|Six burner stove at the McKinnis House|
Famous last words.
Actually, the receipt turned out to be pretty good, but with some rather major changes. For some reason, this recipe, along with the cider cake recipe, was seriously lacking liquid. I don't know why, although my husband posed this answer with a chuckle: "More liquid means more trips to the well or the stream!" I suppose that could be partially true, but I also wonder if perhaps their measurements were somehow off compared to today, because everything we measure with is standardized, whereas back then, there were likely differences in some sizes of a cup or spoonful of an ingredient. I really can't say for sure, but as I was making this recipe, I realized just how dry and tooth-chipping these would be if made exactly to the original instructions. Hence, the reason for the changes that I made.
I began where everyone should begin, at the beginning.
"Warm an ounce of butter in half a pint of milk,"--let's stop there. I measured out the butter and milk, and (cheatingly) microwaved the mixture until the butter was melted into the milk, and the liquid was warm enough to activate the yeast. I thought about doing it in a saucepan on the stove, but I had some other things going on, so I opted to use the microwave instead. It took about 1:15 in the microwave on high.
"then add a spoonful and a half of yeast, and a little salt."
I used a teaspoon (the kind we eat with) to measure out a spoonful and a half into a measuring glass, then added "a little salt". Here is where I made the first change to the recipe: I added a little bit of ginger. I'd read recently that yeast back at this time was made at home, and would have had some other flavorings or spices added to it to help with the fermentation for making the yeast cakes. Because of this, the yeast that we purchase at the store today tastes different than that of the home-made variety, and I did find a recipe online for making yeast the old way that included things like potato, peach leaves and ginger. I didn't have any cooked potatoes, and I don't usually (okay, ever) have peach leaves on hand, but I sure had ginger! So into the measuring glass it went. I also added a small amount of sugar to help feed the yeast.
"Put two pounds of flour in a pan, and mix in the above ingredients."
Here we go with the pounds of flour again...flour was sold by the pound, and ground by the pound, so I understand the reasoning, but like I found out in the cider cake recipe, a pound of flour for me equals right around three cups. Two pounds of flour is therefore six cups. Six cups of flour mixed with one cup of liquid. Do you see the problem? Here is where I made the next major change: I stopped at three cups. Even with three cups of flour, I still needed to add another quarter-cup of warm water to the mix to achieve a bread-doughy consistency.
"Let rise an hour--or overnight, in a cool place;"--I had turned on my oven to 400 degrees to give the kitchen a little more heat. We do have our furnace on now, but we have no fireplace or hearth for me to leave this dough to rise near, so I set the bowl next to the vent on my oven, with the towel open to the heat coming out of the stove vent. Worked great! Within an hour, the dough had doubled in size.
"Knead it well, make into seven rolls, and bake them in a quick oven. Add half a tea-spoonful of saleratus, just as you put the rolls into the baker."
I floured my countertop and turned out the dough. I sprinkled a half teaspoon of baking soda on top of the dough before I began kneading, because these instructions seemed out of order in terms of adding the baking soda to the rolls right before putting them into the baker. I kneaded the dough until it was smooth and elastic, a little sticky, but certainly sticking together and not leaving any tacky dough on the counter. It was really easy to knead it to that texture, really, and then I began forming my rolls.
If I made only seven rolls with this recipe, they would be huge rolls--the size of a softball or larger. I opted for smaller balls of dough, more the size of between a golf ball and a baseball. They were still substantial in size, and I ended up with seventeen rolls from this recipe.
I buttered a 9" x 12" baking sheet, and placed six rolls on the pan. I baked the rolls at 400 degrees (the high end of a "quick oven") for 10 minutes. When I checked them at that point, they sounded hollow when tapped, so I took them out.
Now was the deciding time--the time to taste my creation. I sliced open a hot roll and spread a little bit of butter and raw honey on top. I took a bite, and was really impressed! The inside was soft and chewy, and the butter/honey combo on top was absolutely perfect on these.
Without any condiments, I think these rolls are a little bland, but perfect for absorbing a soup or stew broth. Perfect to go with the beef stew I made for dinner!
So now, here is the modern-day recipe for these rolls. I would recommend giving them a try!
2 TBSP butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp sugar (you can add more for a sweeter roll)
1/4 C warm water
3 C white whole-wheat flour (white flour or bread flour can be subbed)
1/2 tsp baking soda
Combine the milk and butter (the butter will float to the top). In a small bowl, mix the yeast, salt, ginger, and sugar, then add to the milk mixture. Stir to wet the yeast.
In a large bowl, add your flour, then add your yeast/milk mixture. Add water. Mix together until the dough sticks together and there are no dry ingredients. Cover with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise for one to two hours.
Flour your kneading surface, then turn the dough out. Sprinkle baking soda over top of the dough before kneading, then begin to knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about four or five minutes. Add more flour to your surface as needed. Form dough into a ball, and pull off pieces a little larger than a golf ball size, and roll into balls.
Butter the bottom of your 9" x 12" baking sheet, then bake six at a time at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Rolls are done when they sound hollow when tapped. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Best eaten fresh from the oven!