Nana Rolls

Disclaimer:  Remember that stuff I said about whole wheat flour being good for you?  Set that aside for just now.  There's a time and a place for white flour and THIS is the time and place, right here, right now.

Who is "Nana?"  She was my husband's paternal grandmother.  Who also happened to be an amazing cook and baker, gardener, canner, and all those other cool things that grannies used to do.  She won so many ribbons at the State Fair for her various canned and baked goods, that the press came calling.  Nana appeared in newspaper ads as a spokeswoman for a national yeast brand.  She was featured in articles and interviews.  My husband still remembers the sound that her basement closet door made - it was a swishing-fluttering noise made by the layers and layers of ribbons she hung there.

When it turned out I liked to bake, the recipe was passed along to me.  One batch had me believing this was the stuff from which legends were made.  I entered those rolls in my county fair that summer and won a purple Grand Champion ribbon.  Yep.  I've won ribbons for whole wheat bread and pumpkin bread, but only one recipe garnered the Grand Champion prize:  Nana Rolls.

I'm the odd baker that will share a winning recipe.  What do I care?  Sure, you can have the amounts and steps!  The touch and love are up to the individual :)  Pay attention at the end to a few variations I've tweaked over the years.  This is essentially Nana's recipe, with a few minor changes to make it my own.  Make sure you time the baking to have them fresh out of the oven in the mid-afternoon.  You'll need, of course, some Swedish egg-coffee to go along with them, but if you lack that desire or skill, regular coffee, tea, or milk will suffice.  If it's winter, make some cocoa, will ya?

Nana Rolls
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp yeast (one packet)
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour, divided

Heat the milk and the butter so the butter melts and the milk is approximately 100 degrees (blood warm).  Stir in the salt and sugar until dissolved.  Combine the water, yeast and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl and let foam for a few minutes.  Dump the milk mixture into a big bowl, and add 2 cups of the flour, stirring to combine.  Add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture, stir to combine.  Add 2 more cups of flour to make a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour to make a smooth and elastic dough, about 10 minutes.  Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise until doubled.

Punch down the dough and shape into rolls.  I make a knot shape (like a little fat pretzel), but you can make horns, rounds, fans, whatever you like.  Let rise again, covered, until doubled.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes until light golden on top.  I put parchment paper on my baking sheets which prevents sticking and burning.

Eat them warm with jam, butter, honey, or just stuff one in your hungry mouth plain!

Variations: (remember that loaves take longer to bake!)

*  I have used half whole wheat and half white flour with great results, and a teeny bit less guilt.
*  I have added cardamom to the first flour addition and it makes a nice, very Scandinavian-tasting roll.
*  I have rolled out ropes of the dough and braided them for pretty loaves.
*  I have been in a hurry and just plopped the dough into my regular bread loaf pans.  This makes great sliced bread or toast, but I do NOT recommend for sandwiches - too sweet.
*  If you are really in the mood for some yum, roll the dough out into a big rectangle, spread it with butter, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar (and chopped nuts if you like), then roll it up, slice it into rounds, put them in a greased baking pan and you've got cinnamon rolls that will make you weep.  If you like caramel-topped rolls, grease that pan heavily with butter and sprinkle with plenty of brown sugar before you add the rolls.

Here's to your Nana!
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