My family had many traditions during the holidays while I was growing up. On Thanksgiving, we would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. During the Christmas season, we would drive around different neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights. On Easter, we would do our annual family Easter Egg Tapping event. Out of all the traditions that we had from holiday to holiday, there was one constant growing up: Grandma Laneville’s homemade sticky buns.
My grandma was a sweet lady. She loved her Catholic faith, crossword puzzles, getting her hair done, and going to the casino. In fact, when my brothers and I each turned 21, she took us to the casino and gave us $100 to spend. Every year from then on, we would go to the casino twice a year with her, and every year the same thing would happen. She would win money, and the rest of us were happy if we broke even.
It was an ongoing joke in our family that if you wanted to win at the casino, you needed to take Grandma Laneville with you and sit next to her at the slots. She enjoyed playing the penny and nickel slots and could sit at the same machine for a couple of hours still playing with the same $20 that she started with — and be ahead. While I got bored with the penny and nickel slots, I took my luck to the quarter slots and usually lost it all in a matter of minutes.
She had more patience than the rest of us, which is probably why she won and we lost. Her patience served her well in many aspects of her life: faith, family, crossword puzzles, and baking. Baking her sticky buns involved many steps and even more waiting, and everyone in our family benefited from her ability to wait and wait and wait for the sticky buns to rise and bake.
When my brothers and I told her that we loved the sticky buns, she would just smile and think we were crazy. She didn’t think there was anything special about her sticky buns, but they were hands down the party favorite. The mix of cinnamon and sugar with a caramel glaze was the perfect fit for every holiday meal. My grandma passed away almost four years ago at the age of 98, and we still talk about the sticky buns and how much we miss them.
I never made the sticky buns with my grandma, and I don’t have the recipe that she used. But, a few weeks ago, Anna was planning ahead for the holidays and asked what food I wanted to make as a family. I jokingly said that I wanted sticky buns.
Anna said that her mom, who is no stranger to baking, had a recipe for sticky buns that Anna loved growing up. We asked Anna’s mom if she would be willing to make them with Jude the next time she came to visit. I am not sure who was more excited, Anna’s mom or Jude. They both love to bake and work together in the kitchen.
The end the result was phenomenal. Anna, her mom, and their assistant, Jude, made 4 pans of 12 sticky buns each. We baked one pan and were able to freeze the other 3. We plan to thaw and bake some of the rolls for Thanksgiving here in about a month.
Baking the sticky buns
The recipe that Anna and her mom used is below. The recipe came from Anna’s grandma, and the recipe has been used in their family for years. Anna’s family likes it because the same recipe can be used for cheese rolls, pecan rolls, and cinnamon rolls. If you give the recipe a try, let me know what you think.
Basic batter for yeast rolls
Makes 2 dozen rolls
1 package dry yeast
¼ cup water (between 105 and 110 degrees F)
1 cup scalded milk
1 stick butter
¼ c sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3½ c flour
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
- Soften yeast in water and let stand 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, measure the milk, butter, sugar, and salt into a bowl. Let cool.
- Beat the milk mixture by hand, and add 2 cups flour. Beat 1 minute.
- Then, add egg yolk and egg white to the milk mixture, beating after each addition.
- Add yeast and beat.
- Add about 1½ cups of flour to form stiff but not dry batter. Beat.
- Let the dough rise double (for about 1 hour). Punch down.
For cheese rolls
Melt one stick butter. Roll out dough into two parts. Spread with melted butter and sprinkle on parmesan cheese. Cut into rolls. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
For pecan rolls
Melt one stick butter. Roll out dough into two parts. Spread with melted butter, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
For cinnamon rolls
Melt one stick butter. Roll out dough into two parts. Spread with melted butter, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Keeping the tradition alive
I look forward to keeping the tradition of sticky rolls alive this year. It’s fun to see that something that meant a lot to me growing up is shared with my kids and their grandma, too.
What family traditions do you enjoy celebrating with your family? I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments below.