How I Found Home and Sweet Butter Rolls

In the last thirteen months, I have made a giant U across the United States. Portland to Santa Fe to Charleston and now… to Baltimore. 

I have learned a lot in those thirteen months… how to make cookies with fruity pebbles, how to make pudding with pig’s blood, how to ask for help.

Also, I learned how much I really, really loathe cardboard.

It is the most exhausting raw material I can think of. The smell and sight abhorring - all mildew and armpit, donning the least imaginable color – not chestnut or chocolate, just a muted, despairing brown.

There exists this peak in the chaos of moving in which the cardboard is particularly taunting. All your stuff is in limbo… No longer in your closet but not really in a box yet either. It’s all just strewn about, angry-looking. And those miserable boxes gape open, hollering about all the work to be done

The boxes morphed into a public reading of diaries:
Dishes. Loaf pans. Ramekins.
S for Storage Unit.
G for Goodwill
X for Ready To Go
Two entire medium-sized boxes reading “Menno Cookbooks”.

It was at those points in the chaos when I most craved a kitchen. To refocus. To take a breath while my hands are in motion. To smell the sense of home in a warm loaf of bread.

Cardboard is, after all, the antithesis of home.

By the time I left Charleston for Baltimore, I had whittled the stack of boxes down to about a measly, liberating 10. Along with my old trunk, woven basket, a couple Rubbermaid bins, and a few suitcases, they all squeezed into the back of a rented minivan and traveled up the I-95 corridor.

I lived in Santa Fe just long enough to feel its effects – the obscene sunlight and roasting green chiles. But I wasn’t there quite long enough for it to feel like home.

In Charleston, living in my sister and brother in law’s home along with my niece and nephew, I certainly felt the intimacy of family. We shared our morning rituals of eggs and coffee with unflustered ease. I was afforded the privileged, up-close view of my Sarah's creative process as a painter. Sofie learned to read. Zeke discovered his love of scooters. Matt built a slide, a chicken coop, a rabbit hutch, and my bike rack. I became Aunt Katie who brought home sweet treats from work, always carried orange gum, and played Apples in Stereo on car rides.

"You're kind of like the second Mom," Sofie once said as we pulled pajamas over her head.  

photo by Sarah Boyts Yoder

But still, that was not my home. Most of my things were still in that damn cardboard, patiently awaiting a more permanent placement.

In the last year, there has occasionally been this surreal stinging sensation. It happens most at airports.
I just want to go home. I’d think. (insert melodramatic voice of a five year old)
Then the punch … There isn’t one.

Inside a giant buzzing scanner, feet wide, hands raised above my head, with some cranky lady staring at my guts, all I could think about is that elusive place of home. And the sting of its absence.

In those inescapable moments in the scanner, I tried to lean in, curious about the experience. I started to question… What is home anywayWe think of it as that physical space in which our artifacts of life are nestled into their particular spots. Photos hung. Dishes put away. Rugs take their spot on the floor.
We are warm there. Grounded. Comfortable.

It’s not that I’ve created some idyllic fantasy about home. Portland had rain. Santa Fe had moths. Charleston had sweat. Baltimore will have... something. And there are always dishes after dinner.

But still… the craving exists and if we can’t access that home… What next?

Well, for me, I bake. Because home is, at its core, a sensual experience. Not simply the scenery of our things. Silky textures of dough, bread crust singing as it's drawn out of the oven, the smell of yeast and flour and butter bloomed under heat.

The smell of freshly baked bread, and I can feel my chest let go. I’m back to my favorite bakery in Portland, my grandmother’s kitchen in Kansas, my mother’s supper table at Christmas. Those were most certainly homes.

And in that case home becomes much more accessible. It is here in my hands, a few ingredients, and a very hot oven - I really need nothing more.

I think Baltimore shall be home. At least the cardboard is gone. And my basket has found itself a corner, all my books have shelves.

Most importantly I have my breath, my hands, a sack of flour, and a hot, ready oven.

This recipe for sweet butter rolls comes from Jeanette Wedel in Hesston, Kansas. Stay in tune for more about Jeanette and the versatility of this beautiful dough. On this particular baking, I did my usual thing - looked in the frig, spotted a few inspiring elements, and decided to revamp the plan. So I stuffed many of the rolls with odds and ends - diced apples, a leftover bolognese sauce, cheese, quince paste. Do the same or stick with the straight dinner rolls. 

I'm giving this recipe in volume and weights. I highly recommend investing in a scale if you don't have one. Because at the end of the day, your cup of flour will likely never equal my cup of flour. 

Sweet Butter Rolls
adapted from Jeanette Wedel

yield: 12 medium size rolls

3 1/4 cup flour, bread or all purpose (450 grams)

1 cup cool water (226 grams)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (9 grams)
3/4 Tablespoon salt (9 grams) 
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
1/2 cup dry milk powder (79 grams)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp (114 grams)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine all ingredients. Turn mixer on lowest speed and mix for 3 minutes. Turn the machine off, let the dough rest for about 5 minutes, then mix again on lowest speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test.* 

*Windowpane test: Pinch a small piece of dough and spread it apart with your fingertips to try and create a translucent pane. If the dough tears, mix it again for another minute and then retest. If the dough stays in tact and creates the translucent pane, it's ready to go!

2. Once the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly-oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for one hour, and "punch down". (You can literally stick your fist in the dough or, as I prefer, fold it over onto itself and then turn over.)

3. Let rise again for another hour. Then transfer to lightly floured surface. Divide the dough evenly into twelve portions. I weigh mine out - about 60 grams each roll. Shape them into balls and let them rise again, on parchment-lined baking sheet, for another 30 to 60 minutes, or until - when you press them with your finger they don't spring back. 

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375. 

4. When the rolls are ready, transfer them to the oven and bake them for 15 minutes, rotate, and bake about 15 minutes more or until they are golden brown. At the 15 minute mark, you can do an egg wash* to make them shiny. 

*An egg wash consists of 1 egg, beaten, with a Tablespoon of water. Brush a bit onto each roll for a shiny surface. 

5. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack or serve warm. 



  1. Just lovely, Katie! Wishing you all the best in B'more. We make it there occasionally and will be sure to look you up!

    1. Thanks Elise! That would be so amazing to see you... Keep me updated if you ever head this way. I think Simon is coming up soon too! So great to be back in the east. :)

  2. Great to take in your words again, Katie. What a year it has been! Selfishly happy you are getting closer and closer to Pittsburgh. Let's get together one of these days!

    1. Thanks so much Kate! Yes... a year indeed. ;) I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see you. I have a feeling we'd have much much to talk about. The east coast is really where it's at I think. xoxo

  3. Beautiful and good luck! My favorite line: "Cardboard is, after all, the antithesis of home." Well said and good luck in Baltimore!

  4. Welcome to Bmore! We have some good and interesting people here.

    1. Thanks Alisa! It's great to be here and I think you're right... so far... many many good and interesting folks!