Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

A lesson in precision, patience and flour

I like to cook, especially for the holidays. The house smells amazing and you get to use your hands instead of your brain for awhile.

Mine tends to be a freewheeling sort of cooking, requiring pretty much no precision or discipline of the mind. I like to make things to which you can add a little more of this, or not, and it generally turns out fine.

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to be different. So for my birthday this year, I asked not for a purse or a gift card, but a secret. Okay, not a secret exactly, more like a mystery, at least to me, one about flour and water and maybe — eggs? I wasn't really sure whether eggs were involved.

Every year, my mother-in-law makes these dinner rolls, incredibly light and warm and slightly dusty with — what, yeast? Flour? Dinner guests cluster by her oven to wait for them. I'm telling you, if a group of cloistered nuns had devoted their entire lives to making dinner rolls to perfection, well, somehow she got the recipe.

I should say for the record my mother-in-law is not like some mothers-in-law you hear about. She has been a nurse, ran a business and raised kids. She has a cadre of interesting friends and, in retirement, hikes foreign hills with them and goes on adventures with her young grandson. She grows things effortlessly, the tomato plants in her back yard taller than me. I asked her to teach me about rolls.

We set aside a night and she brought out a battered, decades-old recipe card that said "Sweet Dough." It listed a mere eight ingredients and no instructions whatsoever. She handed me a fresh index card on which to take notes. In retrospect: Ha.

I learned if you do not eagle-eye the pot of milk and butter it boils over in a split second and you get to start over. I saw you had to add new things slowly and steadily. I watched her stir and kneed and shape in this competent way learned from women before her, from all the years of doing this for her family, saw her reading the dough with her fingers for when it was finally right. The microwave sat empty and quiet.

I dutifully wrote on my card about being patient enough to let it rise in the bowl beneath its towel in its own time. Dinner guests hunting a snack sometimes lifted the towel for a peek, deflating it, or someone in the crowded kitchen might lean across it in earnest conversation, mashing all that effort flat. You had to keep it from harm's way.

So our dough rose and had to rise again. I was lightly floured myself by then. We worked in a warm kitchen that started to smell of baking bread, and I filled my index card front and back plus three more sheets of paper, printing as small as I could. I still don't think I got it all.

But hours after we started, we were pulling dozens of golden rolls from the oven, burning our fingers to butter and taste them while they were still hot. And if I didn't technically make them, I think I at least understood them a little better.

For Thanksgiving this year, we'll be in different houses. So I plan to fly solo on the rolls, fingers floured like she showed me, and also crossed.

I am a practical person: I will also have some sadly ordinary auxiliary backup bakery rolls, in case of failure or towel-peeking, so my guests do not have to politely gnaw at golden-brown pellets.

I will also have my mother-in-law's cellphone number ready, because I have a lot to learn.

Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 30 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 11

Monday’s scoreboardGirls soccerDixie Hollins 4, Boca Ciega 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Countryside 2Osceola 7, Northeast 0Largo 1, Seminole 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Northside Chr. 1Palm Harbor U. 4, Countryside 1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Dec. 11, midday:32 251 1266e_SRit91903Mon., Dec. 11, evening:52 400 7181e_SRit23090Fantasy 5Mon., Dec. 11...
Updated: 2 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches McIntyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

United States3 Trump accusers speak, hoping to be heard nowThree women who have previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment shared their stories Monday on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today. Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

A Pinellas circuit judge denied a bid for a new trial in the case of Jamie Geer, the former Clearwater fire chief serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a girl throughout her childhood.Geer, now 63, was in court in October seeking the new trial...
Updated: 4 hours ago