Lemon Bubble Rolls. It’s like being 5 again.

Holidays are sad for my friend T. Her mother died about 10 years ago, and while she spends the holidays with her husband’s family, it’s not the same.

The food, decorations and activities are all different. If T.’s mom were still alive, they would spend the day cooking their family recipes. With her husband’s family, the food will be made ahead and everyone will watch football. It’s not so much that one tradition is better than another, but that most of us _ if we had a reasonably happy childhood _ long for the traditions we grew up with.

This will be the first Thanksgiving in five years that I haven’t worked. I didn’t expect to have it off, so my mom isn’t here. She is coming at Christmas, and I’m happy about that. But, I miss her this week. I miss waking up and breaking bread for the stuffing while I watch the Macy’s parade on television. That was one of my childhood traditions, and no one’s stuffing can compare to my mom’s.

Tomorrow, G. and I will go to his mother’s, and I’m grateful for that too: that I have someone who loves me and a family to be with.

But today, I was feeling nostalgic, so I made my grandmother’s lemon bubble rolls. When I was a child, she made them for major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. My mother never made them (although she also loves them, but baking is not her favorite thing), and I thought the recipe was lost now that my grandmother has dementia. I mentioned this in an earlier post.

But, one of my aunts read my blog, and she has the recipe. She gave it to me a couple of months ago when I was in North Carolina. She said my cousins have been making the rolls for holidays for years. I guess that serves me right for missing family gatherings.

This is what my grandmother calls a Lemon Bubble Ring because it’s made in a tube pan. The rest of us call them Lemon Bubble Rolls.

I made the rolls this afternoon, and the smell of them baking in the house reminded me of holidays with my grandmother. She always served holiday meals on her special china. Lemon bubble rolls and creamed onions, one of my mom’s favorite things, were staples. We usually had turkey, not ham because I prefer it, although once my grandparents moved to Florida, we would sometimes have shrimp on Easter.

There are good things about being a journalist, but missing nearly every holiday with my family is one of the worst. I miss the sense of togetherness that came from having everyone around. I can’t even remember a lot of things we did during the day, but looking back, I have a sense of security and of knowing where I belonged. I rarely have that anymore as an adult.

I was so excited when the rolls came out of the oven that I ate four right away. G. called. I told him he will be lucky if there are any left when he gets home.

Lemon Bubble Rolls

5-6 cups flour

1 cup  sugar (divided into 2 half-cups)

2 packages yeast (each package is 1/4 ounce)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

2 eggs

2 lemons (you need the grated peel)

1/4 teaspoon mace

2 tablespoons  butter


In medium sauce pan over low heat, heat milk, ½ cup water and ¼ cup butter until very warm.

In large bowl combine ½ cup sugar, 2 cup flour, yeast and salt. With mixer at low speed, gradually beat liquid into dry ingredients.

Add eggs and beat 2 minutes at medium speed.

Gradually beat in ½ cup flour or enough to make a thick batter, continue beating 2 minutes.

With spoon stir in enough additional flour (about 2 cups) to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning so top of dough is greased. Cover with cloth towel. Let rise until doubled (about an hour).

In small bowl, combine ½ cup sugar, lemon peel and mace. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter.

Punch down dough.  Turn dough onto floured surface. Cover, let stand 15 minutes. Cut dough in half. Cut each half into 16 pieces and shape each piece into a ball.

In greased 10-inch tube pan, place half of balls. Brush with butter and cover with half of sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining balls, butter and sugar mixture so that you have two layers.

Cover with towel and let stand until double in size (about 45 minutes).

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan 5 minutes.


One response to “Lemon Bubble Rolls. It’s like being 5 again.

  1. These sound really yummy. You’re so right about the holidays, and the toll the industry can take on a family. This post got me thinking about our family traditions and which ones I want to carry over to my growing family. We used to have a big dinner and would have people over, but to me nothing major stands out. When I was older, I remembered trying to start one of where we go around the table to say what we’re thankful for. I think they only do that on the Turkey Days that I”m present, but I’ll keep that one going in my family because it’s nice, hokie, but nice.

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