When I asked Eli what he wanted to contribute to his kindergarten class “Family Traditions Feast,” he did not hesitate: “Rolls,” he said. “Grandma’s rolls.” And although on such a busy week, I might have wanted him to choose something less time-consuming (like his dad’s adaptation of his great grandmother’s lemon & parsley stuffing), I also couldn’t argue with him. These rolls, more than pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce, say Thanksgiving to me, and I make them every year. Now you can, too.
I’m giving the recipe essentially as my mom wrote it out for me years ago, with some additional notes about rising. Don’t be daunted by the length of the recipe; that’s just me taking time to explain how very flexible it is. If you plan ahead and it suits your personality, you can spend a little time with the dough over the course of several days before you have rolls; but you can also get the rolls completely finished in under 6 hours (of which maybe an hour requires your effort).
Brown & Serve Wheat Germ Rolls
Combine in a glass measuring cup:
1 cup warm (105º) water
2 envelopes yeast
Let stand 5 – 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine in a very large bowl:
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups warm milk
¼ cup sugar (white or brown)
1 T salt
and stir until the butter is melted, and the liquid has cooled slightly.
Add to the butter mixture and beat until thoroughly combined:
the yeast mixture
1 lightly beaten egg
6 cups all purpose flour
1 cup wheat germ
Turn out onto a well-floured surface, and knead a minimum of 10 minutes, adding up to 3 cups additional flour to make a smooth dough.
Let the dough rest a minute while you wash out the mixing bowl and coat it with butter. Place the dough in the bowl, turning the dough to cover it thoroughly. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled in bulk. If you let the dough rise at room temperature, this will take about 1 ½ hours. If you need a break from the dough, you could also stick it into the fridge to rise slowly overnight. When you’re ready to resume, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (allow an hour or two) before punching the dough down and carrying on.
After you’ve punched down the dough, let it rise a second time, covering as before, until doubled. At room temperature, allow 45 minutes to 1 hour; again, you could also do this second rise in the fridge overnight, letting the dough come to room temperature before continuing.
Punch the dough down and shape as desired: You can roll the dough out and cut it into circles, folding the circles in half to make the classic Parker House rolls. You can form balls of dough which you bake in a round cake or pie pan. You can make cloverleaf rolls by putting three small balls into each cup of a muffin pan. Or you can pull the circles into oblongs for finger rolls. However you shape them, give the rolls an inch or so of space between each other as they will expand as they rise and as they bake. Brush the tops with a bit of melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise until doubled:30-45 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
For brown and serve rolls:
Bake in a pre-heated 275º oven for 40 minutes. Leave in the pans 20 minutes, and then turn out to finish cooling at room temperature. When thoroughly cool, wrap well in plastic or ziplocs. Store in the refrigerator one week or in the freezer up to 3 months.
When ready to serve, thaw if frozen (leaving them overnight in the fridge works); then place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400º until brown, 7-15 minutes, depending on their size.
If, after the shaped rolls have risen, you want to bake them to eat right away, preheat the oven to 375º and then bake until brown, 20-30 minutes, depending on their size.