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Melodie Davis Favorite Homemade Rolls and Sweet Rolls

March 12, 2016


I was a little surprised to find, in scouring my blog, that I had not yet featured my all-time go-to recipe for homemade rolls—whether enjoyed as dinner rolls or cinnamon sweet rolls for breakfast. I probably started making them when I was 14 or younger from a Co-Ed Magazine recipe.

If you’ve never heard of Co-Ed Magazine you are likely not AARP age (or its equivalent in Canada). And yes, you can find and view Co-Ed’s nostalgia online, here! I think, if memory serves me correctly, that our subscription was purchased through our high school, Bethany Christian, and it either came to my older sisters through school or to our home. At any rate, I loved it. Ate. It. Up. Sometimes literally. It had recipes, fashions, teen advice, fun quizzes (which I loved!)—all very proper and home-ec ish. It was teacher and parent approved of course. Not like Seventeen or the other more Madison Avenue-ish mags.


Eventually I could make this recipe without even looking at it. I made it for bake sales, for friends with sick moms, for potlucks I suppose—and eventually my mother and I supplied “Mennonite Homemade Sweet Rolls” to the small Carpenter’s Steak House Restaurant in north Florida after we moved there in 1969 where I waited tables the summer after high school. The rolls were a great hit at the restaurant—people stopped by to enjoy them with their morning coffee—a shift I rarely worked, but I was told it was a treat for as long as they lasted.


Mom used them for extra income for awhile—she was always looking for ways to earn “homemaker” money—to buy the little extras or splurges the normal farmer family budget didn’t cover. I wonder what they sold for at the restaurant—I’m guessing no more than 25-35 cents a piece in 1970—given that a complete entre of chopped steak with trimmings could be had for $1.99.

At any rate, these are some of the things I think about as I stir up this old recipe—which can easily be given more texture and fiber with the addition of a cup or so of whole wheat flour.

At one point I increased this recipe by 1/3 to make more at a time. I’ll give the amounts for both a full recipe and a smaller recipe.*


Melodie Davis Favorite Homemade Rolls and Sweet Rolls
Roll Dough (My variation from Co-Ed Magazine.)

1 ½ cup milk (scaled)
½ cup sugar (dissolve in milk while warm)
2 teaspoons salt (dissolve in milk while warm)
¾ stick butter or margarine (dissolve in milk while warm)
¾ cup warm water
3 packages yeast (dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl)
3 eggs beaten
7 ¾ cups flour (approx.) added a little at a time

When water with yeast has started to rise and activate, add about one cup of the flour to yeast mixture and stir by hand. Add eggs to milk mixture, and then add those to the yeast, water, and flour in the large bowl. Begin stirring all together. If using stand mixer, you should be able to use the standard beater and then switch to dough hook when it gets stiff.

Beat for 4-5 minutes. Remove from bowl and knead it 2-3 minutes on flour covered surface. A slightly sticky dough makes the best rolls, but it should not stick to your hands.

Place in greased bowl, cover with cloth, and allow to rise in warm place (under hood light of stove usually works) or in oven with only the oven light turned on, til double in bulk (1-hour). Punch down, let rise again til double, another hour or so.

Punch down and form into small balls size of large walnuts or small tennis balls for dinner rolls, or take half of dough and roll it out to ½ inch thick to make cinnamon rolls. Place in greased pan. Let rise until double in size.

Bake at 350-375 for 15-20 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t get too brown. Remove from oven and immediately spread butter over tops.

Makes approximately 18-24 dinner rolls plus one 9 x 12 pan of cinnamon rolls.


(See my post on how to make cinnamon rolls here, which also includes my roll frosting recipe.)

*Smaller quantities here. (I KNOW you could do the math, but since they’re on my recipe card, I’ll share them for free!):

1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons salt
½ stick butter
½ cup warm water
2 packages yeast
2 eggs
4 ½ to 5 cups flour


Do you remember Co-Ed Magazine? Did you take Home-Ec and did you enjoy it or not?

What was the first recipe you made and claimed as “your” recipe or you became known for it?


If you don’t know about my recipe book (that has at least 75-80 percent from other cooks), here it is!

Whatever Happened to Dinner?


From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. Athanasia permalink

    I might try your rolls for Easter. I don’t have any particular roll recipe I use, just whatever I feel like. What kind of pan do you bake them in? It looks like they are sitting on a broiler pan in the picture. Would they all fit on a jelly roll pan? How far apart do you space them? I am asking ‘re the rolls, not the cinnamon buns.

    The only magazines we had around were the National Geographic and the New Yorker. My parents always got them with the teacher’s discount. The NG comes to us now and my mother gets the NY and then we switch and share.

    What kind of farming did you do in Florida? Was this more than just for your family? Strawberries or tomatoes? Sweet corn? Or a variety? Citrus??

    I did take Home Ec, yes, starting in 7th grade because it was required for girls. Boys took shop and other things like that. I still use the key chain one of my brothers made me. I liked Home Ec. I liked all the planning and methodicalness of if, if there is such a word. I still set up projects, cooking or sewing, the way we were taught.

    I think I mentioned before that my Grandma decided my sister and I would do the baking starting just before 4th grade. We were 8 goin on 9. What I made most often was a struesel coffee cake that I would get almost ready the night before, on Saturday night. Then just had to mix the wet and dry Sunday morning and bake. The recipe is from an old old Better Homes cookbook. We still do this.

    • I usually just use a 9 x 12 glass baking dish, so that the sides of the rolls can be softer rather than baked hard. I feel that having a pan with sides is the way to go, over a jelly roll pan. That one pan that you thought looks like a broiler pan is a larger pan with small sides (well, maybe like a jelly roll pan) but I guess I used it to squeeze more on. I made these a few weeks ago.

      Your parents subscribed to classy and educational magazines–that you still get! And nice that you swap out with your mother. Are those still the only magazines you get? We used to enjoy Newsweek until they stopped their print publication.

      Our farming was all corn and soybeans, a neighbor helped dad farm. Lots of acres! My father also raised hogs, although during that period of his life he also worked in town as president of a small start up trailer factory. It went bust in 5 years, typical. Then he continued farming. We did not live far south enough to raise citrus, other than kamquats!

      Your recollections of Home Ec. are great. I was very impressed when I met my future husband and he said he took a Home Ec. class especially targeted for guys. He learned to mend and some other chores–not that he does much of those things anymore! Yes, I like your word for the organization of Home Ec. classes! I remember the class being divided into “kitchen groups” with shopping lists and equipment lists and then inviting other “kitchens” to your meal or party. Thanks for bringing back that memory also!

      Your struesel–and Sat. night tradition–sounds great. Love this! Thanks for the conversation.

  2. Melodie, these look so yummy. I enjoyed making yeast rolls for special occasions when I was a young mom. Stuart learned to make them also. They were a special treat. I also made potato buns from a PA Dutch cookbook that were always a hit. They had sweet water and crumb topping that almost made them taste like sweet rolls also.

    I don’t remember the magazine, but I do remember home ec. I enjoyed the reprieve from academic subjects and the chance to move about in class. I even brought home recipes I learned there for “modern” homemakers. The story is one of my favorite chapters in BLUSH.

    • Kudos to your Stuart. I think you are right that what was nice about home ec. was the reprieve from other school work–and the bonding with friends. I remember shopping for material for our first “skirt” projects in 9th grade and it was those girls who became some of my best friends all through high school. Embarrassing to say now, but we all bought material alike (navy blue) and frequently wore them to school on the same day!! I can’t remember whether we made blouses alike too or not. Fun stuff.

      I will go back and check your chapter in Blush with the “modern” homemaker reference. 🙂 Thanks for rolling some thoughts around here, Shirley.

  3. Athanasia permalink

    We had two places in town to buy fabric…the department store and the 5&10 store. Our first project was a tote bag. My friend Marlene was in my group so my sister and I stayed in town overnight with her Friday and we walked to the store Saturday morning with our list and our money in our purses. Junior high was when we first had to have a purse for school. No one used backpacks then.

    We picked out our fabric and thread and interfacing. Also the list items….measuring tape, seam ripper, chalk marker, scissors, pincushion, pins. I picked a turquoise twill. I still have the wooden spool of thread “Talon mercerized sewing color fast made in USA 25¢” It is only about 1/4 full. We paid for our purchases then went to the candy counter 🙂 I probably bought either those chewy tricolor coconut cubes or anise squares. Then we walked back to her house, dawdling and visiting on the way. People miss out on so much nowadays, always being tied into a car.

    When we got home after my mother picked us up my grandma had a sewing basket for both of us. I still use mine…It’s sitting right next to me.

    • Thanks for your delightful story and memory and how neat that you still have the wooden spool of thread (they don’t make ’em like that anymore, do they!). Ah yes, the tote bag. I think one of my sisters made one. We actually started by making a pin cushion, which I had for many years too. I made it out of a corduroy fabric used in my favorite jumper as a small elementary schooler. I like your supply list. And of course a trip to the store demanded a stop at the candy counter. How very precious that your grandmother got you sewing baskets. By the time my girls were in middle school and high school, very little was offered in the way of sewing class (although their electives were always band and music classes, so they may have been offered and I just didn’t know it) but our girls were all taught to sew by my next door neighbor Barbara through actual “4-H” classes she conducted in summer where she taught middle school. So she took them to school with her for a week during the summer and they learned the basics–probably much better than I could have taught them myself. Thanks, Athanasia, your additional stories always bring out more!! –and a little off topic of the rolls, but I do not care!!

      • Athanasia permalink

        Off topic? Haha…you started the tangent by mentioning Home Ec magazine…my mind just goes with it. I have a gallon glass jar with empty wooden spools in it, about 2/3 full, started who knows when. We used to play with them when we were younger…stack, make games, use for projects etc. Now I just save them now that spools are just styrofoam or plastic.

        We did 4H too, of course, but the school system did not let us out of the required classes. I was only able to take 2 years of Home Ec as had to pick up the foreign language requirement. No music for me past the 1st year of required…not a singer and no interest in public performance with a musical instrument. So I took Art 8th to 12th grade.

      • Yeah, I introduced the “sewing thread” I guess!! Love it all.

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