Monday, April 25, 2011

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

We were there every Sunday without fail. The little farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, where we gathered eggs from the chickens, watched the cows, and occasionally helped Grandma harvest things from the garden. My uncles would sit in the living room with the TV blaring, arguing about politics. I usually did my homework and devoid of child-friendly entertainment, contented myself with wandering around the barnyard.

Grandma's table would be laden with simple, wholesome, farm food-barely anything from the store but rather all made, grown, butchered, or harvested by her and my uncle's hands. She'd sit in her chair by the wood stove, resting after doing all that work, and watch us eat.

Grandma always wanted us to eat. It was her way of showing how much she loved us. There was never a time we went to her house that we didn't leave stuffed, and one of the things I remember most was her home made buns and jam.

I hadn't thought of grandma, or her homemade buns, for years. Even when I decided to make this recipe, I didn't remember ever seeing them before. I kneaded and baked, puttering along and not thinking much about anything, until I removed the pan from the oven. These look familiar, I thought as I poked at them. Where have I seen these before? A few minutes later one was cool enough to eat and as I reached for one, slathered it with butter, and then took a bite, I was 8 years old again and in my Grandma's kitchen. I can't be sure, but I'm positive she made buns just like these.

Buttery and easy to pull apart to slather with your choice of topping, these are a favorite in our house. I'm sure they will be something I'll be serving to Kevin, and maybe my own grandchildren, in years to come.

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Fine Cooking

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm milk
3 oz/6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, room temperature, gently beaten
1 tsp salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.

Warm the milk and butter on the stove until it's about 100-110 F, then set it aside until it's tepid, or rather, warm but not hot.

With the mixer on low, stir in the milk/butter mixture, egg, and oil. The dough will be quite soft compared to regular bread dough. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, let the mixer do the kneading for you-but if you don't, knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

Slather the inside of a bowl with some oil, then take your dough and turn it over in the bowl, coating the outside of it. Cover with some cling wrap and set in a warm, draft free place for about an hour. I like putting my bread dough inside a cold oven with the light on, because then the light gives enough warmth to make the dough rise.

After an hour, gently punch the dough down and divide it into 36 pieces. Brush the inside of a muffin tin with melted butter.

Roll each piece of dough in your fingers to form a small ball, then fit 3 of the balls inside each muffin cup. Brush them lightly with a little extra melted butter when you are finished, and set aside again in a warm, draft free area for about an hour so that they rise.

When they are finished rising, pre-heat your oven to 375 F.

In a small bowl, whisk an egg yolk, pinch of sugar, and 1 Tbsp of milk together. Brush over the rolls. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until they are golden and sound hollow on the bottom when tapped.

Makes 1 dozen
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