Fern’s Rolls

Fern was Mom's oldest sister, the first-born of 12 children.  You might say she was a second mother to the younger children in the family.  This recipe is how Hilga remembers Mom making these rolls.  Hilga remembers Dad saying, "If these rolls are so good, how come we can't have them more often than just the holiday?"  Remember, practice makes perfect, so make these often.

Fern's Rolls
Charlotte: This is the recipe that Mom gave me when I left home.

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1/3 cup sugar

Let yeast start to work.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Mix well and add:
1/2 cup liquid shortening
enough flour to clean the bowl

Let rise 30 minutes, knead, roll and cut, let raise double and bake in preheated 375 degree oven.

Hilga's Revised Version

1-1/2 cups warm/hot water
1 yeast cake
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
3 eggs
3 cups flour plus enough to make a stiff dough

Melt the butter in the water in the microwave,  add to  dry ingredients and stir a bit.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add additional flour as needed to make a stiff dough.  Let raise until doubled in bulk.  Roll out dough to about 1 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Melt some shortening in the baking pan.  Dip each roll in the shortening to coat the top and place close together in the pan.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 12-15 min.



Mom would have used all-purpose white flour which she bought in a 50 pound bags.  This was emptied into the flour bin that was built into the lower part of the kitchen cabinet.  (Yes, the whole 50 pounds fit in the bin!)  This wooden bin was thoroughly cleaned before adding new flour to keep the weevil out.  If there happened to be a few weevils in the almost-empty bin, the remaining flour was not wasted, but carefully sifted to remove the little buggers before using it. The higher-protein bread flour we know today was not available.

The yeast would have been the moist yeast cake which was purchased in 1-tablespoon-sized wrappers or as a 1-pound block.

The shortening was likely the Crisco brand, but since there was always ample milk on the farm, she could have made these rolls with butter or shortening.  If she used shortening, she would have melted it in a baking pan in the oven or on top of the coal cook stove.  We didn't vegetable oil back then, although this could be used in place of the shortening.

Mixing and kneading:  Mom had a large bowl-shaped "bread pan" she used to mix the dough in.  The warm water, yeast and sugar would go in the bowl first and allowed to "work" (ferment) for a few minutes to make sure it was active.  Next add the eggs, salt and 2 cups of flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon or beat the eggs before adding.  Continue stirring and adding additional flour until the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl.  Sift a little flour on top of the dough and knead the dough by hand until it is soft and pliable.  When it is kneaded enough, little bubbles can be seen under the surface of the dough.  Take a little shortening with the fingers and lightly grease the ball of dough, so it won't dry out while it is raising.
Shaping:  Let rise until double in bulk.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface, roll it out to about 3/4 to 1 inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.   Melt some shortening in the baking pan.  Dip each roll in the shortening to coat the top and place the rolls touching each other, so they rise up during baking rather than spread out.  Let rise again until double in bulk before taking.
Baking:  Baking temperatures in a coal cook stove may not be exact.  These rolls would bake somewhere between 375 and 425 degrees for about 15 to 30 minutes.  Place the pan on the center oven rack and take them out when they smell good and are nicely browned.


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