Aunt Mariah's Rolls

June 25, 2018

Author Notes: This recipe is at the end of a long journey I went on to find the key to my missing family (allow me to explain, here. The recipe serves a crowd, because that's what Aunt Mariah would do with them. EmilyNunn

Food52 Review: This recipe was featured in our My Family Recipe series.The Editors

Makes: 4 dozen
Prep time: 3 hrs
Cook time: 15 min


  • 3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup powdered skim milk
  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted (plus more for brushing the rolls before baking)
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed


  1. In a very large bowl, dissolve the 1 teaspoon sugar, the ginger—do not leave out the ginger, no excuses—yeast, and water. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, mix the powdered milk, eggs, salt, the 3/4 cup sugar, and the 1/2 stick melted butter and add to the yeast mixture (make sure this has begun to foam slightly; if not, you may need new yeast). Slowly add 2 cups of the flour to this, mixing well. Gradually mix in the remaining 4 cups flour; if the dough is still sticky, add more flour, a bit at a time.
  3. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and put in a warm place to rise. Once it has risen to its full glory (meaning when it has doubled in bulk, which takes about 1 hour), punch it down and knead gently for a minute or so on a floured board. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out circles with a 2 3/4-inch biscuit cutter (or a water glass, which is what old ladies in the South do). Fold over (pinch them down a bit so they stay folded) and place on baking sheets very close together but with the sides not quite touching, and brush with the melted butter. Cover and let rise again, for about 1 hour, by which time they will have doubled in bulk and their sides will touch. This is very important. You don’t want flat rolls; you want fluffy rolls.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If you plan to freeze them, bake only until they are very lightly browned.

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Reviews (9) Questions (0)

9 Reviews

Lauren D. November 2, 2018
If I froze these after lightly baking them, how would I heat them on the day I want to serve them? Could they not be frozen while still fully raw, prepared dough?
Theresia A. August 16, 2018
Your article reawakened all kinds of memories from my own years in the kitchen and from friends’ and family’s kitchens. I actually have a tattered notebook with recipes from many years. I started when I was 21 when I spent a summer in France. There is a recipe for Croque Monsieur, Clafouti aux Cerises and Gateau au Chocolat. Then traditional Dutch Apple Tart, German Kasekuchen (cheese cake). Traditional German Weihnachtsstollen (Christmas bread). The recipes are from wherever I lived at the time. The Weihnachtsstollen is special. It comes from my former neighbour Lise in Montreal. This was the recipe that her German grandmother used. Her grandmother used cottage cheese to make it nice and moist. Traditionally it was a yeast bread. However, it became dry quickly. Using cottage cheese made it nice and moist. My 2-year old grandson loved it at Christmas time.<br /><br />Thanks for the trip back into the past when people simply enjoyed home cooked food without analyzing every ingredient. I spent 6 weeks in Southern Italy this past winter. What really struck me was that people truly enjoyed their traditional foods in the company of family and friends.
MC July 16, 2018
@ENunn- you mentioned in the intro for the Lemon Sponge recipe that it took lots of practice to get the rolls done correctly. Any extra tips you can share with us? Thanks! P.S. I LOVED your story about your Aunt Mariah- FEELS. I grew up in Dumfries (before I-95 took over the area) and remember the tiny sleepy little town it was with only Quantico MCB, a few churches, and how trips to the 5 & 10 cent store to spend my allowance on a Coke in a glass bottle & old fashioned candy were the highlight of the week.
CaroleF2 July 1, 2018
This recipe inspired me to comment. Many years ago a friend shared a recipe with me for a delicious Swedish rye bread that her grandmother developed and sold as a source of income during the Great Depression. It rises high, browns beautifully and has a fine-grained, tender, texture. Guess what? It contains non-fat powdered milk (not the gritty, instant version). Non-fat dry milk powder blends smoothly with the other dry ingredients and is recommended by many bread baking experts. I also use it when I make Cornell Bread. Properly stored (It is important that it be fresh), a package of opened non-fat dry milk powder will generally stay at best quality for about 3 months at room temperature. To further extend the shelf life, it can be frozen inside covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. I have always purchased it in small quantities at a health food store, but a well-known supplier of flour and baking ingredients sells it online. I also use it when baking Cornell Triple-Rich Bread developed by Dr. Clive M. McCay at Cornell University: “For each cup of flour, first place in the measuring cup 1 tablespoon each of soy flour and nonfat dry milk powder, as well as 1 teaspoonful of wheat germ. Then fill the remainder of the cup with unbleached flour." This fortified flour can be applied to just about any bread recipe.
Jennifer R. June 30, 2018
My dear Grandma made biscuits every day for 71 years (give of take a day or two 😉). She always used powdered milk. At first it was due to economics but even as times changed it was always her preference. It made the dough have more moisture and rise is what she always said.
Amy L. June 28, 2018
Ginger? hmmm. Do you mean fresh ground ginger or dried ginger? Seems it would make a difference. (and PS, cut circles with "a glass of water"?)
Author Comment
EmilyNunn June 29, 2018
Hey, Amy: ground ginger generally refers to dried ginger in a jar, powdered or ground. Don't leave it out. Also that's supposed to be "water glass" and it's being fixed. Thank you for catching it!
witloof June 27, 2018
Interesting that the recipe calls for powdered milk and water. I wonder if that was for economy's sake.
Author Comment
EmilyNunn June 29, 2018
That's a good question, witloof. It's a pretty old recipe. I will find out. I always keep carnation powdered milk, though (it's always in the grocer), because I don't want to tempt fate by using milk!