Versions of this recipe abound, since it is the quintessential Southern yeast roll abundantly present at all occasions from church homecomings to weddings to funerals. I grew up not only with Mama’s rolls but the rolls of many another Southern cook. When I was a new bride at 18, the first recipes I asked for were for Rolls and Angel Pie. My mother promptly wrote them out on lined white 3 x 5 cards and sent them to me.
The recipe for yeast rolls that my mother sent is based on the Refrigerator Rolls recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cook Book (1944). My mother served these rolls for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and so do I. The idea of the original recipe was to make a batch of dough and save it in the refrigerator until you were ready to make rolls. However, when I tried this, the dough continued to rise in the fridge and gave an unpleasant smell of yeasty ethanol to the dough. Maybe modern yeast is more powerful than yeast in 1944. Anyway, I don’t do the refrigerator part and have adapted it to the directions below.
Left over, the rolls are even better split, toasted, and buttered. In the early days of Camp Lachlan, the menu for Camp Closing included yeast rolls with a slice of ham therein. You can certainly replicate this delicacy, and I recommend thinly sliced Virginia ham or another well-cured country ham such as Father’s Fully Cooked Honey Glazed Spiral Sliced County Ham. Or you can use a slice of turkey.
The recipe below is a doubling of the original and makes 4 half sheets of about 24 rolls each, for a total of about 96 rolls. You need to start making the rolls at least 3 hours before you want to eat dinner. If you are fortunate enough to have a helper like Miggie’s great-granddaughter (below), add more time.
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
1 ½ cups Crisco (I have tried butter but Crisco works better)
4 well-beaten eggs
7 to 8 cups flour
Combine water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve. Add Crisco and eggs and mix until the Crisco is in small pieces. Add flour until you have a dough that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. Don’t add too much flour. The dough gets less sticky as it sits.
Put the dough in a warm bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let dough rise about an hour until it has doubled in bulk. Then roll it out and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter (the diameter of my biscuit cutter is 2 3/8 inches). Fold in half and brush with melted butter. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk—about an hour. Preheat oven to 425°F and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush again with melted butter, and eat.