3 tbs. milk
3 tbs. water
2-3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. homemade yeast (1 pack or cube commercial yeast)
slightly over 1 qt. flour
Warm three spoonfuls of milk, and the same quantity of water, with a bit of butter the size of a walnut, put it to two spoonfuls of thick yeast; put this into the middle of rather more than a quart of flour, mix the whole together to the consistence of a batter-pudding, adding more flour if necessary; to make it the proper thickness; strew a little flour over it from the sides, and if the weather is cold, set it at a little distance from the fire; do this three hours before it is put into the oven; when it breaks a good deal through the flour and rises, work it into a light paste with more warm milk, and water; let it lie till within a quarter of an hour of setting into the oven, then work them lightly into rolls; flour a tin, and drop them on, handle them as little as possible; set them before the fire. About twenty minutes will be sufficient time to bake them; put a little salt into the flour. Rasp the rolls.
From The Cook’s Own Book by “A Boston Housekeeper” (Mrs. N. K. M. Lee) Boston 1832.
Comment: Considering that Mrs. Lee listed no fewer than three recipes for “French Rolls” in her book, she must have been very fond of them. And yet this recipe is puzzling in several respects. She waits until she’s done with the baking process to mention, oh yeah, you should have added some salt to the flour back at the beginning? The technique of putting the liquid ingredients into a pile of flour is one that perhaps only experienced bread-bakers should attempt. It is highly thought of by gourmet chefs but those of us with lesser skill levels are almost certain to use too much flour, resulting in a dry, unpleasant roll.
Then there is the part about “when it breaks a good deal through the flour and rises, work it into a light paste…” &c., which is on if not over the edge of incomprehensibility. We hang our heads in shame as we reach for a cardboard tube of bake-at-home rolls, and commend the courage of anyone who tackles this recipe as written.