Warning: Don’t forget Uncle Vanya’s cast-iron rolling pin is always ready for those disrespectful of his recipe.
Make sweet roll dough as follows:
1/2 cup warm water
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
(Uncle Vanya uses cake yeast. Don’t tell him if you use dry packets)
1 1/2 cups milk, lukewarm (Uncle Vanya says you must scald!)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup shortening
7 -7 1/2 cups flour
1 Mix water and yeast in large mixing bowl.
2 Stir until dissolved.
3 Add milk, sugar salt, eggs, shortening and 1/2 of the flour.
4 Mix until smooth and pour out onto floured surface. Knead while adding the additional flour. Knead until smooth and elastic( about 5 minutes). Note that Uncle Vanya does not own a watch, so this time is approximate.
5 Round up in greased bowl with greased side up. Cover with damp cloth.
6 Let rise in warm place until double (about 1&1/2 hours).
7 Punch down; let rise again until almost double. (No short-cuts, single rising stuff, says Uncle Vanya)
8 Dough is ready to to make into balls now.
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (no peanuts, but other nuts can be used)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups finely chopped peeled tart apples (Other fruits such as currants, cranberries, anything tart, can be substituted)
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into about a dozen small rounds. Spread with butter. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon and nutmeg; add fruit and toss to coat. Place a manageable amount on each round of dough and press the dough together, sealing the filling inside. Do a good job. Uncle Vanya does not approve of leaky bread balls)
Place in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes. (Yes, babooshka, they rise three times!)
Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Tatiana also likes to deep fry them like doughnut holes, just until they are crispy brown on all sides.
ICING (or you could just roll them in cinnamon sugar while they are warm, says Tatiana)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons whole milk
Combine icing ingredients until smooth; drizzle over warm balls. Yield: 1 dozen.
Illustrated Version: (The image above , Uncle Vanya’s recipe copied down on a napkin by Edward Ferrars for Elinor, is included in this version)