You can ask anyone in my family, “What was Grandma best know for serving when people come to visit?”. Without a doubt, every single one of them would say Caramel Rolls. Know in other parts of the U.S. as sticky buns, Grandma’s caramel rolls were a special, gooey, sugar filled chunk of heaven. Chances were pretty good that any time you stopped to visit there would be at least a partial pan of rolls on the counter covered in wax paper just waiting to be reheated and joined by a cup of coffee. And believe me, my siblings and I stopped over often!
I had been feeling rather melancholy the past few days and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. As I sat down to share this post I realized that this week marks two years since God called Grandma home. I am pretty sure these caramel rolls had something to do with it. God was probably tired of the wonderful aroma drifting up to heaven. That, and Grandpa was probably harassing the heck out of him. One of Grandpa’s qualifiers for the definition of heaven would most assuredly have included Grandma and her caramel rolls.
I miss Grandma and Grandpa so much but I find consolation in carrying on the actions they used to express their love. I only ever remember them saying “I love you” a couple of time in my life, but I knew with out a doubt that they did love me, as they showed me over and over through their actions. Grandma’s actions generally involved food. Grandpa was the tinker, the fix it man.
Somewhere around 10-12 years ago I decided I needed to learn how to make Grandma’s caramel rolls. I lived many hours away from them and it was something I missed terribly from home. I tried, when I visited, to get Grandma’s exact recipe but she didn’t even know what it was anymore. She had been making them for so many years that she didn’t even have to think about and if you asked her to think about there was no way she could tell you. It was firmly planted in her muscle memory, an automatic, conditioned response. I have the same problem with my sewing machine. Don’t ask me to explain how to thread it. Even though I can thread it in my sleep with eyes firmly closed, I couldn’t explain it to you if my life depended on it. My hands just know how to do it and no longer need my brain’s involvement 🙂 So I was forced to start exploring recipes on my own to find the closest approximation I could to Grandma’s recipe.
It took a few years, but the rolls I make today are about as close as I think I will ever get. Now I understand Grandma’s complaints and laments about the caramel not being just right on this batch or the dough being too tough on that batch. There are a lot of variables that can effect any given batch. I am getting better with my consistency and I think that would make Grandma proud.
I am not sure I am ready to share the exact recipe yet. It isn’t really anything special, just a basic sweet yeast bread. Roll flat, smear with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up the dough into a 20-24″ tube and slice off your rolls, about 1″ thick. Prepare a basic caramel sauce for the bottom of your 9×13 cake pan and set your rolls in the caramel. Let them rise for 20 minutes or so if you can wait that long and then bake for 20-25 minutes. When they come out of the oven let them cool for 10 minutes or so (again, if you can wait that long) and then flip the pan upside down on a sheet of wax paper. If they are still too hot like mine where the caramel will still be super runny and flood all over. No harm, though, just scoop it up with a spoon or spatula and pour it back over the rolls. And remember, they are extremely hot, like 375 degrees hot, when they come out of the oven so try to restrain yourself from immediately sinking your teeth in to one. Trust me, I know this from experience. I keep doing it so I am assuming you will probably do the same thing too, against my advice 🙂
So get busy. Get thee to thy kitchen and show someone how much you love them, that is the most important ingredient. Thanks Grandma. Glad I got to spend the day with you.