The University Club, Memphis, TN
The butter roll, a traditional Southern dessert, offers eaters a heart-stopping combination of butter and whole milk. Prepared by University Club chef Stan Gibson, who was helping out at Nick Vergos’s (The Rendezvous, Memphis) summer barbecue at the Beard House, this dessert has long been a homey favorite that only rarely appeared on restaurant menus. In his version, Gibson takes the butter roll to an even richer level, which might have seemed impossible: he substitutes cream and half-and-half for the traditional whole milk, and drizzles crème anglaise over the soaking liquid that already saturates the cooked biscuit. When this recipe was tested by a member of our staff, the staff member’s health-conscious mother ate half her portion, then clucked her disapproval and set it aside—it was too rich. At the Beard House, “too rich” isn’t in our vocabulary.
- 6 cups Pioneer Biscuit Mix or equivalent baking mix (alternatively, you can use 6 cups flour, 3 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, blended together in a food processor or blender with 3/4 cup chilled, unsalted butter cut into very small pieces)
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 14-ounce can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
- 3 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- Dash nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 quart half-and-half
- Honey (optional)
- Champagne grapes (optional)
- Fresh figs (optional)
Combine the biscuit mix (or the blended flour mixture) with the half-and-half to make a dough. You may not need all the half-and-half. Roll the dough out in a rectangle 13 inches long by 10 inches wide and sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg. Place tablespoons of butter down the middle of the rectangle and roll up along the longer side, sealing the ends. Place in a buttered 10 x 13-inch baking pan and bake in a 350ºF oven for about 30 minutes or until browned.
In a saucepan, combine the condensed milk, cream, vanilla, and nutmeg, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the 4 tablespoons of butter until melted. Pour this soaking sauce over the baked butter roll and let rest for 1 hour until most of the liquid is absorbed.
You can stop here, letting the soaking liquid serve as a sauce, or you can prepare the crème anglaise. Combine the sugar, nutmeg, and cornstarch in a medium bowl with the egg yolks and vanilla. Bring the half-and-half to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour a stream of the heated half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly so that the yolks do not cook. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Do not let it come to a boil. Strain immediately into a bowl over an ice bath and stir occasionally.
To serve, cut the butter roll into slices 2 to 3 inches thick. Place each slice on a plate and spoon either the soaking liquid or the crème anglaise over. Gibson also drizzles his butter roll with honey, and garnishes each slice with grapes and figs.