Mother and Dad's Saturday Night Rolls

(Do please note: These are family recipes, not tested in professional kitchens. Use the "Feedback" or "Comment" sections at the end of this page to report mistakes or send suggestions, if you wish.) This basic, simple, refrigerator dough makes it possible for you to make homemade cinnamon rolls and variations, and homemade doughnuts.

I believe this recipe originated in an old cookbook, perhaps the original from Better Homes and Gardens. This one dough supplied raised yeast rolls for Sunday dinner and one other meal during the week, plus either cinnamon rolls or doughnuts for Sunday breakfast.

The roll-makers in my family, including me, committed the recipe to memory. Someone in the house prepared it each Saturday night (and on Christmas and Thanksgiving eves) for more than 40 years. The measurements and ingredients remain unchanged. I have elaborated on the instructions.

Note: The dough must be made about 8 hours before you plan to use it. It needs those hours in the refrigerator to go through various chemical and mechanical transformations that produce the right texture when it is baked or fried.

The ingredients:

  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 cups milk (whole milk makes slightly richer rolls; low fat and skim will work, too)
  • 2/3 cup shortening or bland oil (grapeseed, rice bran, safflower, canola)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 whole eggs, beaten well
  • 7 cups of unbleached flour, or more


  1. Using a small bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, stir 2 packages of dry yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar into 1 cup lukewarm water. Lukewarm means "barely warm." A drop of lukewarm water on the inside of your wrist should feel slightly warm.) Set aside the yeast mixture while you prepare next batch of ingredients.
  2. Heat two cups milk (whole milk makes slightly richer rolls, but you can use any type) in a small pan or in the microwave until it nearly boils - but not quite. Bubbles will appear around the edges, and the surface may seem to swell slightly. A surface 'skin' may appear.
  3. Melt 2/3 cups solid shortening by stirring into the hot milk, or use a high quality bland oil such as safflower, grape seed, canola, or rice bran oil (my present favorite.)
  4. Place the milk-shortening blend in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add 3/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Let this mixture cool until it, too, is just barely warm.
  6. In a clean small bowl or glass measuring cup, beat two large eggs until they are light, thick, and pale yellow.
  7. With a clean finger, check the temperature of the liquid mix in the large bowl. When they are just barely warm, add the beaten eggs and stir well.
  8. Add the yeast mixture to the large mixing bowl. The yeast mixture should be quite foamy by now.
  9. Stir all together with a large wooden spoon or wire whisk. A whisk hurries the thick liquids together. And then a wooden spoon works best for the next task.
  10. Add 7-10 cups unbleached flour, about two cups at a time. If you wish, use a sifter to lighten it as you sift it onto the batter. After each addition, stir thoroughly. Keep adding flour until the dough is medium stiff. Clues: It will pull away from the sides of the bowl slightly. It will hold its shape a bit when you stop stirring, and then it will very gradually settle down. It will still be somewhat glistening, not dull like a really stiff bread dough.
  11. Turn the dough out on a thoroughly floured cloth, board, or piece of waxed paper. Pile it up in a round heap, and leave it alone for several minutes. The time is just about right for you to wash all your bowls and tools, dry the mixing bowl, and either spray it with non-stick spray or rub it lightly with oil.
  12. With extra flour nearby if needed, flour your hands and begin kneading the dough. Start by lifting an edge and plopping it onto the middle of the dough and pressing it in lightly with the heel of your hand. Repeat all around until the dough starts to get a bit more organized. Turn it over, press down the center hump some, and repeat. Keep up the piling, pressing, kneading for about five minutes, and when it is fairly smooth, pick it up and drop it into the oiled mixing bowl, smooth side up. Cover with a clean, damp towel, or with plastic wrap, and put the bowl in the refrigerator. The dough needs to chill at least eight hours before using, so make it the night before you need to use it.
  13. Post chill, you can make homemade cinnamon rolls and variations, homemade doughnuts, and raised yeast rolls in any of a variety of shapes.
  14. Three favorite shapes: Fast weeknights: roll walnut-sized balls of dough; place one inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Standard Sunday dinner cloverleaf rolls: Spray or butter muffin tins. Roll three Bing cherry-sized balls of dough for each muffin depression; crowd them together. For company, Parkerhouse rolls: roll the dough to about 1/4" thickness. Cut 3" - 4" circles with a glass or a doughnut/biscuit cutter; dip half of each circle in melted butter; fold in half to make a half moon shape; place on greased cookie sheet with edges barely touching. Children from toddler size on up love to help with "making out the rolls."
  15. For rolls in any shape, cover lightly with a barely damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 90 minutes or longer - until at least doubled. Bake in a 400 degree oven until light golden brown. Eat immediately with the best possible butter, sorghum, honey, strawberry preserves, blackberry jam, lemon marmalade or other preserves.