Random Stuff

Carmen’s Blue Ribbon Dinner Rolls

I was a 4-H girl. From elementary school all the way through high school graduation, I spent each summer a proud member of the National Roaders 4-H club. My projects ran the gamut from woodworking to creative writing to showing llamas. (My camelid adventures are stories for another day.)

Sometimes I brought home from the Hartford Fair a big, beautiful royal purple rosette emblazoned with “Outstanding of the Day.” Other times I brought home the simple, off white ribbon indicating “Participant.” (Yes, participation trophies are not just a millennial thing. They were handing those out back in the ’80s too.)

There was one quintessential 4-H thing that I never did do, though. I never entered the cooking contest.

The closest I ever came was a project I did on microwaving. Judging for microwaving did not require culinary skills. Instead, it examined your ability to spot which cookware may cause a kitchen fire when placed in a microwave for extended periods. (This was trickier than it seems. I got tripped up by a seemingly innocuous serving bowl that had small metallic ribbon weaved into the decorative trim.)

Cooking just was not my jam back then. (Sorry, I could not go a whole post about dinner rolls without a jelly reference. That said, I am told that some people put butter instead of jam on their rolls. That is crazy town, but I digress).

Fast forward thirty years. Every year my family attends the Great Geauga Fair, a county fair so reminiscent of my childhood one that I find myself doing regular double-takes as I stroll the grounds. The Great Geauga Fair has all the awesome things – hogs and heifers, deep-fried Oreos and demolition derby.

And it has a rather extensive baking content. Cakes, pies, muffins, you name it. The judging happens before the grand opening, but the goods are displayed throughout the duration of the fair. Despite sitting in a barn for days in sweltering heat, everything always looks beyond scrumptious. (Which is saying a lot, because I really, really like the deep-fried Oreos found on the grand way)

On the culinary skills spectrum, I would consider myself average to below-average. My sons would probably contend I fall towards the latter. But I have two solid recipes – dinner rolls and cinnamon buns. (I like carbs.)

Finally, after years of longing looks at other people’s culinary creations, I finally got brave enough and entered the competition.

It may just be beginner’s luck, or perhaps the universe is signaling me to quit my technology consulting career to become a full-time dinner roll baker. Whatever it is, I will be bragging about this blue-ribbon win for years to come. (And especially when my kids complain, yet again, about the dinner I put on their plates)

Like a true champion, I plan to go out on top. You are the first to hear – I am retiring from county fair dinner roll baking contests. My mic-drop moment: sharing this recipe with the world.

Carmen’s Blue Ribbon Dinner Rolls

Serves 12


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 organic egg
  • 4.5 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3.25 cups flour
  • 0.25 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoon instant yeast


  1. Combine all ingredients in bread maker under dough cycle.
  2. When cycle is complete, remove dough and roll into a dozen balls.
  3. Place balls on a greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 minutes.
  5. Best served with jam. People who eat dinner rolls with butter are weird.