The Big SweetPosted: 02/20/2011
Everything about Larry is big. Big smile, big heart, big ideas, and he’s six-foot three to boot. He’s the husband of my best friend Carol, and I’ve known him for two decades now. They came out to Los Angeles for business and they spent the week staying with us. We always have fun. And, it’s always about food! They like to cook and eat as much as I do.
Larry’s specialty of the house is Sweet Rolls. I thought mine were good, but honestly, his are better. As we sat around my kitchen table today talking, I asked him where an ex-college football player and total sports fanatic learned the delicate process of the yeast dough.
1963. That’s when his love of all things baked began. But it came out of sadness. He told me that in June of 1963, he lost his grandfather, the patriarch of their mid-western family. And then, in October of 1963 he lost his father, the back-bone of the family to complications from a minor knee surgery. Finally, in November of 1963, Larry and the rest of America lost President Kennedy. All the strong male role-models in his life were suddenly gone. His mother Edith, was now alone and had four children in the home to care for.
Larry told me how lonely he felt at that time in his life and how baking with his mother was a way they could spend good, quality time together. He described the 50-pound cloth sacks of flour his mother kept in the kitchen of their home in Cadott, Wisconsin. He said she baked everything, cakes, cookies, breads and pies. There was always something in the oven. But the Sweet Rolls held a special place in his heart. With that Big Larry smile of his, he told me how his mom would time the baking of the Sweet Rolls to come out of the oven at exactly half-time, as he and his brothers and sisters watched their beloved Green Bay Packers on the family’s television.
So I got him to share Edith’s Sweet Roll’s recipe with me, and now I’m passing it on to you.
Edith’s Sweet Rolls
2 cups warm water (about 100 degrees)
2 packages of active dry yeast
2 lightly beaten eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted crisco
5 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 tsp. cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups warm water with 2 packages of yeast, mixing thoroughly to dissolve. Let sit for 10 minutes. Beat the two eggs lightly and then add to the yeast mixture.
Add 1/4 cup sugar to yeast mixture. Add 1/4 cup melted crisco and pinch of salt to yeast mixture. Gradually add 5 cups of flour to yeast mixture stirring with wooden spoon until all flour is incorporated.
Turn dough out onto a lightly flour surface and form dough into a ball. Place dough ball back in bowl and cover with tea towel or plastic wrap to rise for 90 minutes in a warm, draft free spot.
Prepare the pan: In a large, rectangular baking pan, pour 1 stick of melted butter over the surface of the baking pan. You can use pastry brush to brush the butter over the surface of the pan. Sprinkle 1 cup of the brown sugar over the surface of the pan. Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, sprinkled evenly over the surface. Set pan aside.
When dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/2″ thickness into a rectangle.
Melt the other stick of butter and brush it onto the surface of the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of chopped pecans and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon over surface of the dough.
Starting at the long end of the rectangle, gently roll loosely into a long cylinder.
Using a serrated knife, slice pieces 1″ thick. Place your 1″ slices loosely in the baking pan and cover and place in a warm, draft free spot to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on center rack in oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Do not over bake as the brown sugar can burn. I usually start checking at about 25 minutes as all ovens are different.
Take a foil covered cookie sheet and place on table. When rolls are done, remove from oven and holding on both sides of the baking pan, flip the pan over onto the prepared cookie sheet releasing all the rolls onto the cookie sheet. Using rubber spatula, drizzle remaining brown sugar syrup over the rolls. We ate them right out of the oven.
Makes about 24 rolls.