Odetta was my husband’s grandmother. She and her husband, Jess, were “salt of the earth” influences for my husband and his three sisters as well as Helen, their mom. Odetta knew how to cook for people, and it was one of the things that she enjoyed. Many were the times that you would sit down to a glorious feast of “down home” cooking and she would say …”Such as it is....” No one else that I have ever known could make such marvelous food and insist that it was just what one did. At one time, Odetta cooked for a group of ranch hands on a ranch where her husband worked. She made two meals each day for a dozen or so people on a little wood stove that she called the monkey stove.
I looked up monkey stove on ask.com and came up with this definition. “A monkey stove is a small wood-burning stove with two burners. It can also be described as a small iron wood burning stove with two eyes at the top. Monkey stoves were used by the pioneers who always carried one in their wagon.” I do remember Odetta having a stove like this at the farm though I don’t think it was what she used at the ranch.
From the time that I was introduced to Odetta and Jess, I can remember her cinnamon rolls. She would make them for Pat and the family. In 1974 when Pat and I drove across country from California to Kansas – returning to Kansas to farm with Granddad Jess – those cinnamon rolls were waiting on our arrival as part of a breakfast fit for a king. Only once, can I remember irritating my granny-in-law and that was when Pat and I had turned vegetarians and told her that we no longer want to eat the cinnamon rolls. What a mistake! Both the vegetarianism and turning down the cinnamon rolls! It took begging, graveling, and much penance to convince her that we had gained new wisdom and had ended our stint as vegetarians and would really enjoy some of those rolls. As I recall it was a couple of years before she blessed us again.
Later, when I had babies, she made cinnamon rolls with the girls. Auntie Pam found these pictures of my youngest daughter, Ashley, making rolls with Odetta. She made quite an impression on Ashley, especially, and to this day we make cinnamon rolls together. This year I was not with Ashley at Christmas, and she introduced the recipe to her husband’s family in California. These rolls are always a hit so I hope that you will enjoy them with your family.
I proof yeast in a small amount of warm water with a teaspoon sugar. Not all people or all recipes proof yeast in that manner. For what it is worth – I do.
Cinnamon Rolls – Odetta Powers
Proof Yeast – Combine 1 package of dry yeast, 1/4 cup water and scant teaspoon of sugar in a small dish and let stand while you are mixing up the following.
Heat: 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until it melts. Cool to room temperature.
Measure 2 cups flour into a large bowl and add the cooled milk mixture to the flour. Then add the yeast mixture. Add 2 eggs and beat by hand or with an electric mixer on low for 3 minutes. Using a spoon stir in as much of 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour as you can.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead enough of the remaining flour to make moderately soft dough until it is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Place the ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl in a warm place. Cover and let rise until double (about 1 hour).
When the dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide in half, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. After dough has rested, roll half into 12x8 rectangle. Brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle on the buttered dough. Roll up and cut into rolls. Repeat with the other half of the dough. The rolls will fit in a 9x12 baking dish.
Note about cutting the rolls: Odetta taught me to cut the rolls with kitchen string or dental floss. A knife will flatten out the rolls. So … slip the string under the rolled up dough, loop over on top and pull… perfect and no flat cinnamon roll.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before frosting.
Frosting for Cinnamon Rolls:
1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Makes about ½ cup of frosting. May be thickened with more confectioner's sugar or thinned with milk or cream. If you want a more substantial frosting you may add 1/4 cup soft butter. Combine and spread on cinnamon rolls.
Enjoy and thanks for shooting the breeze!
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