Thursday, March 26, 2015

32. BEST DINNER ROLLS (Cyndy Hansen)

I wish, don't I wish, that this was a guest post written by my sister-in-law, Cyndy Hansen. She would tell you about our large family gatherings at Gram's house.  Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and Memorial Day…or any ordinary no-reason-except-for-love kind of gathering. She might explain what time she rose to make her roll dough, whether or not she melted her butter on the stove top or the microwave.  She could tell us if she stored her yeast in the freezer or on the shelf, and how long and hard she mixed before she let the dough rise. I long to hear her voice, explaining all this to me so I could get it just right for this piece of Lent offering.  But she is gone the way of all living things, prematurely and painfully, and it breaks my heart.
Cyndy, who is married to my brother George, was our resident roll maker.  Every family should have one.  I am not gifted will bread making skills, sadly, and I am not sure what Easter will bring this year.  We will not have her, and the absence of her rolls and pies should sting. I suppose it is appropriate that we should feel the depth of loss at Easter, to magnify the brilliance of the resurrection that is guaranteed this good woman, and the rest of us for that matter.
Momma and Daughter, Lauren.
Cyndy was known for all sorts of things, not just culinary, though her recipes are treasures, and were well before her passing.  We are both the same age, and have exchanged the recipes and sweets and savories our whole adult lives.  I bought mushrooms and cream today, thinking I might have a go at that delicious mushroom soup she used to make. She was a nurturer, a leader, one who was driven by excellence coupled with compassion.  When the flight of her four little birds left her nest rather empty, she set out to earn the college degree she had postponed to become a full time mother.  She researched and documented all historic pot rock structures in the Heber Valley, up in the beautiful mountains of Northern Utah, where she and my brother established their home.  Then, just because she is crazy amazing, she built, by hand, a rock barn on their property.  Using old barn building methods, completely by hand, she did this! It is lovely, and sturdy, and speaks of her solid integrity, determination, and work ethic.
George and Cyndy in front of her barn.
Cyndy was strong, physically sturdy and capable!  And she was spiritually grounded, like the foundation of that barn she created, and the lovely rock home she and George built when the kids were small. The evidence of her ethics is found in her children and grandchildren, and in the ability of my brilliant brother to function in a world that rarely understands brilliance.  She was devoted to him.  She understood him.  She drove the hour and a half it takes to come visit because she knew full well our brother was likely to fall asleep at the wheel.  I pray regularly that my brother will be able to sleep at night so he survives the travel that remains in his life!

Cyndy gave me her roll recipe once, only she did it over the phone and forgot to tell me about adding some of the water  I had a miserable roll making fail, which was a blow to my culinary ego.  Indeed, bread making keeps me humble in the kitchen. Sad. But we had the master in our presence, so why struggle to learn? Ah, me.
A few years back my sister Ann Marie got Cyndy's roll recipe and took off flying with it.  Her rolls are perfect.  We must insist she visit from Sacramento for every family gathering from here on out!
My brother, whom I love deeply, is blessed to be very busy with work.  Still, he has to rest, at some point.  He lingers at work, until his son Nate, with whom he works, insists he close the lab and go home.  I spoke with George on the phone.  It has only been two months since her passing, and I worry about him  He assures me he is OK, though he will let his emotion flow in a healthy way, which makes me very proud of him and grateful to the Holy Spirit of the Lord that dwells in him.  He says, about coming home to the house they built together:
It hurts to be here, but there is no more comforting place to be.
Home.  It's a place, sure.  But the dwellers make a house a home. The words to an old song keep running through my head:
A house becomes a home when there's love inside.

Cyndy's love remains there, in her home.  That's the comfort.  But that's also the sting. Still, through his tears, my brother opens the pantry doors, revealing the bounty of ingredients she arranged and organized perfectly, her flowing handwriting labeling the fronts of rows of plastic bins.  He gathers the ingredients she bought and stored, pulls out her recipes, and ties an apron around his waist. The flame is lit, and there is a toasty fire in the stove in the family room.  The sounds of cooking are heard in Cyndy's kitchen.  He gathers his treasures around him, hosting his children and grand girls for regular dinner feasts.  I am so proud of him.  He moves through that space that was hers just a whisper ago, and he searches for her, pausing now and then to listen for perhaps a small bit of advice from Heaven.

One day, I am sure, the Hansen clan will cluster together, all ages and all skill levels.  They will don their aprons and hats, and that oven of hers that is forever infused with the aromas of love, will once again exhale that old familiar scent of hot rolls. Like her: soft, and warm, and divine. 

Besides baking thousands of rolls in her lifetime,
her hands have braided hundreds of loaves
 of her famous Swiss Bread.
Cyndy’s Rolls

1 T. dry yeast

1 t. sugar

1/2 c. warm water  

set aside 10 min then add:

2 t. salt

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. melted butter

1 egg

1 1/2 c. warm water

5-5 1/2 c flour

Mix by hand all liquid and yeast, let set 10 minutes to activate yeast,  then add flour 1 c at a time or less till dough is soft but not sticky.  Let rise till double (cover with wet flour sack towel). Separate into 2 parts, roll out into 12” circle. Cut into 12 wedges and roll.  Place on greased baking sheet. Let rise 45 min -1 hour.  Bake 400  for 12 – or so minutes.  Brush with butter.
Little Libby teething on her Grandma's rolls.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this is so beautiful. I love remembering Cyndy's strength, determination and excellence. It still blows me away that she built that shed with her own hands, from rocks she gathered. I still crave her fabulous rolls and feel grateful for the moments she spent to teach me how to make that yummy Swiss bread in her kitchen. I just wish there had been more tutoring lessons!
    It makes me smile to think of George cooking for his family - such a brilliant and tender-hearted man. Love that family!