We have been living in Antartica for the past week. The temperatures have been well below zero and the wind chill was -30 today. Negative thirty degrees! It felt every bit that chilly when I was dragging the kids in and out of the grocery store today because of course neither the fridge nor the pantry was stocked. It felt like my skin was being pelted with little nails as the cruel breeze blew completely through my warm winter coat. Emma would just clutch onto me as tight as she could while screaming: "No blowing! No blowing! AHHHHHH!" But we are about a month away from the first day of spring. March is the month of hope in the promise of warmer months ahead.
In the meantime, soups, stews, and casseroles are still the best thing to be eating when the weather is so brutally chilly. If you are anything like my husband, you cannot finish off a bowl of soup without a generous helping of warm bread slathered with butter for dipping. Paul's favorite meals are probably the same ones he will be served in a nursing home someday - tomato soup and bread, chicken soup and bread, potato soup and bread, clam chowder and bread, and (if he's feeling really crazy) salisbury steak so soft and mushy you can practically get by without chewing and...you guessed it....bread.
I have a million different bread and roll recipes, but I keep coming back to this for both its simplicity and because Paul has declared them the best rolls in the world. Of course, he would dip white sandwich bread in his soup if I did not have a fresh batch of rolls on hand, so maybe that's not the highest praise. But, I agree that these are pretty awesome. They are easy to throw together, fun to shape, and even more fun to eat. The kids are always stealing warm rolls off the tray as the batch cools down which simultaneously irritates and delights me. Maybe it only irritates me when they try to feed one to the cat who sniffs at it fastidiously before sauntering over to his usual spot on the carpet to resume grooming his backside.
We like these served with salted butter or honey butter. They are pretty fantastic plain too!
Lion House Rolls
from Mel's Kitchen Café
2 tablespoons active dry yeast or 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 cups warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
5-6 cups flour (this is never measured - just add enough to form a soft dough)
If using active dry yeast, combine the yeast and water in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes to proof. If using instant yeast, there is no need to proof. Simply add the yeast and water together with the other ingredients as detailed below in the bowl of a standing mixer and proceed with the recipe.
Add the sugar, butter, salt, dry milk, 2 cups of flour, and egg. Using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, beat until well combined - about 1-2 minutes. Add enough flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the dough and "ball up" on the paddle attachment. At this point, stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the paddle and replace it with the dough hook. Continue to knead the dough while adding more flour (about 2 tablespoons at a time) until a soft, slightly tacky dough forms. This might take a while, so be patient. Allow the mixer to knead the dough about 5- 10 minutes or until it feels soft, supple, and springs back when squeezed. Dump the dough onto the counter, knead it briefly into a large, tight ball and then place in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
Once the dough has doubled, separate it into two portions. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll into an approximate rectangle about 11x14 inches. Brush the top generously with melted butter and then, using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise. Then, slice the dough into 5-6 strips across so you end up with 10-12 small rectangles in total. Roll each rectangle up like a snail and then place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet with the roll resting on it's open edge. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Cover the rolls tightly with plastic and allow to rise until doubled - about another 45-60 minutes. As the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
When ready to bake, remove the plastic and bake one pan at a time for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. You could also slather the warm rolls in additional melted butter if you're feeling super indulgent.
Try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.
Note: If you need help visualizing the shaping process, Mel has a photo tutorial on her website.