butter dumplings

So here’s something new (or, it’s new for me, at least) — butter dumplings.

Their actual name is “butter rolls,” but I think that’s all wrong. These are biscuits baked in butter; therefore, butter dumplings.

And before we go any further, let’s get this straight: there is nothing, absolutely nothing, healthy about these babies. Don’t even try to justify.

I discovered this recipe in Rick Bragg’s book The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table. It was the first one in the book, and so inspiring was his writing that I had no choice but to leap to my feet and make a batch right then and there. (Bragg has that effect on me. Just two days ago, I slammed the book down mid-paragraph and galloped out to the kitchen to make a grilled cheese-and-grape jelly sandwich.)

I slipped the dumplings in the oven at the same time we sat down for supper. My food scarfed, I entertained everyone by reading from the book’s introduction, part of which, it just so happened, was about the very buttered dumplings that I was making. While I read, I had to hop up once to flip the dumplings in their bubbling, sugary-milk bath, and then again a second time to pull them from the oven and fill dessert bowls. I continued reading then, though every now and then my words were drowned out by startled pleasure-gasps: Oh, WOW, and, Mmm, this is good, and, Yeah, REALLY good.

Nothing more than plain biscuits set afloat in a lake of sweetened condensed milk and butter, vanilla and cinnamon, I consider these the Southern equivalent of an emergency dessert. The cook is already making biscuits for dinner anyway, so instead of rustling up a whole different dessert, she (or he) just holds a few biscuits back and cracks open a can of sweetened condensed milk. Easy-peasy.


As the biscuits bake, the liquid boils down, transforming into a thick, gently-spiced caramel syrup. Fresh from the oven, the dumplings look an awful lot like an alien planet, or oatmeal, or maybe cancer cells, but be ye not dismayed! 

Place a sticky hot dumpling in a bowl, or on a plate that you picked up from the Gift and Thrift, and spoon a little sauce over top. Weirdly enough, they taste just like apple dumplings but without the apples.

I like my dumplings sizzling hot (the leftovers reheat just fine in the microwave) and then drowned in a goodly amount of cold milk. Sliced fresh banana is a fine addition, too. 

Butter Dumplings 
Adapted from The Best Cook in the World by Rick Bragg

My younger son complains that these are too sweet. He may have a point. Perhaps next time I’ll reduce the sugar to just a half cup.

For a thinner sauce — and for more of it — add a little extra milk.

For the biscuits, you can use whatever biscuit recipe you like, but Rick’s mother’s is as follows: Work several tablespoons of lard into about three cups of self-rising flour. Stir in a half cup of buttermilk and a bit of water, maybe a couple tablespoons. Combine to make a dough and then pinch off pieces, rolling them into balls and patting flat into smallish biscuits.

8-9 smallish biscuits
1 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup milk, at least
1 cup sugar (or less)
1 teaspoon each vanilla and cinnamon
1 stick butter

Directly in the baking dish (a 9×13-inch pan is too big but an 8×8-inch square is definitely too small), whisk together the condensed milk, regular milk, sugar, and spices. Cube the butter and distribute evenly over top the liquid.

Lay the biscuits on top of the liquid, briefly pushing them under with your fingertips so the tops get wet. It is of utmost importance to not, under any circumstances, crowd the biscuits. If you do, they will grow together in the oven and the whole thing will be ruined.

Bake the dumplings at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and gently flip each dumpling. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 10 minutes or so.

Serve warm, with cold milk.

This same time, year previous: what kind of stove should we buy?, omeletty egg bake, the quotidian (1.25.16), a wedding, sour cream and berry baked oatmeal, about a picture, swimming in the sunshine, Friday evening fun, Gretchen’s green chili.



    My grandmother made butter dumplings differently. She would roll out the biscuit dough, slather it with butter, generously cover with sugar and the roll the dough as for jelly rolls. Cut into 1 inch rolls and place in the pan. More sugar on top. Lots . Pour cream with the addition of vanilla thinned with milk (no half and half then!) over the rolls.The cream should cover the tops a bit. Bake, checking to see if more cream should be added. The cream thickens to this sticky sweet sauce. We never added cinnamon.

  • Margo

    I adore that kind of goo – I like dumplings of any kind! I guess I'm going to have to read that book 🙂
    I recall now that one cookbook I worked on had chocolate dumplings – an old old family recipe that someone submitted. . . pretty sure they were boiled on stovetop in a chocolate sauce. . . must go look that up.

    Also on emergency biscuit desserts: look up the Fruit Dumplings in More With Less (page 270) which uses biscuit dough and then a sugar sauce dumped over all and I love these better than apple dumplings made with pastry.

  • lisa

    I love Rick Bragg's writing – my husband travels in a couple weeks and he's taking All Over But the Shoutin' to read on the plane 🙂 (I'm so excited he's going to read it!) And I'm glad you mentioned this cookbook – I had no idea! Excited to try that biscuit recipe….

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