The Denny Ryan Roll Recipe

So I usually hate recipes that begin with a story.

Just GIMMEE the friggin’ recipe already, k? I don’t need a long narrative about how you backpacked across Europe one summer in ’81 and met an old lady who had a farm stand and she taught you how to make peach jelly.

Ok, I totally made that up this second. My apologies if you’ve backpacked across Europe in 1981 and discovered an amazing peach jelly recipe.

Anywho . . .

My mother died in October.

I’m sorry. That’s sad. I’m sad. Hang in there – this is not a sad story.

It is, however

a story.

Because in order to tell you the recipe, I have to tell you the story.

If you really really just want the recipe, CLICK HERE and go straight to it.

Still with me? Awesome. Here we go.

My mother died in October.

I’m not going to go into it, but I would be remiss if I didn’t put a message here.


Those of us (like my mother) that are (were) doing the right thing are in danger from you asshats who aren’t.
That’s over. Moving on to the story.

My mother was known for her gardening skills, cooking skills, and amazing hospitality. Not a person stepped foot in our house without my mother asking them if they wanted something to eat or drink. She carried many a dish into many a potluck, and even hosted full dinner parties at their house. I remember Christmases and summers where she fed Dad’s entire office and their families, and she did it with a smile on her face and amazing food on the table.

Her food was always amazing.

She was amazing.

Dammit, I’m sad . . . hang on one second . . .

*background music plays*

Ok, Back. I really want to tell this story.

So Mom made lots of recipes, but she had standbys. And one of them was this roll recipe. She would insist it wasn’t anything special – just a recipe she had in a cookbook. But the rolls always turned out mouthwatering. They were lightly crusty on top, and super-soft in the middle. No edges – she’d jam them in the pan very tightly together so they’d pull apart and be soft all the way around. She taught me to make them, and I served them at more than one dinner event, and brought them to more than one potluck.

Years ago, when I was in high school, Mom and Dad and I moved from my hometown an hour and a half down the road. When I graduated high school, I went back up that road to my hometown and attended college there. During my time at Central Methodist University, I was invited to dinner at someone’s house that used to have club with my mother. Joyce proudly set a plate of rolls in front of me at the dinner table and looked expectantly at me. I blinked hard and smiled, confused at her excitement. “They’re Denny Ryan Rolls!” she chirped. (Joyce has this bubbly/eager/enthusiastic energy that shines through everything she says or does, no matter how mundane or ordinary the task. Clearly though, she did not think these rolls were mundane or ordinary.)

“Beg pardon?” I managed.

“Denny Ryan Rolls!” she bounced up and down on her heels. “Go on, go on, try one!”

I reached for a roll. She’d made them a little differently, but the taste and texture were still there. I realized this was my mother’s roll recipe. As I chewed, she buzzed around the table, setting more things out and straightening this and that. “When your mother and father left town, we all begged her for her roll recipe at club, and of course she obliged. We all make them, and they’re known as the Denny Ryan Rolls!”

Mom laughed and laughed when I told her this, and insisted again that it was just a regular refrigerator roll recipe from one of her cookbooks. But from then on, we always called them the Denny Ryan Rolls.

A LOT of time has passed since my family lived in Howard County, Missouri, and I have no idea if anyone still has or remembers the Denny Ryan Roll recipe. But I do know the love and hospitality my mother showered on everyone she fed is remembered . . . and for some of us . . . forever cherished.

Denny Ryan Rolls

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water – (“110” degrees Mom writes, but I don’t remember her checking the temp)
3/4 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup shortening – (I use Earth Balance sticks)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 egg

Soften the yeast in warm water.

Combine the milk, shortening, sugar, and salt.
Cool to lukewarm.

Add 1 cup of flour.
Beat well.
Beat in yeast mixture and egg.
Add remaining flour.
Mix well.

Place in greased bowl.
Grease surface.
Store in refrigerator at least 2 hours on until needed.
(can refrigerate overnight or a couple of days)

About 1.5 to 2 hours before serving time, shape dough on well-floured surface.
Let rise in warm place til double – about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Bake in hot oven – 400 degrees – 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes about 16 medium rolls.

🙂 ❤

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