Mrs. Moore's Incredibly Tender Rolls
I love recipes that comes with stories, and here is one that is rooted in central Kentucky, at least three generations old. Mrs. Bacon Rochester Moore was my first husband's grandmother, an ardent and skilled amateur historian in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. It's always a grand occasion when I pull out the recipe for Mrs. Moore's Rolls. I make them only for lavish meals, with lots of family, for wonderful special occasions. No one could eat these rolls everyday and maintain self-respect. As a once or twice a year treat, however, they are sublime, unbelievably tender, melting puffs of sweet buttery goodness.
I have yet to meet a child who doesn't love Mrs. Moore's Rolls. In their growing years, each of our three sons could eat eight at a sitting, along with huge portions of other food. Recently my grand-nephew reported eating 12 at my father's 89th birthday celebration
Tip: If any of these rolls make it to the next morning, split them open and toast them lightly under a broiler. They are heavenly as toasted leftovers.
Mrs. Moore's Rolls
First, make this mixture in a large, heat-proof bowl:
1 cup boiling water
1 cup liquid shortening (The original probably was lard. I prefer oils such as grapeseed and rice bran.)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2/3 cup sugar
While the first mixture cools, make this second mixture in a medium-sized bowl.
1 cup lukewarm water
2 packages yeast, or five teaspoons (King Arthur yeast sold in bulk is good, and so is Red Star or Fleischman's. I'm sure many yeasts work well for this recipe.)
2 large eggs, beaten until very light yellow (I like organic brown eggs, of course.)
8 cups flour or less (I like Weisenberger Mills Unbleached or King Arthur Unbleached, It takes a little less than most other brands.)
Melted butter for dipping: Use a high quality unsalted butter; Organic Valley from a natural foods store or Land o Lake from a supermarket
When the first mixture cools to lukewarm (a drop feels like nothing at all on the inside of your wrist), add the second mixture to it. Stir until blended.
Sift flour into the liquids. Start with about three cups of flour. Stir rapidly with a large, heavy spoon. I like a long handled wooden spoon for this. Add another couple of cups of flour. Stir until completely blended. Then add in cupfuls or less. When the mixture gets quite thick and stretchy, but still wet looking and kind of relaxed, that's enough flour. You do not want this to be a truly stiff dough, like bread. It stays somewhat soft.
Either scrape the dough into a fresh, greased bowl or carefully scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl you are using so that all the dough gets together. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cover with a moist clean cloth topped by plastic or foil, or lightly tuck foil, waxed paper, or plastic in all around the dough. (It is going to rise and rearrange the covers, so don't fret about that.) Store in refrigerator.
To bake, remove from refrigerator and place the amount of dough you want to use on a floured cloth or board. If you use all the dough, you will make between 50 and 60 rolls. Typically you will use a portion.
Knead the dough a little, maybe 10 strokes. Roll out to about 1/3 inch thickness (actually quite thin) with a heavy, floured roller. Cut with a two inch biscuit cutter. The original recipe says at this point, 'Dip biscuits in Wesson Oil' but I dip the flat, round rolls in melted butter. Fold the rounds into half moon shapes (one straight side) and put them onto flat heavy baking sheets, not quite touching. (This is a point of taste - if you like the rolls to have more golden crust, put them farther apart on the pan. If you like rolls that have soft, tender sides, put the rolls close together. As they rise, they will touch, and the sides will be unbrowned and tender.)
Here's the important part: LET RISE IN WARM PLACE FOR TWO HOURS.
If you rush this, you will not get the wondrous meltaway character that is the signature of Mrs. Moore's Rolls.
Here's the other important part: Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until lightly brown, about 8 minutes. Check after 6.
Make baking the rolls the very last step in your meal preparation. You can put the rolls in as you call people to the table, and take them from the oven after some of the other food is already circulating on the table. That makes the rolls perfectly fresh and hot, just from the oven, as people get to them.
Serve with butter, red raspberry jam or other wonderful sweets.
If there are any leftovers, tuck them into a plastic bag after they have cooled. The next day, break them open at the crease and put them in a toaster oven for a few minutes. Watch closely, they brown fast. As noted earlier, they taste delicious in this second incarnation.