Bessie P’s Cinnamon Rolls


You’ve probably seen articles over the last few years talking about how the average age of first-time mothers has been steadily rising — by something like four years (from having your first kid at 21 to having it at 25) over the last couple decades. I think there are lots of reasons to celebrate this shift — for example, women having increased opportunities to get an education and start a fulfilling career — but there are also some reasons why it’s kindof a bummer. To me, the biggest reason is GRANDPARENTS.

I am very lucky on the grandparent front. Partly because my parents had kids young (and partly because their parents had kids young…), I actually have four grandparents who are not only alive and kicking, they’re also healthy, active people who I really enjoy getting to see and spend time with.

[And they may in fact be the only people who actually read this blog. Hi, grandparents!]


As if that weren’t lucky enough, I also had wonderful relationships with several of my great-grandparents for a long time. Man, great-grandparents are just the coolest. My great-grandma, Bessie P, lived just a quick walk away until I was 15 years old. And she was one. cool. chick. Sometimes I would get to spend the whole day with her, and she would ask me what I wanted to have for lunch. I would ask what my options were, and she would shrug and say “anything.” Though I regret it now, I would usually pick a frozen pizza, because she bought the good kind. Great-grandparents are cool, but kids are are dummies.

I loved going to Bessie P’s house. Somedays she would tell me stories about “the olden days” — one involved killing geese by wringing their necks! — while we sat on the porch swing that was always right outside her front door. Another day I found some old baby bottles she had in the kitchen and she fixed me a Coke in a baby bottle, which seemed very cool to me at 10 years old. Another thing I’ll never forget is the way she pronounced “interesting”: “inner-STING.” I would tell her stories about school, and she would tell me that that sure was inner-STING.

In addition to being a Grade-A Cool Chick, Bessie P was also an excellent cook. When I started cooking in earnest a few years ago, I asked my Grandma to look through Bessie P’s recipe cards. I took pictures of all of them on my iPhone (technology!) and vowed to tackle some of them in my own kitchen. I was a little stymied by some of them, though — like this cinnamon roll recipe that lacked either a bake time or an oven temperature. Isn’t her penmanship beautiful, though?


After being intimidated by her recipe cards for over a year, I finally decided to give the cinnamon rolls a try — making a few tweaks and incorporating some educated guesses, of course. I’m so happy I did, because these were delicious, soft, tender, and sweet, but best of all, they gave me a nice chance to think back on the good times I had with Bessie P.


One package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 cups 2% milk, warmed
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4-5 cups flour
2 tsp salt

Cinnamon Mix:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar

Maple Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
2% milk as needed (no more than 1/4 cup)

  1. Add yeast to warmed 2% milk in large bowl; let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add softened butter and eggs to milk and yeast and mix until just combined. Add flour, mixing, until dough is soft and pliable and no longer sticky (I used just over 4 1/2 cups).
  2. When flour is mixed into dough, add salt. Knead briefly on floured surface until all elements are well combined (no more than 2-3 minutes).
  3. Place dough in large bowl that has been lightly greased or coated with nonstick spray. Let rise until double in size, about 1 or 1.5 hours.
  4. When dough has risen, punch down to deflate. Roll out on floured surface to form large rectangle, with dough about 1 inch thick.
  5. To make cinnamon mix, combine melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar; mix well. Drop cinnamon mix by spoonfuls on rectangle of dough, then spread with your fingers or the back of a spoon to cover dough completely. Starting from long side of rectangle, roll dough up tightly into long roll.
  6. Using sharp knife (I found a bread knife works best), cut dough roll into individual cinnamon rolls, about 2-3 inches long. Place rolls in 9×13 baking dish that has been coated well with butter, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise overnight (not in the refrigerator).
  7. In the morning, preheat oven to 350. Once preheated, bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until edges of rolls are golden brown and just starting to crisp.
  8. While cinnamon rolls are baking, make the maple glaze. Combine powdered sugar and maple syrup; stir. Add milk little by little, stirring well, until glaze reaches desired consistency. I wanted mine relatively thin so I could pour it easily, so I used about 3 tbsp of milk.
  9. Pour maple glaze over cinnamon rolls and serve warm.


What a wonderful homemade treat — and not just nostalgic, but seriously, seriously good. I don’t know if Bessie P put any sort of glaze on her cinnamon rolls — I can’t quite remember, and her recipe cards didn’t mention one — but I decided to try a quick maple glaze for these. If you decide to do a glaze when the rolls are fresh out of the oven, note that it’ll (for lack of a better word) “flush” some of the cinnamon mix out of the rolls, unless you have rolled them very tightly. This in no way diminished my enjoyment of these rolls, but I’ll remember that next time and make sure to roll even tighter.


What a cool chick.


One thought on “Bessie P’s Cinnamon Rolls

  1. My favorite story, er, r, recipe that you’ve posted to date. It warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. I hope your grandparents DID read it!

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