Milwaukee hard rolls were something that was taken for granted growing up. These large, light rolls, with their dry, hard, crusty, flaking top, and ever-so-slightly tangy, soft, airy center were ever present.
They were there for “hot ham and rolls” after church, and especially Easter morning. They were stuffed with grilled Milwaukee brats (white bratwurst) at Brewer’s baseball games or brought to tailgate at County Stadium before we cheered on “the Pack.” I ignored them, they were always there.
Funny, I kind of treated the Lake Michigan shoreline the same way, just expecting it to be there. And like Lake Michigan, I always thought these rolls always would be easily found. I never realized how very special these hard rolls were until years later when I moved away and lived in other cities.
Now every city has its charm, its special dish. But I miss those dang hard rolls (almost as much as I miss Lake Michigan). And living in the Twin Cities, there just is not any roll that compares. So, to find them, I just had to learn how to make them.
Here, in separate posts, are two recipes for those now, not-so-elusive Hard Rolls.
The first Milwaukee Hard Rolls recipe is exactly as we remember! It has that great dry crusty top and the cornmeal bottoms we love, and comes from Gordon King a Milwaukee baker who ran Wilbert’s baker, which closed back in 1993. Note: It requires high protein bread flour and a little more yeast. And, while the directions make the tops of these rolls plain, feel free to top rolls with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
An article, with his recipe for hard rolls appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is preserved here: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=20050511&id=VS4zAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dggGAAAAIBAJ&pg=6793,3364570
Wilbert’s Bakery/Gordon and Barbara King’s Authentic German Hard Rolls
Makes about 2 dozen rolls
Sponge: 3 tbsp. active dry yeast (4 packets)
2 3/4 c. lukewarm water
3 tbsp. sugar
The second Milwaukee Hard Rolls has the precise inside we remember. Light and airy, yet with a “chew”, and that very, very slight, sour taste we remember. And this recipe uses hardly any yeast.
This is a terrific roll, yet the crust that isn’t quite right. Do not remember the split top, but it is hard and stays hard. But not as flaky. Perhaps it is the egg wash. Also, the recipe directions result in rolls that are smaller than traditional Milwaukee Hard Rolls. So, if one wants the traditional Milwaukee Hard Roll, just double the size of the roll to make 8-10 rolls instead of 12, and replace the egg white wash with the a starch wash, as in the previous recipe. Make it plain, as directed, or add sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Oh, and be sure to use high protein bread flour!
These rolls come from the 1955 Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book and turn out great! The recipe calls for “enriched flour” and shortening, but I slightly revised the recipe, using high protein bread flour, Dakota Bread Flour and lard instead of shortening. I added the salt last so that it did not prohibit the yeast, and slightly shortened the rise time. Oh, and I made only 8-10 rolls instead of a dozen or more.
That seems to be the difference, and the key to producing rolls that look like they come from a bakery. Please note below, this can be altered to make crusty rye rolls, too!
Here is my Polish grandmother’s signature bread, and no one in the family, no one, had the recipe. She was an elegant lady who also was a fabulous cook, including dishes such as tender venison steak and walnut-stuffed turkey. But she made this always round, hard crust bread almost daily, sometimes adding raisins and topping with sugar. This bread was treasured, especially at my mother’s swanky Christmas parties. And, one summer, a grandson entered her bread at the Wisconsin State Fair, where it promptly won a blue ribbon.
My grandmother never used a recipe for her bread, of course, and would gently laugh while raising her shoulders when we asked how to make it. But we could watch.
This “close-as-we-can-get” recipe comes through my uncle and aunt. He was the second youngest of her nine children, and saw her make bread countless times. I’m so grateful, for as I follow it, grandma comes to life, there in her small kitchen, brewing strong black coffee as she scalds the milk with butter and sugar, then softens yeast for her bread. Then she stops, turns, and in her wonderful Polish accent, asks me to “wait a minute,” as she pulls ginger cookies down from the pantry for me before turning back to her bread.
Bernice Zurawski’s Bread
½ lb. butter, and more to generously grease the bread rising bowl and bread pan Continue reading →
A little wild salmon for post Valentine’s Day brunch. The lightest and, perhaps healthiest, way to gently coax the flavor from the fish.
This dish, is a slight variation (~we just add dill and capers and punch up the flavor of the sauce) of the Salmon with Egg Sauce that was a favorite of President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams, the first family to entertain in the White House. Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks’ 1968 The President’s Cookbook, reveals, Mrs. Adams thought the dish “so memorable she decided the ‘American’ quality of it made it perfect as an Independence Day dinner.” It was served with Green Turtle Soup and Apple Pan Dowdy for dessert.”
So, here is Abigail Adam’s original recipe, with a boost of flavor in italics.
New England Poached Salmon with Dill, Caper & Egg Sauce
4-6 lb. center-cut piece salmon Continue reading →
A brunch recipe from mom’s dear friend. They had a lot of laughs together raising kids in the’70s. Mary is sure missed.
Mary Hilgert’s Baked Eggs
2 dozen eggs
½ c. milk
1 level tsp. salt
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can mushrooms, drained, chopped large
½ c. green pepper chopped
½ c. onion, chopped
3/4 c. Velveeta Cheese, cubed
Beat eggs, milk and salt until blended (do not over beat). Pour into large skillet, scramble, but not firm, eggs should still be wet. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and pour in to a 13½” x 9″ or a 14″ x 10″ pan. Refrigerate overnight of at least 8 hours.
One hour before baking, remove from refrigerator and let stand until it reaches room temperature. Bake at 250° F. for one hour.
Add additional time if eggs are too soft in the middle, watch carefully.
Great for brunch or entertaining up north at the cabin.
Mom’s Breakfast Casserole
6 slices white bread
½ lb. bacon, fried and diced
Milk to beat eggs
8 oz. cheddar cheese
½ green pepper, chopped
onions, chopped (optional)
Butter a 9″x13″ pan. Butter one side of each slice of bread and put into pan, butter side down. Layer bacon, green pepper, cheese and onion. Beat eggs and enough milk to make 2 cups. Pour over ingredients layered in pan and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 300° for 40-45 min.