Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day from Harrison Farm . . . With heat!

In addition to the wonderful challenge of living in a home that contains the accumulated belongings of five generations of the Harrison Hoarding Gene, I also have the blessing of trying to manage the workings of the old farmhouse itself.  Serving as the caretaker for this structure often leaves me feeling like the captain of the Titantic.  We narrowly avoided a significant iceberg today with the furnace.  

The original part of the farmhouse dates from the early 1800s.  Each family that owned it -- and each generation of those families -- did some form of expansion or renovation.  This has left me with a structure that is like a ramshackle telescope.  My office was once a porch, the downstairs bathroom was the former milk house, the upstairs has no heat, and the basement was dug out in the 1950s (under an already existing house!)  I endeavor with persistence to manage all the issues that arise from maintaining such a residence.  Upon returning home from Jorgensen Farms last night, I discovered that the heat was not functioning.  And it was very cold!  I went through my usual troubleshooting (propane tank was stocked, air filter was new, no issues at the breaker box, thermostat was functioning, cycling the furnace off and restarting showed an LED light pattern that indicated the system was normal for operation), and still no heat.  After watching several on-line videos and investigating a few Do-It-Yourself forums, I realized that I was out of my realm for needed repairs.  And I settled in for a very cold night . . .

Fortunately, I also have my heroic & insane Valentine, Matt Karikomi.  By the time he was able to look at the furnace, it was late at night.  There was much banging, cursing, and grunting coming from the basement while he addressed the issue.  Around 4am, heat was restored.  There was a condensation issue that had caused the Watchguard cycle to prevent the burner from igniting, and thus no heat for Katherine.  While investigating all this, it also became apparent to Matt that the aged sump pump -- which I have been encouraging to keep limping along -- was no longer functioning efficiently.  Thus, at 6am (with the house back up to a bearable sixty degrees), Matt headed off to Home Depot to investigate sump pump options.  After he returned, I fixed Matt a breakfast of sweet rolls and coffee.  I had baked the sweet rolls for him the previous day as a special Valentine's Day treat, imagining a much more romantic scenario where we would indulge in a delicious repast of coffee & pastries.  Instead, after serving my Scandinavian-Japanese "Schneider" a meal, I went straight to bed to enjoy an hour of sleep with heat. Some women have flowers & chocolates & romance for Valentine's Day.  I have a working furnace and a new sump being installed.  But much better than that is having a man who stayed up through the early morning hours to make sure my home will keep functioning!

The sweet roll recipe that I make is adapted from my prize winning recipe from when I was in 4-H.  When I was young, National 4-H Congress was held in Chicago.  I got to attend as the State Winner for Breadmaking when I was 14, and it was an amazing opportunity.  I am very grateful for the experiences which I had in 4-H.  I learned to cook, to sew, to give a speech, to get stains out of laundry, to win, to lose, to be a camp counselor, to form lasting friendships, and to be tough.  Making rolls is a simple task, yet I am very glad that 4-H offered me the training to master such skills.  I only regret that I did not take projects in home repair!  Thankfully, in Matt I found another former 4-H member who does have those skills!

Harrison Farm Valentine Sweet Rolls
Dissolve 2 packages yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1cup warm water; let stand 5 minutes.
Combine 2/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, half cup softened butter, half cup shortening in mixer.
(For shortening, I use Crisco sticks that are like sticks of butter.  My Emma taught me to use these, and they will change your attitude about baking -- no more messy shortening covered measuring cups!)
Add 1 cup boiling water and stir thoroughly.
Add dissolved yeast, again stirring thoroughly.
Beat at a medium speed, add 2 Harrison Farm eggs and 3 cups flour (I use King Arthur All Purpose).
Gradually mix in 4 more cups flour to make a soft dough.
Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes.
Punch dough down and knead. Divide in 3 parts.  
Roll out each into an 8" by 12" rectangle.  Add melted butter and cinnamon sugar.
Gently roll, and then slice into 12 rounds.  Place these into a 9" round greased pan.
Allow to rise in a warm place 30-40 minutes, then bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

The above photo was taken after baking.  I separated the dozen sweet rolls from each of the three pans, covered them individually in icing, and then gave them as Valentine's Day treats.  According to Val Jorgensen, they were "delightful"!  Matt gobbled them down for his breakfast, and seemed quite pleased.  Do not forget the icing (omitting the icing can cause Joe Blystone to go into palpitations!), and I suggest enjoying the rolls with Starbucks Cafe Verona blend coffee.  They taste even better in a heated home on a cold February day!

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