Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grandma Roberts' Parker House Rolls

These are my all-time favorite rolls. They are my Grandma's Parker House Rolls, and they are the only rolls worth the time and attention to make. (My No-Knead Rich Dinner Rolls work nicely in a pinch, though.) So, of course I'll be adding them to the menu for Thanksgiving tomorrow. My grandma recently passed away. While I'm saddened that she's no longer on this Earth, I am grateful that I can remember her and feel her here with me when I make her recipes.  I know she's looking down on me and I'm sure she would be happy that I am carrying on some of her traditions.
   Her original recipe calls for melted shortening as the fat in the dough, I have made this recipe with oil and melted butter as well and they all turn out wonderfully. She also wrote the recipe to include cake yeast, but since I never have that on hand I addapted it to use dry, instant yeast. These rolls are in no way a low-fat food, but one bite and you'll fall in love with them too. They are unbelievably soft and delightful. My grandma knew what she was doing when she made these!

This is how it starts:

Milk goes into a small sauce pan to heat up. (I have also done this step in the microwave.)

While the milk is heating, put the yeast into 1 cup of either lukewarm milk or water. (I tend to use milk. I think it makes for a softer roll.) Grandma's recipe says "lukewarm" but I would make sure that the temp of the liquid is at least 105F. You want to wake up the yeast. (She had the hands of a farmer's wife, so I'm sure her lukewarm is different than mine.) :)

Just mix the yeast and milk (or water) and set aside. I am using instant, rapid rise yeast so there is no need for me to wait for the yeast to foam or "bloom" but if you are using cake yeast or regular dry yeast you will want to make sure that the yeast is completely dissolved and the mixture gets a little foamy before you continue.

When the milk is scalded (hot but not boiling) turn it off.

Add in the sugar,

and salt.

And stir to combine, until the sugar is dissolved. Set this aside to cool slightly (down to at least to 120F)

In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer. - This was before it died on me. . . sniff, sniff.) Add in your fat of choice: melted shortening, or vegetable oil, or melted butter. (Grandma's recipe says to add this in the middle, with the flour, but for convenience I add it at the beginning. I'm going to give you her recipe at the end, so you may notice the changes, but note that you can add the fat at the beginning or the middle and it turns out great either way.)

To the melted fat, add the yeast mixture. (Again, you'll notice that I didn't dissolve my yeast completely, because I am using rapid rise yeast and there is no need to do that.)

Add in some of the flour, and then turn the mixer on low. (Or mix in the flour and then add the next ingredients.)

While the mixer is on low, add the warm milk/sugar/salt mixture. (If mixing by hand, just stir it in slowly.)

When the mixture is smooth (like this) then you can start adding more flour.

Add it one cup at a time, so that the flour can get incorporated evenly. The recipe calls for 6 cups of flour, but I find that depending on the day I may need more or less.

When the dough comes together into a soft ball, and pulls away from the sides it's done. (If mixing by hand, you will want to knead it by hand for at least 5 minutes to get it to come together.)
The dough should be very soft, but not sticky.

Set it aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour (it needs to at least double in size). I just out the towel over the bowl of my stand mixer and left it where it was on the counter, because my kitchen was warm.

After an hour, check on the dough. It should be rising nicely.

Knead the dough again (I just turned on my stand mixer for a few minutes.)

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle. (Or as close to it as you can.) Then portion the dough out. I like to cut 1 inch strips and then cut the strips into squares. I fold the squares over on themselves to make little balls. (For more detailed pictures on forming the dough balls see my No-Knead Rich Dinner Rolls post). This recipe will make 24 normal sized rolls, or 12 gigantic rolls (like I made this time).

When all the dough balls are portioned out, place them in a buttered baking dish (I use a 9x13 when making 12 rolls and a 10x15 dish - or 9x13 plus an 8x8 - when I make 24 rolls) and brush them with melted butter. (Grandma's recipe says to "Use melted butter generously". I find that I use 1/2 stick, melted butter to accomplish this and brush the dough balls all liberally.) My mom says that she has seen Grandma take the back of a knife and use it to fold the rolls in half, and place more butter inside each roll. I have tried that, and I don't get a folded roll (like the traditional Parker House style). Instead my butter gets absorbed into my roll, and they still bake up in one mass. So, I usually forgo that step. It's not listed in the recipe, it's just something that my mom saw my Grandma do.

Set the rolls aside (again covered and in a warm place) to rise for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. They should double in size again. The longer they rise, the lighter the rolls will be.

After the second rise, brush with more butter (if they don't look shiny anymore) and bake them @ 350F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and they sound hollow when you tap them. Remove them from the oven and then again, liberally brush them with butter (another 1/2 stick, melted). I never said this was diet food. But they are heavenly. And on days like Thanksgiving, it's completely appropriate. :)
 Other options for baking these up is to make smaller dough balls and place 3 together in a muffin tin to make clover rolls. (Even just 2 to a muffin tin works nicely - they end up looking like those brown and serve rolls you can buy at the store.) If you like your rolls more crusty, you can bake them spaced out on a cookie sheet. I prefer mine more on the soft side, so I like using a baking dish.

These are THE BEST rolls, and I try to use that term sparingly. I find that in the Pinterest world of today it is really over used, but I sincerely mean it. I've not found a better roll! They are a family staple at our table. I hope they find a place at yours too!

Here's the recipe:
  This is her recipe, but all of the parenthesis are mine. :)

Grandma Roberts' Parker House Rolls

1 cup milk
1 cup lukewarm milk or water (recommended 105F)
1 T salt
5 T sugar
1 cake yeast (or 1 T dry yeast - I use rapid rise yeast)
6 T melted shortening (or veg oil, or melted butter)
6 cups sifted flour (maybe more depending on the day)
*butter (1 stick -8 oz-, divided and melted. I like salted butter, but unsalted is fine.)

In a small sauce pan scald the milk (heat to just before boiling), and turn off the heat. Add the sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool (to 120F). Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk (or water) and add to the (scalded and cooled) milk mixture. Add in 3 cups of the flour and stir. Add in the shortening (or butter or oil) and the remaining flour. Rise and knead twice. Use melted butter generously. (This means: knead the flour on a floured work surface until it comes together into a soft, but not sticky ball. Rise for 1 hour - until doubled - and then knead it again. Divide it into rolls, and brush liberally with 1/2 stick of melted butter. Cover and let rise for a second time, until  at least doubled in size.) Bake @ 350 for 15-20 minutes (or until golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Liberally brush the hot rolls with the other 1/2 stick of melted butter and cover with a towel until ready to serve.)

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

 If you are looking to mix things up this Thanksgiving, this pie might be the way to do it. It's Michael Symon's Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. I made it a few weeks ago, and my pumpkin pie lover (my son) raved about it so much that he asked me to make it again for Thanksgiving (tomorrow). It has the silky texture of a chocolate truffle pie, with the flavor of a pumpkin pie. It reminds me of my Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies - enjoying both chocolate and pumpkin at the same time.
    I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of this pie, but on Thanksgiving I like to stay traditional. So, this pie will not be on my Thanksgiving menu, but I'm sure my son will make sure it stays in rotation. :) I should warn you that if you make this recipe, realize that it makes enough for 2 pies. The recipe from The Chew that I followed said that it makes one 4 cup pie, but I used a 9 inch deep dish pie shell and I still had 2 cups of filling left over. I ended up making 24 mini pies as well. (You can see a few of them in the pic above. They were so poppable, that only a few made it to the picture taking stage.)

Here's how to make it:

This was before I roasted my Halloween pumpkins, so I used can pumpkin. The recipe calls for 1 14 oz can.

To the pumpkin I added evaporated milk

brown sugar


pure vanilla extract

and 1 1/2 to 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (to taste). (The original recipe called for adding cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, but I'm all out of ginger and cloves, so I used the pre-mixed spice blend instead. FYI I like the Trader Joe's brand.)

Then I pricked my pre-made pie shell, so that it wouldn't bubble up in the oven, and I baked it @ 400F for 10 minutes. (You're not looking to completely cook the pie shell at this point. You just want it to set up so that you don't have a soggy crust in the end.)

To the filling, I added a dash of salt (forgot to add this earlier).

In a microwave safe bowl, I put some chocolate chips. They turned a little white, because it's so cold in my house, but they will work just fine. I microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring well in between, until the chocolate is melted.

The original recipe says to melt the chocolate in a double boiler with the butter. And since I have had bad luck with microwaving chocolate and butter together (see one of my first posts: Peanut Butter Eggs). So, I chose to melt the butter and chocolate separately. Again, I used the microwave to melt the butter. 20 seconds usually does it.

To the filling, I added 3 eggs.

When the eggs were combined, I whisked in the melted butter.

The pie shell was ready at this point, so I took it out of the oven. See, it's not brown and cooked yet, just set. That is what you want.

Finally, I whisk in the melted butter into the filling mixture.

Whisk everything together completely.

I put the pie shell onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet,

and I filled the pie shell.

I filled it up to the brim, until it could take no more. I put the whole thing into the oven and let it bake @325F for about an hour (until the center is set).

Now, as I mentioned before, I still had 2 cups of filling left over. I could have done another pie, but I thought that mini pies would be fun. I just cut circles out of some pie dough and pressed the dough into greased mini muffin cups. I ended up baking about 24 mini pies with this 2 cups of filling.

After the pie cooked and cooled, it looked like this. I did have one small crack on the top, but that is easily covered up with whipped cream!

Here's a picture of the pie and some of the mini pies. Aren't they cute?

They are so adorable, and the perfect little pie bite.

They are the perfect little hand pies for my youngest. :) I think she enjoyed 3 of them!

It really is a wonderful pie. If you are a chocolate lover and want to try a new twist on a old classic, this pie is for you! Enjoy!

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Michael Symon's chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
  • 2 9 inch pie shells (or 1 9 inch pie and 24 mini pies) 
  • 9 oz Semisweet Chocolate chips, melted
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 14 oz Can Pumpkin
  • 1 12 oz Can Evaporated Milk
  • 3/4 cup Packed Light-Brown Sugar
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
Pre-bake the pie crust (for large pies) @ 400F for 10 minutes.  (If doing mini pies, there's no need to pre-bake.) Set aside to cool and then turn oven down to 325F.
   In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, evaporated milk, light brown sugar, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice. Mix in the melted butter and chocolate, and pour into pie crust. Place pie pan on a baking sheet.  Bake at 325F until center of pie has set, about an hour. Refrigerate until cooled completely to serve. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tortellini Soup

   The other day I was shopping at the market and saw that fresh tortellini was on sale. A 20 oz package (that normally sells for $8.99) was on sale for $5.99 and you also got a loaf of fresh baked french bread for FREE, so of course I bought some! :)  I have been wanting to try this tortellini soup recipe that my friend Kim says is her favorite soup. I hardly ever splurge on tortellini, so I have had this recipe pinned for over a year now and hadn't been able to try it . . . until now.
    I used Charlotte's Tortellini Soup recipe as a starting off point, but I wanted to add more veggies than the recipe called for, so I changed my version some. I also used half and half water and beef broth, because you honestly don't need to spend the money on broth when the water and veggies make their own yummy liquid together. The other change you'll see in my version is that I omited the red pepper. This was a mistake on my part. I had it in the fridge and forgot to add it. So, add it if you wish, but feel free to customize the soup to your liking.
   I'm giving you the original recipe, and also my bulked up version. My big pot of soup fed my family for three days, so if you don't want a huge pot of soup you might want to cut back on the ingredients a bit. (Even if you cut back on the other veggies, you can still use one full can of tomatoes to make your life easier.)  My initial thought was that I would freeze whatever soup we didn't finish after the first night, and then have it for another meal down the road. But we all loved it so much that we wanted to eat it all up over the next couple of days!
    I haven't tried the original recipe, as written, so I'm not sure how it tastes. . . but I probably would cut back on the amount of ketchup it calls for. I used 1 cup for my pot of soup which was larger, and it was almost too sweet. As with most things, you can change this recipe up to suit your families tastes. I hope you enjoy it. It's one that we will be making time and time again. Thanks Kim! :)

 here's my bulked up recipe: 

Tortellini Soup

1 pound ground Italian sausage (may use links, if you prefer)
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs of celery, sliced
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
3 tsp minced garlic
1 medium to large zucchini, chopped
1 Mexican squash, chopped
4 cups beef broth
*4-5 cups water
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, with liquid (I used Italian Style with onions and garlic)
1 cup all natural ketchup
20 oz fresh tortellini pasta
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste 

In a large pot over medium high heat, brown the sausage and break up into small pieces. (if using links, slice them into bite sized pieces). When the sausage is brown, drain the fat and add the onions, carrots and celery. Salt and pepper the veggies lightly. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, zucchini, squash and Italian seasoning. Cook for another 5 minutes, and then stir in the tomatoes, ketchup, broth and water. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper to start (you can add more if you need it later). When the liquid comes up to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes or until pasta and veggies are tender (follow package instructions for pasta). *If the pasta has absorbed too much liquid, you can add 1 more cup water. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot, topped with Parmesan cheese.
**This soup is really hearty, with not a lot of broth. If you like more liquid feel free to add more in the form of water or broth. (If you use water, you'll want to add more salt.)

here's the original recipe (from

Charlotte's Tortellini Soup

1 pound sausage  
1 cup chopped onion 
2 cups sliced carrots  
1 cup sliced celery  
6 cups beef broth  
1/2 cup red wine  
1 (16 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid  
1 cup ketchup  
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning  
2 cloves garlic, minced  
1 cup zucchini, sliced  
1 pound fresh tortellini pasta  
1 red bell pepper, diced  
1/4 cup chopped parsley 
salt and pepper to taste  
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Brown sausage in pot; drain off fat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add carrots, celery, beef broth, red wine, tomatoes, ketchup, Italian seasoning, and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim away the fat from the soup. 
Stir in the zucchini, tortellini, red bell pepper, and parsley. (If you use fresh tortellini, cook them according to package directions.) Simmer, covered, for about 25-30 minutes or till the tortellini are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese right before serving.