My name is Alisa and I have a lot of cookbooks. When I go to thrift stores and antique shops, I buy more cookbooks. In my house, I have a wall of shelves dedicated to just cookbooks…This is how I imagine a 12 step program for cookbook addicts might start. First admitting that I have a lot, perhaps too many cookbooks. And yes, I could say that I have too many, but when you start collecting a specific item, quickly amassing large quantities is what generally happens. Truth be told, of all the things I could get involved with, collecting cookbooks is pretty tame and if I take them off the shelf and use them, delicious things happen. One of the cookbooks I have had the longest, and judging by the condition, used often is a copy of the Fannie Farmer Baking Book. It is also one that I highly recommend to new bakers looking for a starting point because the recipes are simple, easy to follow and pretty foolproof.
What many people do not realize is that Fannie Farmer really was a trained cook as well as an author of several cookbooks. She studied at the Boston Cooking School in the late 19th century and eventually took the role of school principal before venturing out on her own by opening a school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cooking. Although her main interest was proper nutrition and how it affected the health and well-being of the ill, what she hoped she would be most remembered for, it is the The Fanny Farmer Cookbook that most people today associate with her. There are two books featuring her name, The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, which she actually wrote and was revised, updated and renamed The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by the late Marion Cunningham and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, also written by Marion Cunningham. While Fannie’s name may be in the title of the baking book, she never actually wrote a book dedicated to baking or desserts. Ms. Cunningham is solely responsible for making the book what it is; a master collection of baking recipes that every baker should own. As hard as it is to believe, when I am developing recipes, I will pull this book off the shelf and read or make a recipe in it because I know it will work. Other times, when I just want a recipe that is foolproof and guaranteed to please a crowd, this is my “go to-I don’t need to think about it” book.
With this in mind, I pulled the book off the shelf with the idea of making some dinner rolls. There is nothing worse than messing around with a bread recipe, spending a day or even two to make a batch of dough, only to have it completely flop. Since I was short on time, I went with a recipe I knew would work perfectly, the simply titled Dinner Rolls. Ms. Cunningham describes them as her “favorite dinner rolls, soft and barely sweet” and I couldn’t agree more. They were quick to mix, easy to shape and baked up beautifully. The recipe includes many options for shaping the rolls; pan rolls, crescents, clover-leaf, fan-tan or mini rolls. Crescents were what I wanted, and I was quite pleased with the results. If you do not have a copy of this book, get one; this recipe is one of the reasons why I keep this book on my shelf.
makes about 24 rolls
1 1/4 cup milk, warmed
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a bowl, stir together the milk, sugar, salt and butter. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and let stand to dissolve and become active. Add the egg and 2 cups of flour and beat it vigorously for a minute or two. Add enough flour to make a manageable dough. Knead the dough in the mixer or by hand on a well floured surface until smooth or elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise until doubled. Punch the dough down and shape as desired. Place the shaped rolls onto a baking pan and let rise until double. Preheat the oven to 400 and bake the rolls for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a rack for a few minutes before serving.
To shape crescents:
Melt 6 tablespoons butter. Divide the dough in half and set half aside, covered. Roll the other piece into a circle that is about 12″ in diameter and 1/8″ thick. Brush the dough with some of the melted butter. Cut the dough into 12 equal wedges. Take one wedge of dough, starting with the wide end, roll it up and pinch the tail to the roll to keep it from opening during baking. Place 12 rolls on a pan lined with parchment paper or silpats, tail side down. Space the rolls at least 1″ apart, brush them with butter, cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat the process with the other ball of dough. Let the rolls rise until double and bake as directed in the recipe above.
Serve the rolls fresh from the oven with butter or jam or butter and jam…They reheat nicely too and also make lovely rolls for little sandwiches!