Friday, January 28, 2011

Grandma's Rolls

A Phillips family favorite.  My Grandma Lucy made wonderful rolls that made Thanksgiving complete.  When I was a kid the Phillips family would meet at Grandma's house for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.  To keep up busy (and out of trouble) Grandma would give us kids the scraps of this dough to play with at the counter (in sight but out of the way).  If we wanted we could for the dough into festive shapes (snowmen and reindeer etc.) and then she would put them in pans and bake them for us.  I thought this was great!

This past holiday season my uncle Merritt shared his recipe the Grandma's Rolls on facebook.  It didn't take long until other members of the family noticed that his recipe that he had gotten form Lucy was different than other Grandma's Rolls recipes (all from Lucy).  Some year we will need to do a rolls bake-off to find the winner but until then I will share with you the recipe for Grandma's Rolls (the real recipe of course!).  I  am bias toward this recipe because 1) it is the only one I have used and 2) my mother wrote the recipe while watching Grandma make rolls so I trust it knowing that, in fact, she did make rolls this way-- at least once.

Another way I know they are the best rolls ever... I'm eating one right now. 

Here is a half recipe (for when you don't have a dozen people to feed)  Now it's a little involved but it's worth it!

Grandma's Rolls via Kristen
yields one full 9x13 pan of dinner rolls and a pan of cinnamon rolls (also tradition) but it varies based on how thick you roll the the dough etc.

You will need 1/2 Cup Mashed Potatoes (no lumps)if you don't already have some you'll want to start that first.

pour 1 can Evaporated Milk in a large liquid measuring cup, then add regular milk until you have 2 1/4 Cups --- then in a saucepan scald the milk and let it cool until it is now longer hot, but still warm.

Proof the yeast by dissolving 2 Tbs. Yeast into 1/4 Cup Warm Water and 1/2 Tbs. Sugar
While the yeast gets puffy,
Ideally in a large mixer (Grandma had a Bosch, I have a KitchenAid)
Beat 3 Eggs and combine with 1/2 Cup + 1/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil

Add the mashed potatoes and the now just warm scalded milk and the puffy yeast
Once those are incorporated
Add 3/4 Cups Sugar and 1/2 Tbs. Salt
Slowly we add the Flour (6-8 Cups of it) 1/2 cup at a time allowing the flour to mix in between.  You want to be careful not to add more flour than is necessary to keep the lightness of the rolls we are looking for.  I try to add just enough flour so the dough is no longer shiny.  It will still be a bit sticky but will not stick to the side of the bowl.

Dab the top of the dough with a small amount of oil, cover with plastic wrap or towel and let rise until about double (about half and hour in a nice warm spot but it can take longer). 

When the dough is about ready you want to prep the space that you will form the rolls.  Liberally apply flour to a clean smooth surface (a counter top or a very large cutting board).  Melt a stick of butter and brush the bottom and sides of the pans you will be using (I like to have a butter assistant).

With flour on your hands pull off a portion of dough and roll approximately 3/8-1/2" thick with a rolling pin or a cylindrical drinking glass. With a biscuit cutter or the opening of of a drinking glass cut out as many circles that you can (my uncle Merritt cuts them into squares... he's very efficient, but I have not tried it that way).  Dip the bottom half of the circle of dough in the melted butter and place in the pan buttered side down and fold the unbuttered half on top (I just brush butter between the layers as I fold them over).  Transfer the unused dough from counter top to a plate to wait.  Repeat until you have filled the pan with rolls.  Brush the tops with butter and cover to let rise until they are the size you want your dinner rolls to be (it's disappointing if your in a hurry and put them in too soon hoping they'll rise a little more while they're in the oven).

If you only want dinner rolls just keep going until you run out of dough (you can re-roll the scrap dough).  Since the scrap dough will have slightly more flour incorporated I like to use it for cinnamon rolls.  To do so I roll out a large rectangle of dough as thin as I am comfortably able.  The thinner the dough the more layers in the finished roll and the less space between sweet cinnamonny goodness.

Then slather it with melted butter, it helps the goodies stick.  There are a few ways it can go from here.  I typically apply a cinnamon and sugar mixture (fresh cinnamon is best)-- enough to soak up the butter but not dry-- and crumble on some brown sugar.  If you want you can add raisins and/or chopped walnuts/pecans etc.

Before you roll it up decide whether you want a smaller number of large cinnamon rolls or if you want a larger number of smaller rolls-- that will determine which way you roll up your rectangle of dough.  (starting with the long side for small rolls or starting with the short side for larger rolls... it's all in the number of revolutions)  When you roll it up you want to keep it snug and even forming a log shape.  To get a few more rolls out of it I sometimes roll the log back and forth to stretch it out a little more.

(you could toss this baby into a buttered loaf pan to get very tasty bread with a cinnamon sugar swirl-- my sister has done this-- when she used to eat gluten-- she liked it)

For rolls you take about 12" of sturdy thread and slide it under the log about an inch from the end.  Bring the ends of the thread upward and around the log so they align on the top.  Now pull the ends of the thread to slice a disc off the end.  Place the disc swirly side up in a buttered pan.  Repeat the thread action until you're out of dough.  The first and last disc turn out a little wonky but no body cares.  When the pan is full pat the tops with melted butter and sprinkle on some more of the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Cover. put in a warm place and let rise.

With your oven rack in the middle position, preheat your oven to 400 degrees while the rolls are rising and when they are about doubled in size bake for 15-20 minutes (but start checking them around 10 minutes just in case, you don't want to go though all this and then burn them... that's really no fun).

The cinnamon rolls in the back had not been baked yet and needed to rise a bit more.  Turkeys are still 99 cents per pound around here so we're having a mini Thanksgiving this week-- yay for cooking a lot one day to feed us for a week.  It's weird to cook a turkey and not have company over... but I guess it's weird to cook a turkey for a Monday night.

Oh, and you can freeze the dough too!  So far I've had it work best to freeze it just before the first rise, thaw it in the fridge overnight then shape into rolls, rise, bake, yum!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fun with Contact Paper

When the weather is not very friendly outside it's good to have some things to do inside. In elementary school it was called a "rainy day schedule" meaning that we couldn't go outside to play which we were always bummed about but that we could play board games and the like in our classroom. While this wasn't exactly appealing I was often surprised how it ended up being quite fun and how we still didn't want recess (in any form) to end.

Now that I'm big I have several options of things to keep me busy when doing much of anything outside would not be great fun. I had been thinking about it for quite a while so it was fun to take a morning and do it.

I decorated my living room wall with stylized dandelion fluff. I cut the shapes out of white contact paper (shelf/drawer liner) then applied them to the wall making sure that a few of the seeds were visible through the floating frames that hold a couple of our wedding pictures.

Using contact paper to make wall decals is a very affordable DIY alternative to vinyl transfers. It was it's drawbacks, for instance it's harder to evenly space letters if your putting up words although it can still be done, I feel the MUCH lower price of the contact paper outweighs any hassles.

And of course because no decorating post would be complete without a dreary before picture complete with bad lighting-- like the infomercials that make the most ordinary tasks (like washing your car) back breaking work. Oh, the jars of tomato sauce on the dining room table were being used as paperweights to hold the contact paper nice and flat.

Here is a close up of one of the seeds. The toys in front is part of the collection of toys we found while working in the garden.

I made a stencil to make things go faster and so each one would be roughly the same size and shape. I flipped the stencil over so the stems weren't all curving the same direction because that would look weird.

So as I'm just about finished sticking them to the wall I'm pretty jazzed and I call my sister to share my jazz-ed-ness. She likes to do projects and I knew she could relate to how I was feeling with almost being done and happy with the results. "That's been around for, like, two years" wasn't the response I was expecting. So yeah, while the idea is not entirely new, mine look different, I like them, they make me happy, I did it in one morning and it cost me 50 cents in materials.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nina Pinckard Fechtner


I'm still in shock. Today I learned that my friend Nina passed away. It doesn't feel real. I've work with her for every summer for over ten years. Nina worked at the CSUS doing everything for the costume shop. She's amazing. The first thing I learned from Nina was about circular cuffs and the last thing I learned was about fabric flowers... and there is a lot in between.

She was smart and concise with a great attention to detail. Last summer at the Fair she made the overalls for the farmer on the ladder in one of the small window displays (she did most of the figurine costumes) and made tiny clasps on the overall straps and was a little bummed that the size of the brads that she used for the buttons to a bit to large to allow the clasp to actually function as a real one would.

It seems a little wrong that out of the vast vastness of Nina's wonderful work I would pick this to demonstrate her attention to detail.

As a freshman I was intimidated by her because she was so busy and possessed knowledge and skills I could not fathom. Over time I found her to be my friend and a source of information and inspiration. She helped me become a better at my craft. She taught me through her example to not rush and slap a project together (although there are times when that is called for) but to work on improving my skills and that speed will come but quality can seldom be added later. Her costumes looked great on the inside as well as the outside. She was about Quality. I really enjoyed working with her.

When I see pictures of my wedding dress (which is daily when I am home) I think of her. I was planning on making my own and she said she would help me with it. I met her in the costume shop and we started sketching. After establishing a vintage feeling silhouette Nina paused and said "let me see what we have." She disappeared into the room of closets and emerged with a vintage lace dress that they have had for years and never used. More amazingly, it fit. Nina made some slight alterations and sold me the dress for $75 (which she used to take the students who worked in the costume shop to the end of the year drama banquet). I would really like to know how many wedding dressing Nina worked over the years, I'm sure the number is astounding.

I am glad to have known her and sad to think that I won't get to continue to know her better. My heart goes out to her family during this time of unexpected loss.