As I write this, cooks in the U.S. are waking up and facing a full day of Thanksgiving fun: baking and cooking and gossiping with family and friends, looking forward to a feast. Living outside the US, I don't think I've cooked a Thanksgiving feast on the actual day in, well, 17 or 18 years. This year was no exception: we had our bird last Friday, before the Critic flew off for meetings in Tobago. (It's a hard life he leads.) We enjoyed a lovely bird from a local farm, with cornbread stuffing (each year the recipe is getting closer to perfect), bags of gravy and creamed corn. And cranberry rolls. There are always cranberry rolls. However, I have to say that in the interest of saving time, I committed sacrilege. I used a bread machine. And the really scary part? It worked better than when I've made the dough by hand. Yes, this is no compliment to me as a baker. But yes, I will be doing it again. And I will also now know that when I am making the dough by hand, I should go easy on the flour. Because this is the crux of the matter: in the past I have always used much more flour than the original recipe called for. When you are kneading the dough by hand, it tends to stick to your hands and so you reach for the flour bin. When it's in a non-stick machine, you don't. The recipe calls for 4-5 cups of flour; I put in precisely 4 1/2 cups. And when I turned it out to punch it down and form the rolls, I kneaded in no more than half a cup more. The rolls were light and pillowy and just plain heaven with a dollop of cranberry sauce. So if you are in a hurry this Thanksgiving morning but happen to have a bread machine, I highly recommend you give this recipe a spin. Your taste buds will thank you, as will your friends and family. I just took a couple dozen to my youngest son's nursery and introduced the children and staff there to them and came away with far fewer than I expected. Actually, the best compliment is this: of the children who were willing to try the rolls (toddlers are extremely suspicious of unknown food) only one left any roll on her plate. And oddly enough, it was the cranberry filling - and her mother snatched it up and ate it for her!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We have much to be thankful for this year including (but not limited to by any means): good health, good friends, good food, a President and first family we can look up to and be proud of, money in the bank and people who still come back and read this blog, however slow I am to post theses days. Thank you all!
Grandma Kehoe's Cranberry Rolls, as adapted for a bread machine
Makes 24 rolls, plus dough left over to make an apple coffeecake or other rolls of your choice.
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (60 ml)
1 cup milk, scalded (240 ml)
1/2 cup butter (115 g)
1/4 cup sugar (60 g)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups of flour, plus a tiny bit extra (585 g, plus extra)
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup water (120 ml)
1 cup sugar (240 ml)
1/4 cup flour (30g)
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp lemon juice
Scald the milk, and while it is still hot add the butter. As it is cooling, combine the 1/4 cup warm water with the yeast and the sugar in the bread machine. When the milk has cooled to lukewarm, stir in the salt, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add the flour to the bread machine and pour the milk/sugar/butter liquid over it. Put it in the bread machine and choose the setting "dough".
While the dough is being made, combine the ingredients for the filling in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until a thick red jam is produced. Turn of the heat and set aside to cool. This should be done well before the dough is ready so that it's nice and thick when you form the rolls.
When the beeper signals that your dough is ready, take a look at it. Dough with lots of butter in it takes longer to rise, so if the dough is not up to the edges of the container, leave it another half hour to forty minutes. When the dough is finally ready, turn it out onto a floured surface. Give it a punch or two and a bit of a kneading and then let it rest for a couple of minutes. Cut off a hunk and start to roll it out with a rolling pin. When it is no more than half a centimeter thick and even all across, use a round biscuit cutter to form the rolls. Mine is a bit smaller than the saucers my grandmother used to use (sacrilege again!) but I think it has the perfect ratio of dough to filling at 7.5 cm. For the larger rolls, she would use a custard dish to make the impression in the middle of the rolls, but I found the rounded cap of a spice jar was perfect. One other tip: to retain that nice circular shape, roll the dough out to slightly thinner than you want. Then gently lift the edges so that the dough relaxes into a slightly smaller, thicker surface. This way, when you cut the dough it won't immediately relax and get thicker and funky shaped. Actually, the roll I used for this photo is an example of what happens if you don't do this. At 42 I'm still learning.
Once the rolls have all been cut out, as mentioned, use a slightly smaller round object (come to think of it a pestle would work well too) to make a depression in the middle of the dough and fill it with the cooled cranberry sauce: a generously rounded teaspoon in each.
Leave the rolls in a warm place to rise for an hour. Bake at 375/180 for 15 minutes precisely. Set a timer on your phone or your kitchen timer if you have one. Because this is also crucial: if you leave them in longer, they will most likely look the same and be perfectly edible. The first batch I made this year, I turned on the TV and forgot them for 35 minutes. They were edible. But they were nothing compared to the light, chewy morsels that came out after 15 minutes.