Remembering our Roots

photoThis stunning, vivid and dramatic still life painting by friend and local artist Ann Goble invites me to a time in the nineteenth century where I can almost smell the yeast rising across the kitchen in a pottery bowl and the burnt embers of the cooking fire smolder nearby.  A time when the fresh picked lavender would be ground for aroma and bath salts to fill the room.  The eggs were freshly retrieved from the chickens nearby and there was no question of whether they were cage free, organic, vegetarian fed, or GMO in any form. There was a confidence that cooking and eating was simply good for you.

Ann Goble can be found painting in her studio in Gainesville, Georgia.  She can also be found photographing and painting horses at dude ranches or at http://anngoble.com.  Check out her beautiful art.

In the meantime, you can recreate the smells of our ancestors baking homemade yeast rolls.  Who can resist warm yeast rolls fresh from the oven?  I am fascinated with and have been reading about the sensory response we naturally have to smells and tastes.  The New York Times had an interesting article about a biopsychologist named Gary Beauchamp at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia that is dedicated to researching specifically the senses of taste and smell.  It is obvious that we begin tasting food initially with our eyes.  Their research projects on chemosensory perception explore how we detect and perceive taste and smell.  “Throughout our lives the olfactory system is sending a nearly constant stream of information to the brain.” To learn about their research is exciting to me because I know I am taken to a special place and time when my mom would prepare homemade rolls and we are in our kitchen together anticipating anxiously…awaiting those alluring precious gems to come steaming out of the oven inviting me to lather as much butter as the baked bounty would behold.

Yeast Rolls

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)

3 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 eggs

4 cups unbleached flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

In a small bowl pour the yeast over the warm water.  Make sure your water is not too hot.  Stir in the honey.  Let the yeast mixture sit for five minutes.  It should become foamy.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until it is warm, but not boiling (about 3-4 minutes).  Stir occasionally.  Whisk in the butter, sugar, and salt into the warm milk.  Add the yeast mixture, eggs (one at a time) and flour.  Stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.  Knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.          Note: This is the time for connecting with our ancestors through the therapeutic process of manually kneading the dough.  No wonder their arms were so strong!

If the dough becomes sticky, add a bit more flour.  Place the dough in a buttered bowl.  Turn the dough to coat both sides well with the butter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place a towel over the top and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Dough should double in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter your working surface and dust with flour.  Punch down the dough.  Use additional flour if dough is sticky.  Shape into small balls and place in a buttered muffin pan.  Another option is to cut the dough with a sharp knife into small triangles.  Roll out the dough into two rectangles about 1/2 inch thick.  From the wide end, gently roll into a crescent shape.  Place on a buttered baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Cover loosely and let the rolls rise again for about 30 minutes.  Brush the top with butter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Serve warm with more butter and honey.

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