For some people, warm, buttery, homemade rolls on Thanksgiving are nonnegotiable. They’re as crucial to the meal as the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie.

Laura Hagen, a baking and pastry chef instructor at the Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College for the past three years, knows how to make rolls fit for a holiday meal.

She uses her family recipe, Jane’s Butter Rolls.

It’s named after her mother, Jane Balmer, who, at age 75, is still a full-time professional baker in Tacoma, Washington, at the Poodle Dog Restaurant. It’s a favorite local diner that features butterhorns, cheesecakes, pies and other desserts made from scratch by you-know-who.

“The rolls are salty, sweet, buttery, soft, light — all those contrasts and textures. A version of the recipe has been in my family since my mom’s mom made them when she was a kid.

“The recipe has evolved over time to what it is now, but it still represents a rich history and tradition in our family. I visualize Mom or Grandma Lydia making bread in the kitchen, and I can see that so clearly, especially when I’m tasting one,” Hagen said.

Hagen agreed to share the family recipe she’s been making with her mom since she was a little girl.

Hagen reassured us that these rolls are a good place to start if you’re just learning how to make yeast rolls.

If you’re an experienced baker, Hagen’s tips will help you refine your technique.

The rolls can be made ahead, although Hagen said she always makes them on Thanksgiving Day.

“I’m a morning person, so I make them fresh in the morning, but you could make the dough days before. Let it rise the first time, then flatten it, and shape it, and roll it into balls and freeze them,” Hagen said.

The night before Thanksgiving, defrost the dough balls in the refrigerator, and then take them out in the morning and let them rise in a warm spot for about an hour to double in size.

“You can bake them and get them done when you have space in the oven, before you put the turkey in. You can also bake the rolls the day before, cool them and store them in a plastic bag on the counter,” Hagen said.

The recipe for Jane’s Butter Rolls is written for a 5-quart KitchenAid stand mixer, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, Hagen said you can mix the recipe by hand.

“The most difficult thing is how to tell when the dough has mixed long enough. We call it ‘developed’ enough. So, in that last mix of ingredients, for five to seven minutes (in the mixer), we look for gluten development, or what’s called ‘strengthening,’ in the dough. Keep the mixer speed on medium. If you mix it at high speed, the dough will tear.

“You want it to be strong, yet smooth and elastic. It should bounce back a little bit and have some strength. That’s something I teach my students, and I always have them mix dough by hand first. I want them to understand what dough feels like when it’s done,” Hagen said.

As a backup plan, you can always buy some Parker House rolls, but if you give Jane’s Butter Rolls a try, we predict that you’ll have a delicious new addition to your Thanksgiving dinner traditions.

“If you have time, make two batches. They get eaten so quickly,” Hagen said.

— Reporter: ahighberger

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