Shirley Tedesco loves her mother-in-law. Really. But since Grandma Josephine never quite forgave Shirley for stealing her oldest son away and marrying him, well, let’s just say there is an undercurrent of tension between them, and that tension never comes out more than when Joe’s younger brother, Danny, visits.
Danny is the family screw-up who frequently cons his mother into investing in his latest stupid, money-making scheme. Joe, without Shirley’s knowledge, sometimes bails his brother out. So when Joe announces that Danny is coming for dinner and bringing his new girlfriend, Shirley is not at all happy.
Ratchet up the tension between Shirley, who is not pleased, and Grandma, who is thrilled. But the ladies are civil, and their chosen battlefield is the kitchen where each whips up the best of her recipes; Grandma to please her baby boy, and Shirley to simply not be outdone.
The following recipe for yeast rolls is the one I had in mind when choosing what Grandma Josephine would make. These rolls are little, handheld clouds of deliciousness. Light and tender, rich and satisfying, you will find yourself whipping up a batch of these easy-to-make delicacies if for no other reason than to indulge in a pan of them sans a meal!
Grandma Josephine’s Yeast Rolls
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 ½ c warm milk (about 100° F to 110° F)
4 ¼ c bread flour
1 large egg, beaten
2 t salt (I use kosher or sea salt)
3 T granulated sugar (I use raw)
½ c unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled to lukewarm
For the Topping:
1 teaspoon water
Pinch of salt
Generously butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch metal baking pan.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the yeast and 1 t of the sugar with the warm milk. Let stand for one to two minutes until the yeast blooms.
Add the flour, the egg, 2 teaspoons of salt, the rest of the sugar, and the melted butter. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed until combined.
Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to mix for 7 minutes. You can add a teaspoon or two of flour as needed to encourage the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but not so much that you make the dough tough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to form a ball that is springy and elastic. Place the ball of dough in a well-oiled bowl. Turn to oil both sides. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Gently punch down the doubled dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 24 uniform pieces and shape them into balls.
Place the individual dough balls in the buttered baking pan to make four rows of six (24 rolls). Cover lightly with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 375° F.
When the rolls have risen, whisk an egg with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt until well blended. Gently brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm with butter, jelly, jam, or honey.