A tender, loving and yielding heart provides pleasure and sustenance to those in our lives in the way that soft, warm, pillowy, tender and yielding buttery sweet potato dinner rolls warmly entice our appetite, and provide nourishment and fulfillment to the very core of us.
The richly-golden autumn holidays are that uniquely splendid time of year when I feel my longings, my creativity, my emotions, and my empathy begin to open up deep within me the way an amazingly willing flower opens up to the beckoning and brilliant sun high above it.
The stillness in the later afternoons, coupled with the lulling yet deeply-piercing effect of the golden rays as they shimmer and fall, cascade and glide, spill in through open windows, onto floors, across made-yet-empty beds, across the dining room table and empty chairs waiting to be filled, creates a spectacular ache in my heart, in my soul, that is almost more than my physical being-ness can contain.
It gives me a sense like I might burst from the inside out, or shoot, like stars, straight through the very top of my head, out and up, up, up into the clean and cool ether, that huge living room that will finally give my spirit the ample amount of space that I need to be me, fully.
I think what I am feeling is a longing for “home”, that place where I was first conceived by the One who conceives all, that only place that is fully able to allow the total expression of who we are, to be completely realized.
Home is where the heart is, after all.
For me, being “heart-broken” doesn't have to be a negative thing; quite the contrary.
Sweet heartbreak, in the way of longing and desire for all that is good and beautiful, reminds me that I am very alive and fully functioning, and anything but apathetic, stagnant, and shriveling.
It is an overwhelming sense within me that the “fire” still desperately longs to be stoked and nurtured, and that forward motion—progress—is what keeps me alive and joyful.
There is little that is greater or more sustaining than experiencing one's heart become tender and yielding—soft, supple, and pliable to the touch. After all, the heart is at the very center of us, the very core of us, and therefore radiates first within and then outward, touching all other things that surround us with its power.
And what an amazing and uplifting thing that can be!
A tender and yielding heart—one that is open to feeling, open to empathy, open to experiencing and also giving love and care—is like a rich, buttery, pillowy and soft, perfectly-risen roll fresh out of the oven; one that gives such pleasure and sustenance, comfort and nourishment, to the one partaking of its warm bliss.
It is a taste of something truly divine.
So in this glowing time of the autumn holidays, this splendid time of gold that stimulates the longings of the heart, those longings of home, may we be able to experience the warm, tender and yielding quality of a heart sweetly broken open by those things of a higher nature, a more divine nature, that we may be reminded that we are indeed alive, and much, much bigger than what our physical vessels could ever hold.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Buttery Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes about 20-22 rolls
• 1 cup half and half
• ½ cup unsalted butter
• ¼ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided use
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 2 ½ teaspoons salt
• ¼ cup water
• 1 (¼ ounce) packet active dry yeast
• 1 medium-large sweet potato, cooked and pressed through potato ricer (*see note below)
• 2 eggs
• 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
• Egg wash (1 whisked egg with a teaspoon of two of water)
• Coarse salt, for sprinkling over tops
(*I prick a sweet potato a few times with a fork and place it into the microwave to cook for a few minutes, turning it, until it's very soft in the center when pierced; then, I slice the potato in half lengthwise and scoop out only the flesh, discarding the skin, and place that flesh into a potato ricer, and rice for the smoothest, lump-free texture; you can also mash the potato, just do it very well so there are no little lumps.)
-Into a small saucepan, add the half and half, the butter, the ¼ cup sugar, the honey, and the 2 ½ teaspoons of salt, and place over low heat just until the butter is melted; remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly for a few minutes.
-While the half and half/butter mixture cools, heat the ¼ cup water to 115°, then add the teaspoon of sugar and mix to dissolve; sprinkle the yeast over the warm water slowly, and using a fork, gently mix the yeast to dissolve it; let stand for about 8-10 minutes until foamy.
-To a large bowl, add the half and half/butter mixture, the riced sweet potato, and the 2 eggs, and using a hand mixer, mix together for a minute or two until completely smooth and well-blended; next, add 2 cups of the flour, and continue to mix for another moment or two until combined and smooth.
-Add in the yeast mixture, and again, mix to combine and blend that in.
-Add the rest of the flour, and now, using a wooden spoon, mix together until a shaggy dough forms.
-Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough for about 4-6 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding a little more flour as needed if the dough is too sticky; place the dough into a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place into a warm, dark place to rise and double in size, for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
-Once the dough has doubled, punch it down well, and turn it out onto a floured work surface; take equal-size (about 2 ½ ounce) portions of the dough, and roll them into a round, dinner roll shape, and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; repeat until all dough is formed into rolls.
-Cover the rolls with plastic wrap, and, once again, allow them to rise for another 45 minutes; then, preheat your oven to 350° during the last 10 minutes of the rise.
-Remove the plastic wrap from the rolls, and brush each with some of the egg wash, and sprinkle some of the coarse salt over top; bake the rolls until golden-brown and pillowy, about 22-24 minutes; allow the rolls to very slightly cool (just a few minutes) before serving.
(If doing then slightly ahead, such as the day before, you can form the dough into the rolls, cover well with plastic wrap, and place them on their baking sheet into the fridge; when you're ready to bake them the next day, take them out of the fridge about 1 ½ hours beforehand to slightly warm, and bake according to instructions.)