A moment of remembrance

September 7, 2013

And sadness. Learned on Facebook today that Mrs. Mary Lloyd Young, one of the sweetest ladies in the world and one of the best cooks to ever wield a spoon, passed on at the ripe age of 89.

Two things I will forever associate with her: The Marion United Methodist Church annual pre-Thanksgiving tune-up Turkey Dinner, and her homemade rolls.

This is the only photo I have of the rolls. It doesn't do them justice.

This is the only photo I have of the rolls. It doesn’t do them justice.

The turkey dinner is one of the two social events of the year in Marion, Arkansas, the other one being the Assembly of God Spaghetti Dinner. (Many of Marion’s sizeable Italian population go to the Assembly of God church, a story which has its roots in history and one I’ll tell you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em one day.) The menu never varied: Turkey, dressing (Oh, lord, such wonderful dressing!), cranberry relish, green beans, turnips. All the ladies of the church baked pies and cakes, so dessert was a big variety, and you learned to snag your favorite early.

And there were the rolls. Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, the rolls. Faintly sweet, soft as a cloud and about that light, big, puffy yeast rolls. I could eat them until I passed out from carb overload. Miss Mary Lloyd’s rolls.

A few years ago, the church published a cookbook. I bought one, chiefly because it had Miss Mary Lloyd’s rolls and Margaret Fogleman’s chicken salad recipes in it. (Mrs. Fogleman, another all-star cook in a church full of ’em, made the best chicken salad I have ever tasted In My Life.)

And ever since, I’ve made those rolls for every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, and a few occasions in between. They’re easy, they’re good, and I’ve never had ’em fail on me. You can make them in muffin tins, you can roll them up in little ping-pong ball sized lumps and bake ’em on a cookie sheet, or you can roll ’em out thin, paint ’em with melted butter, sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon and roll them up. Slice and bake, and you’ve got the best cinnamon roll going. You can make half of the recipe up in rolls (a dozen) and use the other half to make a loaf of bread, which is a little soft for a sandwich but is the best thing warm with butter that you’ll ever eat.

Miss Mary Lloyd was a lovely lady, out of whom the goodness just shone. I’m not sure how Marion Methodist Church will do without her, and I’m not at all certain they can have the Thanksgiving dinner without her. And I’ll think of her, and smile, every time I make these rolls.

Miss Mary Lloyd’s Yeast Rolls

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package active yeast (a scant tablespoon)
  • 1/3 cup room-temp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot tap water (the hottest it comes from your tap)
  • 1 egg

NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that I forgot to say when to put in the egg. Put it in when you’re creaming in the butter, or when you add the hot water, either one.

In a mixing bowl, mix together half  the flour and all the sugar, salt and yeast; use the paddle attachment to cream in the butter. Add the hot water, all at once while the mixer is running. Add the remaining two cups of flour and mix until combined. Knead it lightly, and plop it into an oiled bowl to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. Punch down, form as rolls or in a loaf pan or as cinnamon rolls, and allow to rise until double their size (maybe 40 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is). Bake at 375 until they’re a light golden brown. Eat as soon as they’re cool enough they don’t burn your mouth.

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