Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Schoolhouse Rolls

I like to cook, I always have. I can remember when I was as young as first grade, watching my grandmother make homemade buttermilk biscuits in her farmhouse kitchen. She had a cabinet that I believe is commonly referred to as a Hoosier cabinet. There was a section that held flour, and a dough board that stored under the work surface. My memory is not photographic, but this image I found on Google is close:

Baking is my favorite part of cooking, and breads are my favorite thing to bake. I am not a fancy baker. I am a home cook, no formal training, raised in the comforting embrace of the Appalachian mountains of southwest Virginia. My grandmother, Ethel Slade, and my mother, Janet Smith, both made rolls for family consumption. Additionally, my grandmother baked rolls for dinners for the Masonic Lodge in Bluefield, Va. during the 1960's and into the 70's.

I took a job at in the cafeteria of my alma mater, Richlands High School, after I had graduated and quit college the second time. ( One talent I definitely have is dropping out of college) I learned there to make bread on a commercial level, and through the years have fine tuned my homemade bread, which friends insist on calling Schoolhouse Rolls. These pictures are the rolls I made for Christmas dinner this year.

The recipe will yield approximately 4 dozen rolls.

Combine in a bowl large enough to hold the dough after it has risen to double the original volume ( I use a Tupperware bowl I have had for over 20 years, I believe it was sold as part of a salad or popcorn set - I use the lid to cover the dough as it rises )

3 cups very warm, but not hot, water or milk that is warm but not scalded
1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 stick room temperature butter or 1/2 cup solid shortening such as Crisco
2 eggs
2 cups of bread flour taken from the approximate 2.5 pounds you will need

Whisk until the flour is well incorporated and the butter has started to melt in as well.

At this point walk away for about 15 minutes. When you come back, the magic will have begun. The mixture will be a foamy sponge which means the yeast is happy and growing and emitting lots of gas.

Next get a sturdy wooden spoon and the rest of the flour. Begin beating in the flour a cup at a time. After a while, the dough will be too thick to use the spoon and you will need to use your hand. I use a fold and stir motion, to fully incorporate the flour. I am sure you could use your Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough hooks for this, I just do it by hand, and the kneading is part of the process. I do not "let the dough rest" as virtually every recipe instructs. When the entire dough masses together and is no longer sticky you are finished. I used to describe the consistency of the dough as being similar to that of a man's scrotum, but that seems to offend the sensibilities of people, so just erase that from your mind if you are unfamiliar with a man's scrotum.

Using solid shortening or vegetable oil, grease the dough on all sides, cover and sit in a warm place to rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Shape into rolls by pinching off golf ball sized pieces of dough and smoothing well. Place on  greased sheet pans or in 9x13 cake pans. Be sure to leave space for the rolls to double in size.Let rise a second time, and bake at 400f until beautifully brown. Brush the tops with melted butter and enjoy.


  1. I love to bake as well. I love to cook. My family loves the fact I love to cook! There is nothing like some home made bread. I love how the house smells when it is in the oven, don't you?

  2. Yes I do, Nanette. I once found candle tarts that were supposed to smell like bread baking. They wern't bad but there is nothing like the real thing. I also love the smell of bacon frying and fresh brewed coffee in the morning.

  3. These rolls look fabulous. Thanks for sharing at Weekend Potluck.

  4. Where did you get that beautiful muffin tin? Can I use lard in place of the shortening/butter?

    Thank you!!!

  5. The muffin pan is Temptations, it came from QVC. It bakes beautifully. Yes, lard will work well. Just do not use margarine, it adds to much water.