Of the emails and comments I get from y’all, I particularly enjoy those notes that want some help finding a time-honored, old-fashioned recipe you remember from childhood. After quite a few notes about a recipe for butter rolls, I went through my files (I have a serious old cookbook collection) and decided to share this one with you today.
This is an old recipe that many folks remember their grandmothers making. The ooey-gooey dessert is made up of tender, flaky biscuit dough filled with butter, sprinkled with sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon, rolled into pinwheels and baked in a rich, creamy sweetened milk sauce. The result is super tender, moist rolls that look like a cinnamon roll but taste entirely different. The sauce thickens into a custard of sorts and keeps the rolls tender and gooey.
I have made a few updates and changes to the old-school recipe, though.
To start, I use self-rising flour instead of the all-purpose called for in the recipe. It’s something I always have on hand and it saves a few steps when adding leavening. If you don’t have self-rising flour, here’s a quick tutorial about how to make it. While the old recipe doesn’t include leavening, I think it keeps these rolls from being super dense. That said, you can totally use plain all-purpose without the leavening if you want.
Most old recipes call for 1 cup of shortening to 2 cups of flour for the dough. In testing it, I found that to be too much fat. It made the dough harder to work with and the rolls ended up crumbly after baking. So I reduced it to 1/2 cup of shortening and was much happier with the results. If shortening isn’t something you’ve got in the pantry, you can replace it with an equal amount of butter.
The other ingredient worth mentioning is nutmeg. Nearly every old recipe I consulted, including the one I had in my recipe files, called for nutmeg. So I imagine that many grandmothers out there used nutmeg. And if you want it to taste just like hers, you’ll probably want to use nutmeg.
That said, I tested a batch with an equal amount of cinnamon and liked it a bit better. A half teaspoon isn’t quite enough to make them taste like cinnamon rolls, per se, and I just kinda liked the cinnamon flavor better. But you should try them both ways, to be sure. There, I just gave you permission to make two batches of these beauties. Y’all enjoy.
Old Fashioned Butter Rolls
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or cinnamon)
For the sauce:
- 2 cups milk
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, cut the shortening into the flour using a pastry blender or two forks. The goal is to get the shortening cut into tiny pea-sized pieces.
- Add the water and stir until combined.
- Use your hands to gently knead the dough until it holds together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a thin rectangle that is about 10 by 16 inches.
- Spread the soft butter to cover the dough, then sprinkle with the sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon).
- Carefully and tightly roll the dough up jelly-roll style and pinch to seal the long edge.
- Cut the dough into 12 even rolls and place them into the prepared dish.
Make the sauce:
- Combine the milk and sugar in a small pot over medium-high heat.
- Stir until the milk just begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the mixture over the rolls.
- Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes or until the rolls are brown on the tops. Serve warm.