The Yeast of Christmas

For 33 years of our marriage Diane’s mom always made the rolls for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Diane’s mom is in her late 80’s so last year, to lighten her load, someone brought store bought rolls for Christmas. They were fine, but this year I tried a few recipes for a good roll. Diane found a recipe from the “Pioneer Woman” and that was the winner that I made and took them to Thanksgiving. They were apparently OK since everyone agreed we would bring them for Christmas. There will be 15 for Christmas so we need more than one batch of rolls. I made them yesterday and the first batch (34 rolls) was perfect. The second batch did not seem right. They were not right. Diane said the 34 would be enough, but I know people like their bread and like to take some home. I decided to make another batch this morning. They take about 4 hours, so they are rising right now. When I made them this morning I realized what I had done wrong in the second batch yesterday, which I made overlapping the first. I forgot the yeast in the second batch!

It is amazing what 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast will do to 9 cups of flour. The rolls still baked without the yeast, but they were no good. If those had been my trial batch I would have thought it was a bad recipe, but I knew better. As I thought about that this morning, I thought about how most people across the country are waking up this Christmas morning and will do what they always do: gathering with family, opening gifts, and eating til overstuffed. I understand some people live under bridges and some are at work in the ICU right now, but most of America is “celebrating Christmas” as Americans do. I also know that many people are celebrating a secular holiday called Christmas, which has nothing to do with Christ. It looks the same, but something is definitely different. It is as if the yeast is missing. I feel sorry for them. And it is not because my life and their lives are any easier or harder that the other’s. It is that I have this hope in my soul, a “yeast” if you will, that comes from the knowledge that the God of Creation entered the world He created to save the people He created – and He saved me. It is amazing the things that truth will get you through. It truly is a Merry Christmas when you have Christ.


Here’s the recipe:

4 cups whole milk 

1 cup canola oil 

1 cup sugar 

9 cups all-purpose flour 

2 packages (2 1/4 teaspoons each) active dry yeast 

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder 

1 scant teaspoon baking soda 

1 tablespoon salt 

Melted butter, for the pans (I spread soft margarine in the cups)

  1. To make the dough: Combine the milk and canola oil in a large pot. Stir in the sugar. Scald the milk by heating it almost to a boil. Turn off the heat and let cool until warm.
  2. Add 8 cups of the flour and the yeast to the milk mixture and stir until combined (it will be super sticky!). Cover the pot with a lid or dishtowel and let the dough sit until risen, an hour or so.
  3. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 cup flour and the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir gently to combine; it takes a while to get it stirred together.
  4. To make the rolls: Drizzle a small amount of butter into 36 muffins cups (3 standard muffin pans). Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll into neat balls. Place 3 balls in each muffin cup.
  5. Set the pans in a draft-free, slightly warm place; cover with a lightweight dish towel and allow the rolls to rise until light and puffy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  7. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve piping hot.

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