My husband is from Nova Scotia, I am from Toronto. He was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of five. As any single mom would know, raising and feeding five children is no easy task on any budget, never mind a modest one.
The first few years I knew my mother-in-law before she passed away, she would often say she didn’t want cook for us when we visited because her cooking wasn’t “fancy” enough. What she failed to realize is that cooking doesn’t need to be “fancy” to be good. My husband often told stories of his life growing up, with descriptions of food that his mom made interwoven. He has often related stories of his mother taking all five of her children camping, and of the sandwiches that she would make at home, wrap in foil, and then toss in the fire to warm when they arrived at their campsite. Every time he tried to copy this during our camping years he said it just wasn’t the same.
He wouldn’t have told these stories if her food wasn’t comforting and memorable.
One thing he always spoke of was his mom’s dinner rolls, or as many call them out in the eastern part of Canada, scalded milk rolls. I have always been afraid of making bread, it can be a lot like baking, very precise. A few years back when I watched my husband make these for the first time, he made it look so easy, and my oh my, did they look beautiful coming out of the oven, all golden and puffed up. I knew one day I would have to conquer my fear and this was going to be one of the recipes that helped.
Rolls are an essential part of meals in eastern Canada and many other places where people still farm and work the land and need true sustenance to proceed through their daily tasks, so they are a staple at many dinner tables.
I recently asked if I could share his mom’s roll recipe. I found it upstairs in a box that we have of her recipes, hand-written on index cards. It’s an old and weathered card, and was missing a few measurements, but he figured it out. And it didn’t disappoint.
These rolls are beautiful to look at and not hard to learn.
My husband likes to mold them by hand. But you may get more uneven rolls. Instead, try this: divide dough in half and with your hands, roll half of the dough into a thick log. Then cut off in sections. Half the dough should be ten rolls.
Form into balls, while pinching dough underneath so that you get a smooth and pretty top. Place in your pan and repeat until all dough is finished.
Cover again and let rise until doubled in size, about another hour until they look something like this gorgeousness.
Brush buns with melted butter and top with some beautiful coarse sea salt. Then pop these beauties into the oven and try and wait until golden brown.
If you can’t use regular milk, try other kinds. I know soy works well, but I haven’t tried other kinds, it might change up the flavor a bit. Try it and let me know how it works.
Oh, and don’t blame me when everybody in the neighborhood comes knocking on the door asking what that glorious smell is.
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 2 cups warm milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup shortening, melted, plus more for greasing pan
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 1/2 cups (or more) flour
- about 1/3 cup butter, melted
- kosher salt
Add yeast to warm water. Wait for at least five minutes or until frothy. (If needed, add a pinch of sugar to help the process). Pour yeast mixture into the warm milk, stir until combined.
Add sugar, shortening, egg, and salt and mix with a fork. Add flour one cup at a time so it does not become too hard to combine. If dough is too wet, add more flour and use hands to combine until dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Grease the sides of a clean bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place, about one hour, or until doubled in size.
With more shortening, grease a large cast-iron skillet or baking pan. Gently punch down the dough. With floured hands, form into equal-sized balls, about half the size that you want them to be. Pinch rolls underneath so the tops are smooth. Place into the greased pan of your choice. Cover again with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for another hour or until doubled in size.
Melt butter. Brush generously over rolls and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest ten minutes in pan before removing.
Depending on size, makes about 20 dinner rolls.