Sunday, June 22, 2008

ring-a-lings: A Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner

What is a Ring-A-Ling?

In January 2008, we moved my mom into an assisted living facility. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer live on her own.

One day while I was visiting her, I asked her if she remembered making
Ring-A-Lings. She had no idea what I was talking about.

I was heart broken. My mom had been an accomplished baker and it seemed the disease had robbed her of yet another precious memory.

Although I often baked with my mom while growing up, I hadn't made this recipe with her. It was her claim to fame in the family and the star of all celebrations in my childhood home. Even though they were more of a breakfast item, we ate them as a dessert as well.

I decided to search for the recipe after my visit with her. The recipe she had printed on a note card seemed incomplete. A bit of research at my local library yielded a surprise.

I discovered this recipe was the 1955 Grand Prize winner of the famous Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. According to the book, "Pillsbury: Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook", Bertha Jorgensen of Portland, Oregon, created the recipe. The judges of the contest were so impressed with "the eating quality of Jorgensen's nut filled rolls and innovative shaping" that they picked her recipe as the best recipe for 1955.

Using both the Pillsbury recipe and the one my mom had used, I was able to create the Ring-A-Lings I remembered my mom baking at home while I was growing up.

So thank you, Dorothy Hanna, for a recipe that will be passed down to my own daughter.

It is with great sadness that I report that Dorothy Hanna passed away on Monday, February 16.
Although Alzheimer's disease took her away from us more than two years ago, her passing is a great sadness to us all.
I like to think that she is preheating her oven and setting butter out to get soft up in heaven. She is smacking those hands that try to steal the cookies while they are still cooling or those that try to sneak globs of cookie dough from the mixing bowl.
Don't worry mom, I won't forget the pinch of sugar.
She will be missed.

Ring-A-Lings: Sweet Yeast Rolls
as adapted by Dorothy Hanna from the original recipe by Bertha Jorgensen, Pillsbury Bake-Off Winner, 1955.

Makes 22 rolls

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 pkg. instant dry yeast
(rapid rise or quick rise)
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
2 unbeaten eggs

1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts, ground
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar

Alternate Filling:
1 cup powdered sugar
Fruit Preserves

3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup orange juice

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a bowl and two large baking sheets with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine two cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and yeast. Mix well. Set aside.

3. In small saucepan, heat milk and 1/3 cup butter until warm.
(120 to 130 degrees F.)

4. Add warm liquid and eggs to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in remaining 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour to form a stiff dough.

5. Place dough in greased bowl and rotate to cover with oil; cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, 35-50 minutes.

6. In a small bowl, combine nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar. Set aside. See step 8 if topping rolls with fruit preserves instead of cinnamon and brown sugar.

7. In second small bowl, blend glaze ingredients. Set aside.

8. Roll out dough to make a 22x12 rectangle. Spread the soften butter lengthwise over half of the dough. Sprinkle filling over butter.
If you plan to top the rolls with preserves, spread powdered sugar only over half of the buttered dough.

9. Fold dough over filling to make a 22x6 rectangle. Cut crosswise into strips 1x6. Twist each strip 4-5 times. To shape rolls, hold folded end of strip down on greased cookie sheet to form center; coil strip around center. Tuck loose end under. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place 35-45 minutes.

10. Bake for 10-12 minutes then brush tops with glaze. Bake an additional 3-5 minutes.
If topping with preserves, top each roll with approximately 1-2 Tsp. preserves of your choice. Cool on wire rack.

11. Serve warm.