The mother recipe for these rolls came from an old McCall's, Woman's Day or Family Circle magazine, the only magazines I subscribed to in 1970. I had clipped a recipe for white bread out of one of those magazines and put it in my "intend to bake" pile of recipes from magazines and newspapers. One day, I wanted buns for hamburgers, but we lived in the boonies and had but one car, and I was stuck with only a cup of white flour but had a full bag of wheat flour, no granulated sugar but both kinds of brown sugar, shortening but no butter. By the time I got done substituting the ingredients called for with what I actually had, it was a recipe totally different from the original. And it's certainly a keeper--it's good when it's slightly warm with butter, next to a bowl of beef stew or cassoulet or pork roast and sauerkraut; and it makes excellent hamburger or (heresy!) hot dog buns in that its flavor not only pairs well with either meat but also goes well with mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle or whatever else you care to top it with. If you bake it in a loaf pan, it makes wonderful bread for tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, too. —betteirene
(2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
warm (105-110 degrees) tap water
whole wheat flour
dark brown sugar
hot tap water
2-2 1/2 cups
unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1/3 cup warm water. Stir; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, brown sugar and salt. Add shortening and 1 cup hot water. Stir until well blended, making sure no streaks of shortening remain. If mixture is no longer hot (it should be barely warmer than room temperature), stir in the yeast mixture; otherwise, allow the flour mixture to cool slightly before adding the yeast. Stir vigorously, scraping sides of bowl completely. Stir in 2 cups of all-purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of flour nearby. Knead the dough, sprinkling with the reserved flour as needed, until it is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic. Do not add any more flour than called for; the dough will become easier to handle the longer it's kneaded. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic and let rise in a cool place, or in the refrigerator, until it doubles in volume, 3-6 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 12"x12" square. (If dough snaps back and refuses to stretch, allow it to rest--covered--for 10 minutes and try again.) Use a pizza wheel to cut the dough into 16 3" squares. Place the squares a finger-width apart onto the parchment. Cover and let the rolls rise until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the middle third of the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until bottoms and tops of rolls are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center roll comes out clean. Slide rolls off of parchment and allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.