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Get a Grandfather’s Web-Only Family Thanksgiving Recipe for Granma Rolls

In our humble opinion, Thanksgiving is superior to any other day of the year. In an effort to make this year’s feast the best of all time (sorry, Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe), we’re bringing you the recipes, how-tos and decorating ideas to help you become a Turkey Day pro.

Louie Larson and Pete O’Connell from My Grandmother’s Ravioli

Ever since I can remember, even as a little boy, my mother made homemade dinner rolls at every holiday. Thanksgiving was especially important, not only because the rolls were a favorite at the Thanksgiving table along with the turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, squash, gravy and all sorts of other really good traditional fare, but also due to the fact that they made the very best cold turkey sandwiches later that evening and for the next several days — until the hoard of rolls everyone stashed was used up.

Since they freeze very well and, before and after the microwave, were easy to reheat and delicious when heated just before dinner, Mom sometimes made them days in advance, as oven space was always at a premium on the big day.

When I got out on my own, I always liked to host family holiday meals, so the family would end up at our house. After Louie joined the family, our record attendance at Thanksgiving topped 30, including families, friends and a few students who couldn’t make it home during the short break. Needless to say, Mom’s responsibility for contributing to the meal shrank to making up to 10 dozen rolls. When our kids came along, these delights were one of the first things they ate at Thanksgiving. Now, the grandkids love them as well.

As the kids got older, they would always ask if we were having “Granma Rolls.” As my mom got into her 90s, my sister would help with the baking of these Thanksgiving traditions. After Mom passed away at 96, I started to make them early in the morning, usually starting at 5am, as I didn’t have freezer space and the oven would be needed later. My first ones were too big, or too small, or would unroll before they baked. Not all the tricks were written on the recipe card!

My daughter Margaret and my son George also have had success with this family recipe, as we have had a couple of Thanksgivings at George and Kory’s in the recent past. We would make the rolls together, with the homemade pumpkin and apple pies, the night before or early Thanksgiving morning. We have gotten a lot better than our first attempts.

Where did the recipe come from? I’m certainly not sure. Maybe from my mom’s family, but likely from one of the many recipes she clipped from magazines or shared with friends. I do know that these rolls will always be known as “Granma Rolls,” a tradition and a tribute to our mom every Thanksgiving.

– Pete O’Connell

Granma Rolls
Recipe courtesy Pete O’Connell with Louie Larson

Yield: 36 cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours
Ease of preparation: easy
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes (includes rising time)

1 cup whole milk, scalded
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more to brush dough
2 yeast packets (not rapid rise)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
Vegetable oil, for brushing

Combine the milk and butter and let cool so as not to kill the yeast.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add the eggs, sugar and salt and mix well. While you’re stirring, add the cooled milk and melted butter.

Add 2 cups of the flour and stir well. I use a wooden spoon to make the dough but it can also be made with a traditional mixer (Mom had a 1950’s Mixmaster) or in a bread machine. Keep adding flour, about a cup at a time until all of the flour is used. Continue to stir or mix, 3 to 5 minutes. This helps the texture of the baked rolls, so it is important.  It should be a soft dough that is smooth and elastic. If it is too sticky, add more flour a tablespoon at a time.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl and oil the top. Cover the dough directly with plastic wrap, then cover the bowl itself with another layer of plastic. Let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and divide it into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch circle. Brush each circle with melted butter.

Cut each circle into 8 to 12 pie shaped pieces (a pizza cutter works well). Then, starting from the big end, roll up and shape into crescents if desired. Be sure to have the tails tucked under and pinched to keep them from unrolling. Brush with more melted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise again until it has doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes, swapping rack positions halfway through if using multiple racks.

Remove from the oven, brush with more butter and serve. You can also freeze, thaw and microwave the rolls, or reheat them in the oven wrapped in foil.

[Cook's note:] Although I have never done it, this recipe should be able to be formed right through the roll up stage and refrigerated, tightly covered, the night before. Allow the rolls to rise in the morning, then bake.

Watch My Grandmother’s Ravioli every Wednesday at 8pm ET for more treasured family recipes.

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