The smell of homemade cinnamon rolls is hard to resist - especially on a cold winter morning. 


Like Grandma Used to Make
For Joe Anne Sanford, baking is as natural as breathing. For her granddaughter Kimberly, it’s a testament to her grandmother.

Baking always takes me back to my childhood visits with my grandmother, Joe Anne. I remember waking up on cold winter mornings, nestled under thick blankets, to the smell of warm banana nut bread and cinnamon rolls wafting in from the kitchen of my grandparents mountain home. I don’t think anything else would have pulled me out of bed and into the cold with a smile on my face.

Growing up, my family was always running at full speed. So when I left home, cooking was not exactly a part of my domestic repertoire. I was well into college before I baked my first cookie. Amazingly, it turned out well, and a passion was born. Over the next year or so, I managed to stumble my way through several different cookie and brownie recipes, generally with success.

Then, one summer while my husband and I were visiting my grandparents, it was suggested that the time had come for me to branch out. My grandmother took me into her kitchen and taught me how to really bake using familiar family recipes. Gadgets and fancy appliances are fine and useful, she told me, but to truly understand a recipe you need to first do it by hand, the way it was meant to be done. She taught me how to properly knead, punch, and roll dough, to recognize when it has fully risen, and to bake it to even perfection.

Since then I have baked an assortment of delicious cakes, cookies, and breads, but the recipes that stay dearest to my heart are the ones that I remember enjoying as a child in my grandmother’s house. The banana nut bread was always my favorite, adapted from an earlier recipe by my grandmother before I was born. The recipe for gooey cinnamon rolls came from my great-grandmother Clara, passed on to her by her mother. The little peppernut cookies, which can always be found somewhere in my grandparents home, can be traced back even further in my family’s heritage.

These days no one appreciates my baking more than my husband, who clamors for my cinnamon rolls just as much as my grandfather always has for my grandmother’s.

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Banana nut bread
Banana Nut Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
I like using peanut oil in this recipe; it brings out the nutty flavor.

 1  cup peanut oil
 2  cups sugar
 4  eggs, beaten
 6  very ripe bananas, mashed to a pulp
 4  cups flour
 2  teaspoons baking soda
 1  teaspoon baking powder
 1  teaspoon salt
 6  tablespoons milk
 1  teaspoon vanilla
 1  cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat oil and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs and bananas; beat well. Blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time alternately with the milk and vanilla, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until smooth, then stir in pecans. Pour dough into two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans that have been lined with waxed paper. Bake bread for about 1 hour. When done, a toothpick inserted in the bread should come out clean. Cool well and store in an airtight container.


Peppernuts
(makes approx. 450 pieces)
A Mennonite recipe; women used to see who could make the smallest and most circular batches.

 3     cups sugar
 1     cup shortening
 4     eggs
 1     cup milk
 3     teaspoons baking powder
 1/8  teaspoon salt
 1     teaspoon cinnamon
 1     teaspoon cloves
 1     teaspoon nutmeg
 1     teaspoon black pepper
 4     cups unbleached flour

Cream the sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add milk; mix. Sift the baking powder, salt, spices, and flour together. Add approximately half the flour to the liquid mixture and mix well. When mixing with a spoon is no longer possible, add the remaining flour by kneading thoroughly. Enough flour should be added to make a very stiff dough. Store the dough in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight - this helps the dough to season and the spices to blend. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into thin ropes (about a 1/2-inch thick) and slice with a sharp knife dipped in flour or cold water. Pieces should be about the size of a hazelnut. Place the pieces on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Baking time depends on how brown you like peppernuts, as different degrees of browning will change their flavor and texture.


Cinnamon Rolls
(makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen)
I like to liberally sprinkle cinnamon and sugar in the dough, but it does increase the rising time.

ROLLS:
 10   cups bread flour, to make a moderately stiff dough
 2     packages quick-rise active dry yeast
 1     cup warm water
 1/2  cup shortening
 3/4  cup sugar
 1/2  cup brown sugar
 2     teaspoons salt
 1/8  teaspoon nutmeg
 2     cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
 2     eggs, well beaten
 2-3  tablespoons butter, softened
 3/4   cup sugar
 1      teaspoon cinnamon

Blend together 2 cups flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Combine water, shortening, sugars, salt, and nutmeg in another bowl; mix. Add warm milk and eggs, then beat for one minute. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-yeast mixture and beat for 3 minutes at high speed. Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour with a spoon to form a soft dough. The dough should contain just enough flour to be handled without sticking. Knead until smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl. Grease the surface of the dough by rotating and flipping, then cover. Keep the dough in a warm place to rise until it is double in size, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll out one half into a rectangle shape. Spread the top surface of the dough with softened butter. Sprinkle the dough liberally with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough up tightly, then cut it into 1-inch wide coils. Place the coils cut side up into 13-by-9-by-2-inch greased pans. Cover and let rise again until nearly double in bulk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls until just golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

ICING:
 3     tablespoons butter, softened
 3/4  cup brown sugar
 3     cups powdered sugar
 2     teaspoons cinnamon
        Hot water or coffee

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly combined. Add small amounts of hot water or coffee until the mixture reaches a thin consistency. Spread icing over the tops of the rolls while still warm and serve.