Feather Rolls

Recipe: Feather Rolls

Summary: One birthday in my early teens, my mother gifted me with a recipe box that held many of her most often used recipes. It was to be the start of my own personal collection. The recipes she had included were typed, one by one, with the cursive typewriter onto pristine white index cards. Some thirty years and fourteen whole-house moves later, I still have the recipe box, although it’s a bit beaten up, and have added many recipes. Some are typed, some hand written by friends no longer with me, and some computer printouts – cut down and glued to a 3x5” card. I’m pretty sure you can buy recipe cards in perforated sheets now, formatted and ready to slide through a computer printer, but I cling to my trusted old index cards. Each time I pull one out with the tell-tale cursive typing, it’s like a little visit with my mother.

The card titled “Feather Rolls” is a basic sweet yeast dough. I think it came from our French side of the family, but it’s not complicated. Anyone comfortable with yeast doughs will have no problems working with it. The once white card is caramel brown with use, water spots, and grease. It’s nearly unreadable, but I have the recipe mostly memorized and just use the card to spark my memory of my mother making rolls. There is also scribbling over the front of it from my now sixteen year old daughter who wanted mommy’s attention while she was baking “with me” one day. She’s had a few lessons making the rolls, it’s her legacy. In my time with the recipe, I probably use the dough to make cinnamon rolls more than anything else. They’ve become known as “The Magic Cinnamon Rolls” in my little town because they get people to do things that they might not normally do under normal circumstances. I personally think the “magic” in them is that not many people bake from scratch anymore. Yeast doughs in particular can be intimidating if no one’s ever mentored you before. Discerning dough consistency is an experience thing, not a recipe thing.

Below is the recipe as it is typed on the card. I’ve added a few notes below. I use the same recipe for dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, and orange rolls. It is easily augmented and adaptable.


  • 2 pkgs. Active Dry Yeast (2 tablespoons)
  • 2½ cups warm water (105°– 115°F)
  • ¾ cup soft or melted and cooled shortening
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8-8½ cups flour
  • 2½ teaspoons salt


  1. Soften yeast in the warm water.
  2. Add shortening, sugar, eggs, 4 c. flour and salt. Stir to mix and then beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in remaining flour. You may want to use your hands to mix in the last two cups. This will be a soft dough.
  4. Place in a greased bowl and lightly grease surface of dough. Cover tightly. Store in refrigerator overnight or until needed. (Dough will keep about 4 days, but punch down cold dough daily.)
  5. When ready to use, shape rolls and allow to rise until doubled before baking.

Quick Notes

I NEVER use eight cups of flour, more like six. This really depends on your elevation and how light you like your rolls in the particular adaptation you are using. If you’ve got something heavy like the syrup with sticky buns, you may want a slightly stiffer dough. When I confronted my mother, she denied that she put eight cups of flour on the card because she doesn’t use that many either. She did type it. I have proof.

I dissolve the sugar in the warm water before proving the yeast. I almost always prove the yeast because I’m not always quite sure how long it’s been sitting in the back of my fridge. If I was really organized I date the bag or something intelligent. I have Martha Stewart moments, but I don’t have her staff.

I don’t use water as hot as the recipe calls for. I use body temperature or even whatever temp comes straight out of the tap. If you do use warmer water, dissolve the sugar and allow it to cool a little before proving the yeast. Remember this stuff rises in the refrigerator.

I use loose bulk yeast, the kind that comes in an airtight brick until you break the seal. I use roughly 2T.

I’ve melted the shortening and not melted it. It’s stored at room temperature anyway so to me it’s always “soft.” My mother never melts it, at least not since I’ve been watching her. I’m not sure it makes a difference in the final outcome or not, except it maybe blends slightly easier when mixing, maybe.

I usually let the rolls over-rise slightly before baking.

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