Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Holidays Come Home

This weekend marks the official kick-off of the Fall / Winter holiday season for us Canadians. Tomorrow, those with the typical Western cultural traditions running through our veins will sit down to dinners of turkey, stuffing and all the sides (inclusing my two favourites - roasted beets and mashed potatoes) along the way. Of course, after eating more than most of us would dream of ingesting in a week, let alone one sitting, we all look forward to what I think is the best part about this weekend... the LONG weekend!

We've given up the task of doing the whole turkey dinner thing at our house since we moved, which in a way is a good thing that saves us not only money but time and energy as well. If anyone who's tried to orchestrate any sort of festive or celebration meal knows full well, the work begins well before the actual day, and doesn't stop until the last of the "company china" is back in it's safely secluded armoire at noon the next day. In another way, though, the lack of hosting either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners here leaves me feeling sort of empty emotionally, as the experiences I so valued while growing up and helping my mom prepare dinner those holidays are now lost to time and memory. A few of my most treasured rememberances include the "bath" the bird would get in our huge laundry sink as it defrosted, followed by the ceremonious slicing of the plastic wrapping and removal of the "icky bits". I still don't know why she did it (for any reason other than it was a highly amusing thing to watch), but my mom would always pick the large bird up underneath it's "armpits" and dance with it in the middle of our kitchen - anything from a quick jitterbug to a waltz! Of course after the turkey was stuffed (yes, stuffed - we've never had a problem) and safely in it's firey home, the attention would turn to making sure the cranberry sauce was ready, the veggies were ready to be steamed and slathered with my mom's famous cheese sauce, the salad was prepped and the critical detail of ensuring that just enough room was left in the oven to warm the buns and my paternal grandma's amazing cheesy mashed potatoes before everything hit the table. My mom's parents usually came supplied with a tureen of corn or green beans and a pumpkin pie, though if we were lucky enough to had found decent cooking apples this early in the season we would also have apple squares or a pie of our own as well (bonus for me, since I detest pumpkin pie!), not to mention a chocolate cake for my pie-hating sister. The combined smells that filled the entire house those days are some that I will never be able to forget, nor do I want to, as I'm sure that being someone who can't take part in any sort of "traditional" fare any more I doubt I'm tops on the hosting roster. If it was offered to me, though, it's a job I'd gladly do, just for a chance to revisit those October sundays again.

When I set about making my mom's lunchtime bread this week, I decided that I would try to steal back just a little piece of that memory - the rich aromas of toasting, slightly sweet and earthy dough, of carmelizing nuts and subtly spicy cranberries. The result was a pan of tender and fluffy buns that would have more than fit in with the rest of the dinner rolls in the bread basket.

Have a glorious Thanksgiving, to all who are celebrating, and for the rest of the world have a wonderful weekend!

Thanksgiving - Inspired Dinner Rolls
Makes 12 "dinner-roll" sized buns
1 cup active sourdough starter (preferably rye fed)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups rye flour
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp canola oil
3 oz dried cranberries
3 oz chopped pecans
  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the sourdough starter, milk, water, yeast and sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, cinnamon and fennel seeds.
  3. With the mixer on low speed (or a sturdy wooden spoon), add half the flour mixture to the proofed yeast.
  4. Add the canola oil, followed by the remaining flour mixture.
  5. Increase the speed to medium and mix / knead for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the dried cranberries and pecans and mix / knead briefly to incorporate.
  7. Turn dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the top.
  8. Cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  9. Deflate dough gently and press evenly into a lightly greased 9 x 13" rectangular pan.
  10. Use a lightly greased bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the dough into 12 pieces.
  11. Cover and allow dough to rise 40 minutes.
  12. Preheat oven to 350F.
  13. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes, then turn out of the pan immediately, separate rolls and cool on a wire rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 268.1
Total Fat: 7.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.8 mg
Sodium: 6.0 mg
Total Carbs: 46.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.3 g
Protein: 6.5 g

These rolls are off to next week's YeastSpotting event at Susan's blog, Wild Yeast.


  1. This looks amazing. Something different. You're the expert when it comes to baking breads. They are wholesome and healthy and delicious. The long list of ingredients shouldn't intimidate me. Just need to look for those ingredients.

  2. Great looking rolls. Your Mom deserves these after giving you such fine memories of Thanksgiving past.


Thanks for the feedback!