At Holiday time when I was young, there was always anticipation along with the question “What would Gramma Bert bring with her for dinner?” For she was the baker in the family. My dad would go over to her house to pick her up and bring her over, and sometimes there were bags of stuff ranging from pies to breads to the Nefarious Lard Rolls. You see, these rolls were Gramma Bert’s Big Secret. We enjoyed them because they were homemade and they were a nice deviation from the tiring “weekday bread”, usually a loaf of Wonder Bread or some other white fluffy storebought stuff. Sometimes they were even warm when she arrived if my dad drove the old Studebaker fast enough.
So let’s get to the part about the Big Secret. We thought were were getting something entirely novel, but in essence, the rolls were the same recipe as her favorite homemade white bread recipe here. They were just in a different format. While they seemed to taste a little different, they really weren’t. It’s just a matter of more crust surface area, and of course the shaping enhances the appeal here.
Learning different shaping techniques enhances your own baking skillset. By investing a little time and effort here, you can actually produce three or four, or perhaps even more variations of the same basic bread dough. The little rolls above are simply a series of overhand knot passes of a dough rope measuring about 12 inches long.
Here’s a tip on handing the ropes – a tiny bit of oil on your hands will help you elongate the ropes to the desired lengths. Just a drop or two of oil will help – you really don’t need any more than that. After getting the ropes lengthened, roll the rope into a small bit of flour. The flour will help keep your rope from sticking to itself while doing the knot to shape the rolls. And that little bit of flour dust will give the little rolls a nice bakery look.
I made these for our recent Thanksgiving dinner. The conversation eventually turned to Gramma Bert, now passed. We recalled some of the stuff she used to bring over. Gee, I wonder if that darned Apple Cake of hers was the same dough too with more sugar added. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.