Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aunt Esther's Sourdough Rolls

For ten years, I worked (as a teen) at a Christian camp called River Valley Ranch. It was a complete western-style ranch located in northern Maryland. I enjoyed every moment I ever spent there. I was babysitter (for the ranch families), store girl, cleaning girl, kitchen aid, counselor, and many other things that didn't have a label! The above picture was taken during our weekly rodeo.
The ranch had a saloon (snack shop), jail, old town meeting house, hotel lodge, pool, etc. Even had a working stagecoach. The picture above was taken outside the jail (where the workboys lived). The wranglers would goof around for photo ops (these are the Grey brothers). Every summer, Steve (Nevada Steve) and Esther Homoki would come to RVR with their big trailer. Uncle Steve did rope and horse tricks in the rodeo, preached, drove the stagecoach, and generally hung out in the kitchen being a, well, a... troublemaker! Aunt Esther worked in the kitchen. For as ornery as Uncle Steve was, Aunt Esther was a sweetie. Never an unkind word and always willing to work hard. She was the perfect missionary wife.
I took this picture in 1980 because this is how I would always remember Uncle Steve. Can you tell by his expression how ornery he was? His son, cowboy evangelist Lee Homoki, runs a cowboy camp each summer as well as his usual preaching circuit. You can read about Uncle Steve in a biography called, "From Sunup to Sundown: The Story of Nevada Steve Homoki," by Patricia Timbrook.

Anyhow, my last two years at RVR I was the counselor for the worker girls. I spent a lot of time alongside Aunt Esther in the kitchen. On Saturdays, after the rodeo, the ranch would serve a Chuckwagon Dinner which consisted of the best stew and sourdough rolls that Aunt Esther had made. Well, I've finally come up with a recipe that tastes exactly like her rolls. Here it is:

Sourdough Rolls

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm potato water
1 tblp yeast (1 pkt)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
4-1/2 to 5 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in potato water. (Just cook 1/2 a potato in water for 5 minutes or add 1 tbsp instant potato flakes to water.)

Heat milk and butter until melted; cool to lukewarm.

Combine starter, yeast mix, milk mix, sugar and salt. Add flour to make a stiff dough; knead until smooth and elastic. Don't be intimidated by the stiffness of the dough.

Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat; cover and let rise in a warm place, about 1-2 hours.

Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into rolls (I always get 15).

Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Brush lightly with butter (optional) and bake in 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Don't they look yummy? The best part is that you can slow-rise these rolls. Make the night before and let rise overnight in the refrigerator. Then shape into rolls in the morning, and bake after church. Yummy!

I wanted to show you the inside of the roll. Not like a light, airy yeast roll. But also not doughy. Just right! (But it is easy to undercook. I like to turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes ~ just in case!)

Now I'm on the hunt to find Aunt Esther's Chuckwagon Stew recipe. So far I've looked at many cowboy stew recipes and none come close. Oh the thrill of it all!

We're off to Homeschool Co-op. Maggie is making a lasagne so she can show the finished product to her cooking class. Smells great!

Many blessings ~ Kathie

PS ~ Lizzie found our first tick this week and it was a deer tick, so be careful!


steve said...

I made these for my mother's 90th birthday. They were fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

DJ said...

I'm new to the whole sourdough starter thing, and am quite intimidated, since i don't know how to adjust a 'regular' roll recipe to incorporate sourdough starter. So thank you! I'm so excited to try this recipe for Thanksgiving :)