Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inner Tubes, Muffin Tops, and Love Handles

It's time....the pumpkin is in the oven right now, sweet potatoes are cooling on the counter, my dining room table is a riot of yams, apples, bread, cranberries, pecans, and the rest of the Thanksgiving fixin's I will be processing between now and Thursday morning. Yes, you heard me right - even after that smart crack a while back about cooking your own pumpkin like Martha or the Amish....I decided to go all "Mother Earth" on my pumpkin pie. Which is also why the taters today - I am making a sweet potato pie as well, because I personally don't care for the taste of pumpkin in pumpkin pie. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat it, but usually with copious amounts of white and fluffy to mask the flavor - it's just got a muskiness to it that doesn't set right with me. And I like my man in Brut.....or nothing at all - whoops, wrong blog!

So I am making berry and pecan and pumpkin and sweet potato pies, Brussels sprouts, cranberry-raspberry-orange sauce, and dinner rolls to take to Son #1's on Thursday, and turkey with all the trimmings on a tiny scale for my parents who are home-bound, some pie for Grammy in the "Adorable Old Lady Home", and breakfast to go share with my parents before we head out for dinner. That is going to be Polish Dish, which is a weird and wonderful family tradition that not all have been able to accept as their own, but that is as much a part of the clan as Dad asking all his miniature female offspring to marry him, and Mom opening every door in the house at big family dinners because the oven and wood stove are going full blast and her "anti-freeze" is working overtime. I will share that recipe with you another time, perhaps prior to Easter Sunday, where the tradition is most prevalent. Just know that it is weird, and uber Polish - as in "How do you know which house is the Polock's? The one with the diving board on the septic tank" My dad had a million of em, bless his un-politically correct heart.

Once again, a recipe from the Meeuwsen side of the family - it's no mystery why the salt-of-the-earth, farmers so far back the kids are born with dirt under their fingernails family is a bushel of wonderful recipes! This one was originally called "No Knead Dinner Rolls", and its draw was that you didn't have to trigger your carpal tunnel to get delicious yeasty, fluffy and flavorful rolls to slather with butter and pound until you can only groan and roll away from the table with your buttons popping and butter stains on your best flannel shirt. I make them for Thanksgiving, and was completely shamed a couple years ago when I decided no one would notice if I brought store nephew Sean said he only came for Auntie Shari's, crap. I also use them to make cinnamon rolls - same dough, just rolled out thin, covered with a delightful butter/brown sugar/cinnamon concoction and transformed into cinnamon-ey pillows of delight that also beg for butter 'n pounding. Ah butter....the siren of the kitchen, mistress of my dreams, sweet manna from cows.....

Yikes, that one got away from me. Recall once again where this came from, and you will understand the quantity - the full recipe makes 4.5 DOZEN healthy-sized rolls. I think it's like a peck in farmer measures, or a crap-load in mine. And I have never, EVER had one go stale or moldy...they are that good. If you're going to get your panties in a wad, you can divide everything by 3...I think that may have been the original form, but these ladies do everything in bulk - time's a wastin' and there's crops to harvest! Enjoy....I know I will!

Deb's Yeast Rolls

4-1/2 C. flour
2 Tbsp. yeast (I buy the big bag at Costco & keep in freezer...make more bread!)
3-3/4 C. milk
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. shortening (like most everything, I prefer butter flavor Crisco)
1 T. salt
3 eggs
6 C. flour

Start with a BIG bowl, or I use my Kitchen Aid mixer...but I have a BIG one, and the smaller ones will make a mess so be forewarned. Add the 4-1/2 C. flour and yeast, set aside. In a medium saucepan, put milk, sugar, shortening and salt, heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved and shortening starts melting - I always temp it at 125, but between 120-130 should work. You can do it by feel, or by sprinkling some on your wrist, or sticking your chin in each his own, and I hope you don't have a beard, I only trust the thermometer.

When it reaches the proper temp, pour into bowl w/flour and yeast, and stirring with wooden spoon or mixer, or using dough hook, beat until dry ingredients are incorporated and smooth. Add eggs and beat a couple minutes, then start adding the 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time. If not using a stand mixer, you will have to resort to using your hands - it's too thick for a hand mixer, and unless you've been using the Shake Weight (hahahaha, funniest infommercial EVER) and have 'ceps of steel, your girly arms will allow it to eat the wooden spoon alive.

Your final dough will be soft and possibly sticky - do not let this fool you into adding more flour. I've been making these at least 20 years, and have tried it all....they will come out heavy and dry, and other than using them to prop up the dresser that the dog chewed the leg off of or for the kids to play street hockey, they will be good for nothing. Grease or oil a large glass bowl, and scrape dough into it; oil or grease your hands and use them to pull the dough from the sides to the center and kind of pat the top to make sure it's all greased up...keeps it from drying out like your skin in winter with no Oil of Old Lady, and also from sticking to everything. It will most likely be too loose to actually pick up and turn over. Unless you screwed up....

Let rise covered with a clean towel in a warm place, and that does NOT mean the oven turned on low unless you want to eat one giant bowl shaped roll AND have to clean the oven because you forgot about it, takes about an hour. If you poke two finger in it and the dents stay there, it's ready to PUNCH! My fave part....make a fist, and punch it right in the middle, pretending that it's that lady in front of you at the store that partially unloaded her cart on the belt, then wandered off to see how much Cool Whip was going for and stopping on the way to eat a sample of stale banana bread that you saw flies landing on earlier. POW! Didn't that feel good? Fold all the dough over the center until you have a rough ball, put it out on your PREVIOUSLY CLEANED countertop with a healthy sprinkling of flour and roll it to coat completely. Let stand 10 minutes or the gluten will make it bounce right back when you try to roll it out.

Divide into 3 fairly equal pieces, and making sure it stays floured (or it will stick to EVERYTHING), start rolling it out on the floured countertop. Keep turning and rolling, keeping an even thickness until it's about 3/4" thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter, or a fairly thin edged glass about the diameter of a biscuit, cut circles staying close to the edges and the other rolls until you run out of dough, place on greased cookie sheets not quite touching if you want them to touch for softer sides, or further apart if you want them browned all around. Re-roll all scraps until it's all gone - I think you can get two large Costco sized cookies sheets worth, but may need another pan if they're further apart. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown - pull partially apart in the center if you're not sure - it will still appear doughy if not done yet. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and put in a basket w/towel or let cool completely on racks before storing in ziploc bags (they will sweat if still warm).

Oh yeah, this also makes unbelievable cheese rolls - my big sis makes them at the school kitchen, and they're like a cinnamon roll but with butter, pizza cheese and garlic powder instead of cinnamon/sugar, and you serve them with pizza or marinara sauce for dipping - she pays son #2 in them when he helps her out with her computer, and I believe he might take a hit job for them as be nice to her. Happy Thanksgiving to you all if I don't see you before then - I got a million things to do, so this may be it until next weekend! Oh, and I'll let you know how it goes - Gobble, gobble!

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