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:


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.

SISTER SCHUBERT AND THE YEAST ROLLHonestly, 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.



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Click to read 5 comments
  1. Julie B

    Many years ago, when my grandmother was downsizing to move into a smaller place, the grandchildren took turns selecting items from her possessions. I ended up with her china (it was called Julia, my grandmother’s name, and a natural for me to have), her antique spool cabinet and her vintage and well-used copy of the Joy of Cooking. Inside that book I discovered her hand-written recipe for the Parker House rolls that I, and my siblings, remember from our childhoods. This post inspires me to pull that recipe out (I have been thinking of enlarging it for some time to use as wall art) and try my hand at it. I feel quite certain my attempt won’t live up to the memory of her rolls but one must start somewhere.

  2. Susan

    My mother made rolls like these every Christmas. Hers were potato rolls in which she cut up a potato and boiled it and it and the water went into the yeast mixture with lots of butter. They were shaped just like the ones in the picture above. My family loved those rolls. I have not made them, I force my whole grain breads onto the kids. However, in the last year, my children have finally developed a taste for my maple syrup sweetened oatmeal bread, and the crusty multi-grain bread. The recipe always calls for the bread to cool completely, but who can resist cutting into hot, homemade bread and spreading it with butter so that it melts down into the crumb?

    Thanks for the memories of my Southern mother and her “kiss” rolls (the name of the shape of rolls shown above).

  3. Martha

    Do you use Martha White flour for these, or does it matter? I know it does (for me) with biscuits, but wondered if the same is true for a yeast roll…

  4. Alabama Post author


    I used White Lily, All Purpose, Unbleached for this batch…
    I am SURE that it does make a difference. Let’s ask some of our favorite chefs which flour they prefer for yeast rolls?


  5. Ann

    My grandmother in Selma had a yeast roll recipe card that was translucent from all the buttery fingers that had handled it over the decades. My sister Buffy has that card now, and she has never, ever been able to create a batch of rolls like Grommy’s. Buffy also has all of Grommy’s caramel icing recipes–eight versions, handwritten–framed in her kitchen. Like a quest for the Holy Grail, those recipes.