Great-Grandma’s Holiday Rolls


photo by Ella Hudson

Ella rolling out the dough to roll into the classic crescent shape.

The smell of buttery, flaky rolls fills the air as the timer dings with the promise of the delicious meal to come. The rolls were made with the hard labor of me and my mom, the recipe of which has been passed down for generations. We can trace this recipe to my great grandma who took the recipe and made it her own. It is a variation of butterhorn rolls, and every single step includes butter in some way or another, just the way my family likes it. 

We don’t know who gave my great grandma the recipe or if it was passed down through the generations, but we do know that she taught her grandkids, which included my mom. Since she has passed, my family has made these rolls for every single big family get-to-together. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes even random Taco Tuesdays. The original recipe makes only about three dozen rolls, but for these events, we always double it. The most rolls we have ever made was 108, that’s nine batches by the way, and the family ate all of them along with all of the other food that we made. 

After my mom had us kids, she taught all of us how to make these rolls to keep the tradition alive. Out of all of the grandkids, I was the one who enjoyed making them the most, so I have taken over as the prominent roll maker. It first starts with activating the yeast which gives the air a pungent aroma. Then comes the mixing of all the ingredients in our family’s trusty yellow bowl, which has been used at this point to make thousands of rolls. After kneading the dough, it goes into the warmed, moist oven with a damp rag on top for it to rise. Once risen, it gets thrown onto our oak table to be kneaded and shaped into a circle. It will then be buttered with love, by me, and rolled into the classic croissant shape. 

The yeasty buttered croissants then get placed on a baking pan to rise again for about an hour. Into the oven it goes to get baked into what the whole family knows to be one of our family’s famous side-dishes. When they come out, a fine layer of steam rises from them and they are a luscious golden brown color. A sweet smell fills the air of the entire kitchen as my mother and I butter the rolls once again to make them shine under the cool light of the kitchen. Our family usually eats these hot with a dish of meatballs and potatoes, but on special occasions we serve them cold with extra butter on the side for the extended family to enjoy. In all, the three hour process is worth it for the end product of the soft and chewy rolls that we end up with. I look forward to one day teaching my own kids how to make this recipe in that bright yellow bowl while keeping a longstanding family tradition alive.