Since I moved to the DC area, I've made breadmaking a focus in my home culinary practice, trying to recreate the warm taste of home that I remember from my formative years. It took a little over a year of baking before I began to feel like I was doing it well, and I think I'm continuing to improve.
One of the recipes that has come to be a standby in my repertoire is for homemade rolls, and it's one that consistently gets rave reviews from those who eat them. The recipe comes from Sue Marten, a woman that was a good friend of my mom's and that was pretty influential in my childhood (as Primary president as well as a Cub Scout den leader). It's actually pretty simple and relatively easy to follow:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup of melted butter (or other oil)
1 teaspoon of salt (or 1 tablespoon if using all whole-wheat flour)
4 1/2 cups of white flour or whole-wheat flour or some combination of the two
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease an aluminum baking sheet.
Stir the honey into the warm water until it's mostly dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast on top. When the yeast begins to activate and grow, stir in the eggs and melted butter. Then add in the salt and stir in the flour, one cup at a time. Stir only until the last of the flour is combined into the dough, then sprinkle with a thin layer of flour and lay a cloth over the top. Let dough rise until doubled in bulk. Punch it down and form the dough into rolls, laying them out onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle very lightly with flour, cover with the cloth, and let rise again. Bake for 10-20 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are lightly browned. Cool a bit and serve.
One Thanksgiving I accidentally made the rolls too big and they ended up having a diameter close to that of my palm. I thought it was kind of funny to have such huge rolls until I realized that the leftovers were the perfect size for making turkey sandwiches. Now I make them too big every year so I can slice the extras in half and stack turkey and lettuce between them for the next few days after. I even made another batch of huge rolls on Sunday so I could have more sandwich material.
Incidentally, this year my brother Scott told me that he thought this batch of rolls was the best I've ever made. We discussed what made them good and I think I've determined that the difference came from using a new type of honey--a jar of apple and peach blossom variety that I picked up at the Arlington Farmers' Market. It might be worth a try to experiment with other types of honey to see if it makes a difference in the outcome of the rolls.
Roll my blues away...