dough mix instead of working from scratch. When I picture homemade rolls I picture two kinds. Grandma made some of her rolls in muffin pans. After they baked she dipped the top of each roll in butter then sugar. Sometimes she rolled out the dough putting butter, sugar, and cinnamon inside. Those she rolled up and sliced. Her coffeecakes had a wonderful cinnamon sugar topping. When I think of Grandma Swanson's rolls I picture twists dipped in cinnamon sugar.
Making anything that includes yeast calls for time. You mix the dough, set it aside to raise, then, punch it down, and form your rolls. The rolls also have to rise before they can be baked. The whole process takes the better part of the morning to accomplish.
As I write my rolls are setting in the oven raising. I set the timer so that time would not get away from me. When the timer goes off it is time to punch the dough down and form my rolls. I think I will make the twists dipped in cinnamon sugar since that is what my children remember the best.
The homemade rolls are my treat for my grown-up children. The grandchildren will get some candy. Usually they all come here last so they can unmask and enjoy a snack of cheese and crackers. Tonight they will have homemade rolls.
My ever inquisitive mind wondered about the origin of yeast. I found out that it is classified as fungi and has been used for thousands of years. During fermentation, taking the sugar and transforming it into carbon dioxide, it creates bubbles that make things rise and carbonate.
The word "yeast" comes from the Old English word gist. It combines with the Indo-European root word yes, meaning to boil, foam or bubble.
Archaeologists digging through ruins in Egypt found grinding stones and baking chambers for yeasted bread that are estimated to be at least 4000 years old.
I came across a name that rang a bell, but I could not remember what the man did. A Dutch scientist, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, was the first person to microscopically observe yeast. It was French microbiologist Louis Pasteur who proved that yeast was a living organism.
This morning I used a very old technique to make the biscuits rise. Without the addition of yeast my rolls would have been flat, hard, and not very palatable. I am so glad someone discovered yeast!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org