The following recipe for yeast dinner rolls is the one used by my Granny, Mary Ingle Johnson-Nickels. I have a copy of her recipe that was written in own handwriting and it is dated 3/23/46 (or April 23, 1946).
My Granny did not create this recipe. It was simply the recipe that was used by her mother and it was the recipe her mother taught her to follow. It is the same basic yeast roll recipe that most families used in the early 1900s who lived in the area my Granny lived in.
Today variations of this recipe are extremely popular throughout the entire United States, and the only differences among the recipes are very minor, such as the recommended amount of salt, or the recommended amount of sugar.
My Granny's original handwritten recipe only included a list of the ingredients and the quantities required. She did not write down the instructions because she knew how to bake bread, as did almost every other women in the early 1900s. I added the instructions below to match the ingredients so that my children and grandchildren could learn how to bake yeast rolls.
Yeast Dinner Rolls Recipe, 12 Rolls
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
opt. 6 tsp. salted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. warm water for dry yeast
4 T. granulated sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
3 T. lard (or shortening)
Lard Substitution: Until the mid-1900s lard was commonly used in recipes but it was gradually replaced with Crisco® vegetable shortening.
Adjust the shelves in the oven so the top of a cookie sheet is a little above the middle of the oven. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven.
Heat the buttermilk in a saucepan and stir until it almost boils and then allow it to cool to room temperature. Heating fresh milk, or buttermilk, until it almost boils kills the enzymes that can interfere with the yeast action in the bread.
Remove the optional butter from the refrigerator, measure the amount you need and allow it to come to room temperature.
Crumble the yeast into 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar added and stir until the yeast is mixed with the water. Good yeast will become foamy and creamy in about 10 to 12 minutes.
In a large bowl mix exactly 2 cups of flour with the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir until the dry ingredients are blended together. Then sift the dry ingredients to mix them more evenly and to break up any small pieces. Pour the room temperature buttermilk into the bowl and stir to mix the buttermilk throughout the flour. Add the foaming yeast solution and stir. Cut in the lard (or shortening) and stir until well blended. Then knead by hand for at least 5 minutes. Cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm place (such as inside your oven with the oven light on) for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and then add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to make a smooth non-sticky dough and knead it by hand for at least 5 minutes. Cover and let it rise 20 minutes in a warm place.
Divide the dough in half. Roll half the dough on a floured surface, or on a piece of wax paper, until it is 1/4 inch thick. Then cut into circles with a round cookie cutter (about 3 inches in diameter). Use the end of your finger to push down and flatten each roll just a little from side to side across its center where it will be folded in half. If desired, add about 1/2 teaspoon butter in the center of the roll.
Fold the roll in half. Pinch together the middle of the two outside edges of the folded roll so the roll will stay folded while baking. If you don't pinch the edges of the roll together then the top of the roll will rise while cooking and it will pop open and lay flat. Place the rolls about 1.5 inches apart on a nonstick cookie sheet.
Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cover the rolls on the cookie sheet with a clean kitchen towel and let the rolls rise for 10 to 15 minutes.
Bake at 400ºF for 9 to 11 minutes until very light brown but still soft.