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  • Mary Kay

Mom's Pecan Cinnamon Rolls from Great Grandma's Best Buns Recipe

They’re baked in family heirloom cast iron skillets!

Here’s an easy way to take one recipe to generate more enjoyable treats. It’s actually my Great Grandma’s Bun recipe that Mom used to transform into Pecan Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls. And, they were so tasty! Mom knew just how much brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and pecans to use in making these easy to pull apart breakfast rolls.

I’ve transformed it once more to make the breakfast rolls in my family heirloom cast iron skillets. Mom never made them in cast iron skillets, but lately this has become the thing to do – utilizing heirloom skillets to create great food.

First, Mom would make a double dinner roll recipe out of Great Grandma’s homemade bun recipe to yield about 6 dozen buns. I remember helping her make a variety of buns – clover shaped buns in muffin tins, parker rolls with their cute little pull apart slits, and the regular round dinner rolls on a sheet pan.

Many times, Mom would hold out enough of the dough for making breakfast cinnamon rolls early the next day. They smelled so good once she got them into the oven. The combination of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter with pecans created the best aroma to wake up to on a cold winter the morning.

She would get up early, take her saved premade dough from the day before, and roll it out for cinnamon rolls. She would layer swipes of soft butter all over the rolled-out dough with loose brown sugar, pecan bits and then cinnamon over it all. Carefully rolling it up, she would pinch the final long edge and expertly cut ¾” rolls. Using her round cake pans, lathering them up with soft butter, she would lay them carefully next to each other and let them rise for an hour. Sometimes she would add brown sugar, corn syrup and pecans in the bottom of the pans, creating beautiful sticky buns. Once they were in the oven, the kitchen aroma was so wonderful.

These are the rolls I’ve made here today. Except I’ve converted them to bake them in my family heirloom cast iron skillets. I especially like the skillets since they have such handy handles. I butter the pans as Mom used to. Then, making the cinnamon rolls as Mom did, and following the same recipe from Great Grandma Melissa, I allow them to rise right in the old family cast iron skillets for about an hour until they have almost doubled in size. I like to let them rise on the dining room table in the sun, with a light cotton kitchen towel covering them.

I’ve reproduced Grandma Melissa’s bun recipe below. I actually make a half recipe in order to make a smaller amount for my family. Unlike Mom’s usual routine, I used some cream cheese frosting which I added food coloring to for a more festive look.


- This recipe makes 3-5 dozen dinner rolls depending on how large or small you make them.

- I make a half recipe to produce 12-15 cinnamon rolls in my cast iron skillets.

Preheat your oven:

A few minutes prior to baking the cinnamon rolls, set your oven for 350F degrees.

Prep your pans:

Using one 12” and one 5” cast iron skillet, slather a good amount of real butter in the bottom and on the sides.

Best Buns Ingredients

2 Pkges Dry Yeast

2 t Salt

2 C Water, lukewarm

2 C Flour

2 Eggs

1 C Sugar

1 C Water

1 C Lard (I use white shortening)

6 C Flour

What makes them delicious cinnamon rolls:

½ C Butter, soft enough to easily spread

1 C Brown sugar

2 T Cinnamon, ground

1 C Pecans, rough chopped

Make and proof the cinnamon roll dough:

- In a medium to large bowl, mix the yeast, salt and 2 cups lukewarm water.

- Add 2 cups flour and stir so all are combined. It will be stringy and sticky.

- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm part of the kitchen 1-2 hours. I help it along on a cold day by placing a heating pad (heated in the microwave) under the bowl. The dough batter should be bubbly. Set aside.

- In a separate bowl, cream the shortening/lard, 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar with a pastry cutter until the everything has been well distributed. Mom and Gram both used lard. Later Mom used shortening, I think simply because it was easier to obtain and store than lard. Lard could be rather messy in its big block form, stored in the refrigerator as opposed to shortening's convenient plastic lidded cans that could be easily stored in the cupboard. I have always used white shortening.

- Add the 1 cup water and stir so it's well combined.

- Put the two mixtures together in the larger bowl and stir well.

- Add the 6 cups of flour, two cups at a time, and stir well after each addition. The last two cups may be difficult to stir in so I knead it all together with my cleaned hands for a few minutes in the bowl. (If you have a large enough electric stand mixer you may want to knead it together with the dough hook.) I like to knead it by hand so I can "feel" when it's ready to let rise again before rolling it for cinnamon rolls. I even knead it right in the big bowl, adding a little more flour if it's needed.

- If you don't knead it in the bowl, unload the dough onto a floured counter or bread board. Knead it a little more.

- Wash the bowl completely, and dry it. Then lightly brush some extra virgin olive oil or shortening on the bottom and sides of the bowl before putting the dough back into the bowl.

- Cover the dough bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen to raise for 2 hours. The dough should be satiny smooth on the outside.

- Take the plastic wrap off the bowl and punch down the dough.

- Pour the dough out onto a clean, floured surface.

Roll out into cinnamon rolls:

- Roll out into a 12” x 24” rectangle, moving the dough around as you use the rolling pin, in order to keep it from sticking to the surface.

- With an offset spatula, spread the soft butter all over the surface of the dough. Of course, you can adjust the amounts of the ingredients to spread and sprinkle over the dough before you roll it up.

- Sprinkle with the brown sugar.

- Spread the pecans all over the brown sugar.

- Sprinkle the cinnamon on top.

- From the long side of the rectangle, begin rolling the edge nearest to you, all along the edge. Keep it in a tight roll.

- When you get it completely rolled up, pinch the edge so it sticks together.

- Using a very sharp knife, cut ¾” segments.

- Set each roll into the cast iron skillet, allowing 1” between each cinnamon roll. I can get 7-8 rolls into the larger skillet and 5 in the smaller skillet.

- Allow the rolls to rise, covered, in a warm (not hot) place in your home, well away from pets and people. I set them in the sun on my dining room table, with light kitchen towels on top. If it’s winter and the room is cold, I’ll preheat my top smaller oven to 170F degrees for a minute, turn it off and insert my cinnamon roll filled skillets rise.

- Cover the buns on the pans with lightweight kitchen towels. Let rise for an hour in a warm spot in the kitchen, until they are double in size.

Bake the Cinnamon Rolls:

- Bake the cinnamon rolls at 350F degrees for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top. I check them at the 15-minute mark, rotate the pans and bake for another 3-5 minutes.

- Depending on your oven's actual temperature, they could take from 18-23 minutes. Either way, they should end up a nice golden brown on top.

Serve them up for the holidays or year round:

- Serve with butter or cream cheese and a cup of your favorite flavored coffee.

- Or frost them with a fluffy cream cheese frosting.

- During the holidays I decorate them with some fun festive designs.

- Gram loved them with homemade strawberry jam. I like them with blueberry jam.

- If you still need another jolt of sweetness, drizzle the top with a ready-made caramel sauce.

Yum! They are especially tasty within a few minutes after coming out of the oven, especially for breakfast, with a little butter or homemade jam. However you decide to serve them up, “Bake your own Memories!”

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