The other day I was cleaning one of the storage rooms in our basement and I came upon a basket of items I kept when we cleaned out my Grandma G’s house for the final time. I found a rosary, a couple of candy dishes, an old soapstone jewelry box she always kept on her dresser, and a blue apron that read “RUTHIE,” her first name. It immediately brought a smile to my face, and best of all, it still (9 years later) smells like her house. Grandma wore that apron while she was cooking holiday dinners for our huge family, and I have a number of pictures of her in it. There, for a moment, I was right back at her house, and it was wonderful.
These rolls are another one of those things that take me right back to Grandma’s house, every time I eat one. And although they are special to me because they evoke memories of my childhood, they are also really easy to make and have become a favorite of my husband’s as well. They’re great with dinner but amazing for breakfast with a little butter and jelly, just slightly warmed in the microwave. Or, even better – whip up some honey butter and slather it all over the warm rolls. Do it.
I hope you enjoy this special family recipe! And many, many thanks to my super-fabulous Maggie-Moo for helping me figure out Grandma’s instructions. =)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, yeast, sugar and shortening. Stir until yeast and sugar dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add salt and approximately 5 cups of flour. Use the dough hook attachment and beat until dough pulls away from side of bowl. If dough is too sticky, add a small amount of flour until the dough is stiff enough to knead with your bare hands.
Pour dough onto floured workspace and knead a few times until dough is smooth. Place in a large bowl and brush with oil or cooking spray, and cover with a barely damp cloth. Let sit in a warm place until it doubles in bulk, approximately 2 hours.
Pull off pieces, about the size of an egg (or bigger but be consistent), shape into round ball and put into greased pan. Cover again and let rise 60-90 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Test for doneness by tapping on top of a roll, it should sound hollow.
(I made egg-size rolls and it took 22 minutes to bake. Grandma made rolls TWICE the size of an egg and they baked 40-45 minutes.)
I like to pull them from the oven just before they are done and brush them with honey-butter, then return them to the oven for another 5 minutes. If they start to brown too quickly, cover them with foil until the last couple minutes of baking.
Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter or margarine in microwave. Add 4-5 Tablespoons honey and whisk to combine. Brush over rolls with a pastry brush. Mixture will be thin.