A reader wrote in last month asking for a recipe for cloverleaf rolls that she remembered from a flour company cookbook published many years ago. Thanks to Patti Davis, Linda Snider and to Anne Padaime, who sent in some pages from a Robin Hood baking book that include a basic sweet dough that can be shaped different ways. I've included the directions for cloverleaf rolls and crescent rolls. Both would be good for the holiday bread basket.
A note on last week's honey cookies: The dough is very stiff and hard to work, so it needs to be beaten by hand, not with an electric mixer. Try to add the eggs when the dough is warm but not hot. (I had never worked with that kind of dough before, so any other hints would be appreciated.)
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Basic sweet dough
250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
10 ml (2 tsp) salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) soft shortening (butter, margarine, vegetable shortening or lard)
175 ml (3/4 cup) cold water
125 ml (1/2 cup) warm water (about 45 C or 110 F)
10 ml (2 tsp) granulated sugar
2 x 8 g packages active dry yeast (22 ml or 4 1/2 tsp total)
2 eggs, well beaten
1.6-1.7 L (7-7 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
Scald milk. Stir in 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar, salt, shortening, and 175 ml (3/4 cup) cold water. Cool to lukewarm. Measure the 125 ml (1/2 cup) warm water into a large, warm bowl. Stir in the 10 ml (2 tsp) sugar. Sprinkle with yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir until blended. Stir in lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and 750 ml (3 cups) flour. Beat by hand until smooth and elastic. Work in sufficient additional flour to make a soft dough (about 1 L or 4 cups more). As the dough thickens, mix it in the bowl with one hand, using a swinging rotary motion. Turn the dough out onto lightly greased board or table top. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Put dough into large, lightly greased warm bowl. Lightly grease the top. Cover with greased wax paper and a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 90 minutes. Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly greased board or table. Cut into 4 equal parts with a greased, sharp knife. Form each piece into a round, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Shape dough into rolls and finish as directed in selected recipe.
Grease baking sheet. Roll 1 ball of dough from basic sweet dough recipe with greased rolling pin into circular shape 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut into 16 pie-slice-shaped pieces. Brush with melted butter and roll up quite tightly, beginning at the wide end. Seal point to bun with fingers. Place on prepared baking sheet with sealed point underneath. Curve into crescents. Cover with greased wax paper and a cloth and allow to rise at warm room temperature until about double in bulk (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Bake in preheated oven at 190 C (375 F) for about 20 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and brush with melted butter.
Grease a 12-cup regular muffin tin. Using 1 ball of dough from the basic sweet dough recipe, snip into 36 pieces with greased scissors. Form into balls. Dip balls in melted butter and place 3 in each cup of the muffin tin. Cover with greased wax paper and a cloth and allow to rise at warm room temperature until about double in bulk (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C (375 F) for about 20 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and brush with melted butter.
Tester's notes: The basic sweet dough worked well for me, rising well and baking up light and tender. It's also versatile. It can be used for dinner buns or as the basis for sweet breads like cinnamon rolls. I did find the rolls browned quickly on the bottom, so I would check at the 15-minute mark and possibly drop the temperature slightly.