Yeast Rolls can be such a source of Southern pride that even the best cooks shy away from these elusive delicacies. My grandmother made the best yeast rolls in the county, maybe this entire country. Although, I suspect that half of Lauderdale County would say that their grandmother made the best. (Perhaps you feel the same). The truth is that there are just about as many recipes as there are grandmothers.
A Google search reveals recipes with shortening, recipes with lard, and recipes with butter. This alone can bring chefs to heated debate over glasses of wine and/or cocktails. I once asked John Currence, “Butter or lard?” He answered, “For what?” Some believe “half-and-half” works best (and I’m not talking about cream).
Boil the milk, add eggs, don’t use eggs, Carnation Milk makes an appearance in one recipe I have… one thing they all say is “serve hot.” (My grandmother served often.)
Last week, I had the pleasure of eating yeast rolls from the queen herself, Sister Schubert. One of our great local schools, Riverhill, hosted a luncheon with Sister and one of our great local chefs, Betty Sims.
Sister (yes, that’s what everyone calls her) told the story of starting her business on her sun porch.
One of the ladies at our table said, “Sister sure saved a lot of meals at my house.” And my dad’s wife Sherry commented, after Sister said they make about a million rolls a day, “And we bought a lot of them.” Though we may laugh, we know that all jokes aside, Sister has a good thing going. Like I wrote in this post about Red Velvet Cake, sometimes knowing WHAT to buy from WHOM is just as important as knowing how to do it yourself.
However, inspired by Sister, I set about making my Gram Perkins’ rolls this weekend:
GRAM PERKINS’ YEAST ROLLS
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
Bring milk, sugar, and shortening/butter to a scald. Set aside to cool.
5 cups flour (approximately)
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons salt
Sift the flour, soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
2 packages dry yeast
1 cup warm water
In a large bowl, add yeast to warm water to dissolve. (I did a bit of research and it seems that the water should be about 115°.) Add cooled milk, sugar, and shortening/butter mixture with enough flour to make a paste. Let stand for 1/2 hour in a warm room.
Add remaining flour — or enough to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto a floured board (I use a flour sack dishtowel for my floured board. Maggie calls this my “biscuit cloth.”) Gently knead dough until it holds together well, roll out to 1/2″ and cut with round biscuit cutter. Dip cut rolls into melted butter, fold in half, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Use a second piece of parchment paper for the top of the pan of rolls and cover with a dishtowel. Let rise until double in size, or about two hours in a warm room.
Bake at 375° for about 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Honestly, Sister Schubert has nothing to be afraid of from my kitchen, since my daughter Maggie insists that Sister’s are better. Perhaps the substitution of butter really does ruin it. Maybe next time I will try Sister’s recipe.