Trial and error


Sonia Hill says there's a secret to baking bread.

"Don't use as much flour as they call for," the Fowler woman said. "The less flour you can use, the better. Just until you can work it with your hands. That's what I finally figured out."

Hill's recipe and technique, developed over time, creates a dough to make her family-favorite cinnamon rolls topped with buttercream frosting along with dinner rolls and bread.

"It's just trial and error for the most part," Hill said. "I surprise myself whenever something turns out and I get compliments."

Hill put together the recipe for her Pineapple Pie, inspired by a boxed pie she used to buy at a grocery store growing up in Quincy. "They had apple, cherry and pineapple. I loved the pineapple," she said, and when she couldn't find a recipe for the pie, she developed her own.

A recipe from a cousin was the starting point for Hill's Lasagna, which she turned into her own specialty main dish. What makes it so good is "just the seasonings and the home-canned tomatoes," Hill said.

She usually cooks "by guess and by golly," much as her mother did, but she had to learn much of the technique on her own.

"My mother kept wanting to teach me how to cook. I thought I had all the time in the world," Hill said. "I watched her do stuff. A lot of times she would make homemade cinnamon rolls."

Her mom died not long after her 16th birthday, before she learned to cook, and when she got married a couple years later, "my husband choked down a lot of bad things, but he encouraged me," she said.

Picking blackberries and making jelly one year inspired her to try making bread for the first time with her mother's recipe, and eventually she figured it out. And she's passed along what she's learned – including that good cooking takes devotion, love and patience -- to her three daughters and three grandchildren. "My granddaughter likes to bake. She likes to bake cookies," Hill said.

Hill bakes at the holidays and when the family's getting together for a meal. "They expect my homemade rolls," she said.

Spending time with family always is a priority for Hill along with working outside with her flowers and garden. "The garden was slow, but it's starting to come along," she said. "I need to really can this year. I just do the tomatoes. I've never done any sauce or tomato juice, but I have made salsa."


Boil 1 ½ pounds of hamburger in water until fully cooked. Add two jars of home-canned tomatoes, 1 small can of tomato sauce, ½ jar water, 2 tablespoons parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons oregano and 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning; combine well with hamburger.

Place hamburger mixture in a crockpot. Cook on high for approximately eight hours.

In a 9x13-inch baking dish, layer sauce, uncooked lasagna noodles, sauce, 6 dollops of cottage cheese and a handful of mozzarella cheese; Repeat layers.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Cinnamon Rolls

In a large bowl, mix 1 package yeast, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup hot water (not boiling) and 1 cup hot milk (not boiling) until yeast dissolves. Let sit until frothy, about 15 minutes. Add 1 egg, 6 tablespoons melted butter and ½ teaspoon salt. Add 4 cups of flour until you can handle the dough.

Sprinkle about ½ cup of flour on the counter. Place dough on floured surface, and add just enough flour to knead the dough for approximately six minutes. Wash out and grease the bowl, and return dough to the bowl. Cover with warm towel until double in size, about 1 ½ hours.

For cinnamon rolls, roll out dough to about ½-inch thickness. Spread with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. Roll up, and slice with string into rolls. Place in a greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool, then top with buttercream frosting. (For frosting, Hill uses butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and just enough milk to reach proper spreading consistency.)

For dinner rolls, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Brush tops of rolls with butter.

For bread, bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Brush top of loaf with butter.

Pineapple Pie

1 can crushed pineapple

1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch

Drain juice from pineapple into a saucepan. Add cornstarch to juice. Heat and stir until thick. Add pineapple to the thickened juice. Place pineapple mixture into a pie shell, and add top crust to pie.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown.

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