Taking time to give thanks
“We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter what may be the burden of our wants, or the special subject of our petitions.” Albert Barnes
Imagine spending two months in the cargo hold of a very small ship. No matter how turbulent the seas got, you were not allowed on deck at any time. After arriving, way off course, to the promised lands in late November, the winter took half of the people with starvation and disease. The local natives take pity on your bedraggled band and teach you how to grow food in this foreign land. The summer actually brings a bountiful harvest. How dear the food must have been to those pilgrims! They had a good reason to celebrate with the Native Americans in that first Thanksgiving dinner that lasted three days.
Fast forward 400 years to now. We all race around, trying to make ends meet, worrying about our economy, the flu and whatever else the media throws at us. Time is a precious commodity that there is never enough of as we throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Slowing down is a luxury we feel we can’t afford. But if we take time to think about those pilgrims and what they went through, suddenly everything seems easy.
Thanksgiving is the perfect motive for us to slow down and appreciate how lucky we are. This year I have decided to take the day off beforehand and unhurriedly cook many of our dinner’s items, while stirring in the very important ingredient of gratitude. Think of our ancestors and how they would cook for days before a delicious holiday. Taking the time to prepare the foods with love and thoughtfulness is just one small way we can honor our forbearers and appreciate all that we have.
When I first tasted these rolls I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s farm kitchen in Idaho. She would start the Thanksgiving feast days ahead of time. I remember very clearly helping her shape these rolls, and watching in anticipation as they rose by the warm oven that was filled with fragrant baking pies. I love these rolls. They take time to make but what a sweet way to slow down and enjoy life!
Grandma’s old fashioned dinner rolls
5 1/4 cups of unbleached flour
1 1/3 cups of warm low fat milk,
(about skin temp)
1 package of quick rise yeast
(2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast)
¼ cup butter, melted and at room temp
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 large farm egg
A couple tablespoons of poppy seeds
A tablespoon of melted butter
Combine 2 cups of flour, warm milk and yeast in a large warm bowl and stir with a wooden spoon till well blended. Cover and let it grow in a warm cozy place for about an hour or more till it is very bubbly and excited.
Add the rest of the flour, sugar, salt, butter and egg to the batter and stir till everything is well mixed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead the dough till it is smooth and silky. (The dough may stick to your hands here and there, so just sprinkle with a little flour on it when it does that.)
Lovingly tuck the dough back into the bowl, cover and place in a warm nook to let it grow till it is doubled in size, about 1½ hours. A great trick my granny taught me is if you lightly press your fingers into the dough and the indentations remain, the dough was risen enough.
Turn the dough out on your lightly floured board again and knead it a few times then pat it into a rectangle. Divide the dough into 20 pieces by cutting it with a knife. Shape each piece into whatever shape you like. My grandmother made little flat pancakes that she then folded in half and put into the pan. I usually make little round balls. Place them into a 13 x 9 baking dish and lightly brush the rolls with a little melted butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Cover and put back in that warm sanctuary to let rise till doubled, once again, about ½ hour to an hour. Heat up the hearth fire, (oven) to 350 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes, till they are golden brown and fragrant. They are amazing served warm with fresh butter. You can make these a day ahead and warm them up in the oven for five minutes or so before dinner. Enjoy Thanksgiving!