Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


♥ Mama’s Biscuits ♥

A wooden rolling pin

Image via Wikipedia

I’m just back from my annual retreat with my Romance Writer Ink sisters. We had a GREAT time (as usual!) The women in the group do most of the cooking while we’re there, and I have to say, we’ve got a great bunch of cooks.

I make a breakfast each year, and I always make the same thing. Biscuits and gravy. I’m always happy to share the how-to, and this year our speaker, the fabulous Jean Brashear,  asked for my recipe. (If you haven’t yet, check out her book, The Goddess of Fried Okra. It’s great!)

So while I was sharing, I thought I’d share here, too.

Mama’s biscuits:

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

2 C flour
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt

Mix the dry ingredients, then add enough buttermilk to make a sticky dough—about 1 cup.

Flour a pastry board, dump the dough onto it and knead lightly until just manageable.

Pat out dough (you can use a rolling-pin, but Mama never did) until it’s about an inch thick.

Cut out biscuits.

Put enough oil in your biscuit pan to cover the bottom well. Heat the oil in the oven until very warm. One at a time, turn biscuits over in hot oil and scoot to the edge until all the biscuits are in the pan. Bake at 450 for twenty or twenty-five minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Easy-peasy, huh?

I gave the recipe to a friend once, who came back and said, “You left something out. Don’t you put oil or fat or something in the biscuits?”

“No. You don’t. The oil or fat is in the pan.”

“I’ve never heard of any kind of bread without fat in it.” She had I-think-you’re-wrong look on her face. “Neither has my mom.”

I called my mother to see if I’d been making them wrong for fifteen years, but she assured me it was the way her mama taught her.

I told Marilyn Pappano, who had the pleasure of living several places in the south while her husband was in the navy, about that once. She said she’d seen them made that way many times when she lived there, and since Grandma Reeves was born on the Delta (Mississippi Delta) that makes sense.

What recipe do you make when you’re cooking for a crowd?


♥ Book of my Heart ♥

Unlike what most people mean when they say, “the book of my heart” this isn’t a book I wrote. This is a book I own that grows dearer and dearer to me every year and lives deep in my heart.

Do you have a favorite cookbook? Mine’s called Fancy Country Cooking from the First Christian Church. (I have another extra-special-to-me cook book my friend Marilyn made for me, but I’ll tell you about that another time.) Fancy Country Cooking is one of those cookbooks that churches put together, then sell to each other and their friends.

This book means so much to me because it has recipes from so many of the people I’ve known most of my life–many who are gone. Some have moved away, some have died, even some who’ve grown up and moved to other towns and churches.

Sometimes when I look through it, like this morning, I can barely see the pages for the tears. I see “Ruth Wiles Sugared Popcorn”, and remember my piano teacher. Everyone who knew her called her Mitten.

We always scheduled my lesson for the last one in the day so afterward, we could have hot tea and sugared popcorn (I call it sticky popcorn) and knit together. Mitten was one of the last people I said goodbye to when I went to college.

On another page I find Poppy Seed Bread by Jean O’Kief. Mrs. O’Kief was one of the most loved women in C-Town. She was a teacher who didn’t believe there was ever a bad child. She wouldn’t listen to gossip and wouldn’t even let a kid talk bad about himself.

I didn’t have her for a teacher, but I did have her for a customer at Four Seasons, the dress shop my mother owned. She appreciated everything in the store, the hard work we did and the fact that we had such pretty things in a small town. 

Grandmother’s dressing is in this cook book.

Miss Holler, my 6th grade teacher’s sugar cookies.

And more pecan pie recipes than I ever knew existed.

On page G-2 is a recipe my mom put in. It’s called Momma’s Blue Ribbon Hot Rolls. To be honest, I don’t remember Mom making them very often (if at all.) But oh, my goodness! When Grandma made them, the house filled with the wonderful perfume of rising yeast. (To be honest, I like the dough better than I did the baked rolls.)

When Grandma lived on the west side of C-Town, we had several holiday meals in that rambling old two-story house. There wasn’t much heat except for a gas stove in the living room and the cook stove in the kitchen, but that made the rolls that much easier to smell!

Grandma Reeves’s rolls won the Blue Ribbon at the Cherokee County fair at Tahlequah two years in a row.  

Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Image via Wikipedia


Here’s the recipe:

Momma’s Blue Ribbon hot Rolls

  • Scald 2 C. milk


  • 1-3/4 C. cold water
  • Pour over
  •              2 tsp salt 
  •              5 T Crisco, melted
  •              1/2 C sugar

Stir until the milk, water, sugar mixture is lukewarm.

Add 2 cakes yeast mixed with 1/4 C lukewarm water.

  • Add 10 C flour, working until dough is stiff.
  • Let set on floured board 10 minutes.
  • Work down (knead) and put in greased pan (or bowl).
  • Let rise 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Work down.
  • Let rise again until finger prints stay in dough when pinched. (I don’t know how long that is. Probably at least 30 minutes.)
  • Make into rolls
  • Let rise 30 minutes.

Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

 I tried making rolls once when I was first married. I used hot water with the yeast instead of lukewarm. Needless to say, I killed the little beasties and the rolls didn’t rise. My bil named them “eggs”, because they looked like brown hen eggs.

I won’t make that mistake again! But I don’t make hot rolls all that often, either. And if I do, that bil won’t get any. LOL!

Do you have a cook book that has a place deep in your heart? Care to share???