Willa’s Blue Ribbon Pecan and Cinnamon Rolls

Jan D’Atri | Apr 5, 2012, 8:10 a.m.


Jan D’Atri

It’s April, and that means I pull out one of my favorite recipes for Easter brunch.

I absolutely love sharing this doughy, ever-so-light, award-winning recipe for the Parks’ Family Pecan Rolls. Now you can savor the sweet rolls that won first place in the bread category at the Ohio State Fair back in 1954!

The story starts with Julie Parks, home economics major who bought a cookbook years ago that had a potato roll recipe in it. Julie’s mom, Willa (Dibel) Parks, started playing around with the recipe as a cinnamon roll until she perfected it. Julie added her touch (and the pecans) and, with the potato recipe as a base, Julie started making show-stopping pecan rolls. Soon people were begging her to open up her own bakery. Instead, Julie did the state fair circuit and won many awards including the First Place Blue Ribbon at the Ohio State Fair. The Parks family shared this recipe with me when I was compiling my second cookbook, Rescued Recipes.

Immediately, it found a home on page 57 in the “Sweets and Snacks” chapter, and I’ve been making it ever since. I think you’re going to love these sweet treats for Easter brunch and all year long!

Pecan Rolls

Dough for Yeast Rolls

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 cup scalded milk

1 cup mashed potatoes — Idaho baked, no lumps!

2/3 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

5 1/2 to 6 cups flour

2 cups (or more) pecan halves

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. In a small pot, scald milk. In a large bowl, add butter, sugar, salt, mashed potatoes and scalded milk. When milk mixture is cool, add dissolved yeast and eggs. Stir in flour. Turn onto floured surface and knead until the mixture makes soft dough. Knead until dough is elastic. Add flour as needed. Place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let double in size.

Prepare two round baking pans (approximately 10 inches in diameter) by greasing sides generously with butter. Then pack brown sugar into the sides and fill bottom of the pan with glaze.

To Make Glaze

In a small pot, heat 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons water until center boils. Remove and cool for 30 minutes then pour into bottom of baking pan.

Arrange approximately 2 cups of pecan halves on top of glaze (in the bottom of the pan) in a circular design.


Next, roll dough into a large rectangle (about 18 inches by 24 inches). Brush dough lightly with softened butter (about 3 tablespoons). Sprinkle with 2 cups of brown sugar. Roll up, lengthwise, into a long log. Slice into approximately 1 1/2-inch pieces. Arrange rolls in pans on top of the pecans, pinwheel side facing up. Spread a little softened butter over rolls. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot until double in volume, approximately one hour. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until light brown. When still warm, turn pan upside down so pecans are on top. Pull apart and enjoy.

Makes 24 to 26 rolls, enough for two large pans of pecan rolls.

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