Zen and the Art of Baking Bread

When I first began this blog my intention was to post a new recipe about once a week, and with that in mind I began planning out what to post and when. But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? And last weekend when I should have been baking bread for Thanksgiving and posting the recipes so all my readers would have time to try these delicious rolls, I found myself busy baking for other more pressing (but fun!) occasions. Most years I bake rolls at least two weeks ahead and freeze them, thereby giving myself plenty of time to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (or at least listen to it while I do a thousand other things in the kitchen Thanksgiving morning). And while this year I did not get my usual head start, I did get them done!

Fortunately, I was able to spend this Sunday in what has become a pre-Thanksgiving ritual for me… Zen and the Art of Baking Bread. Now, you may not see the connection here immediately, especially if you view your Thanksgiving cooking as a chore. But if you have a day between now and Thursday to indulge in a little baking I guarantee you will see the relationship between baking bread and the meditation that occurs while kneading dough and setting it aside in warmth and comfort to rise. It is a metaphor for life- take all that you have and are and throw it in the mixer, let it grow and rise until one of life’s little (or big) issues come to punch it down. Then, like we all must do, let it rest and rise again.

IMG_1927I find a great reflection in making these rolls year after year, and even if I did not get them done as far in advance as I would have liked I was definitely getting them done… my kids LOVE them and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if they were not on the table. (Of course, getting the rolls to the table is an ever increasing issue with two teenage boys popping one in their mouth every time they walk through the kitchen!) So Sunday was the day, and I spent the majority of it measuring, mixing, and kneading while we all enjoyed the delicious aroma that filled our home. There really isn’t anything that can compare to the smell of baking bread, it is just heavenly!

I am no expert on mindfulness, in fact I recently participated in a mindfulness summit and let me tell you exactly how not mindful I became when the 30 days of listening to meditation podcasts put me over my data limit! But the repetition of kneading dough really is a mindful meditation. You must remain connected to the act and focused on your dough throughout, adding flour when necessary to keep it from sticking, and yet not adding so much that the dough becomes tough. And the process allows me a little time to reflect on what I am thankful for… these recipes for one, and most importantly for this day with my family and the time to bake them.

Dill Cottage Cheese Rolls


  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cream style cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion minced
  • 2 teaspoons dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg well beaten
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted


  • Soften yeast in warm water and set aside. Heat cottage cheese in saucepan until lukewarm, then transfer to mixing bowl and stir in shortening, sugar, onion, dill, salt, baking soda, and softened yeast.
  • Beat in egg. Add flour a little at a time, stirring to make a soft dough.
  • Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
  • Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place one hour. Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.
  • Spoon dough into greased muffin tins, cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes.
  • Bake at 350° until golden brown, about 15 minutes for mini size muffin tins. Brush tops with melted butter and remove from pan and cool on wire racks.
  • Can be served immediately, or frozen and reheated.

Glazed Orange Rolls



  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups flour


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 12/ teaspoons grated orange peel


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons orange juice


  • Scald milk, place in mixing bowl and cool to lukewarm. Add the 3 tablespoons butter, the first 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and yeast. Let stand 3 minutes. Add eggs and 1 cup flour, beat well. Add enough of remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough, beating well.
  • Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to coat surface. Cover, and let rise until double, about 2 hours.
  • Divide dough in half (*thirds for smaller mini muffin tins) and roll each into a 12×8″ rectangle (*smaller rectangle for smaller rolls).
  • Stir together second 1/2 cup of sugar, softened butter, and orange peel. Divide equally among dough portions and spread over dough. Roll up each piece of dough, beginning at the long side, slice into rounds and place in greased muffin tins. Let rise until double, about 1  1/2 hours.
  • Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add orange juice one tablespoon at a time, stirring well, until glaze is desired consistency.
  • Bake rolls at 375° for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with glaze, then remove rolls from pan and cool on a wire rack.
  • Rolls can be served immediately, or frozen and reheated.

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