meet along the way: Nancy Bishop and Molly Brown

By Amanda Flinn

Editor’s Note: This story was first published as “Community Cookbook: Make cinnamon rolls with Nancy Bishop and Molly Brown” in the July 2024 issue of The Best Years.

Photo by Megan McClanahan

Nancy Bishop was born and raised in Galesburg, Ill., during the 1950s, a time when life felt simple. Her mother made their food from scratch, and many of their dresses were home-sewn. Between growing up in 4-H and helping her mother in the kitchen, Bishop learned to cook homemade chicken and noodles and every kind of dessert. If her mom worked in the evenings, Bishop prepared the meals for her dad and brothers.

By the time she was a young adult, Bishop was baking Swedish rye bread at The Red Oak restaurant and selling cinnamon rolls out of a Hoosier cabinet at the Bishop Hill market.

“We were not a rich family,” Bishop says. “We didn’t go out to eat. So, I learned to cook the foods that [my mom] did. The cinnamon rolls were my mother’s recipe. She was a great cook.”

Bishop went to nursing school and met her husband Joe, who is from Southeast Missouri. Struggling to find employment, they moved their family to Cape Girardeau and began working as nurses at Southeast Hospital. They connected with La Croix Church, and their kids got involved in 4-H.

When their daughter, Molly Brown, was in third grade, they moved to a home in Jackson. And while there was no dishwasher, Molly jokes, referring to her and her siblings who washed dishes by hand, “My dad had four of them.”

As a kid, Molly remembers being welcome in the kitchen and baking cookies with her mom, but it was her grandmother who always had cinnamon rolls ready to pull out and eat.

“My mom would leave some plain,” Bishop says. “She liked them hot out of the oven with a little butter on them.”

Molly married Justin Brown in 2005 and graduated from Southeast Hospital College of Nursing in 2006. As they began their own family, she experimented with new recipes, but learning family favorites was important to her. When her grandmother was in her 80s and she was in her 30s, they spent a weekend baking together, so Molly could perfect the cinnamon roll recipe.

Throughout the years, Molly has played around with add-ins in the coffee cake recipe, like lemon blueberry and almond, but the dough recipe has remained the same. And Bishop continues to make some without icing, just like her mother. The cinnamon rolls are enjoyed by the family, but have also been a big hit with the community.

“Once, I made over 600 cinnamon rolls as a fundraiser for Respire Haiti,” says Bishop, who also gifts them to neighbors and friends.

“And I’ve sold them to make extra money for my daughter’s cheer [squad], or to feed the Eagle Lake staff during camp week at La Croix Church,” Molly says.

Making food has always been a part of ministry for this mother-daughter duo. Bishop spent many years planning monthly meals for Vespers, an evening service held at La Croix Church, and would often cook lunch for the church staff meetings. She’s been part of the hospitality team that helped prepare meals for families after a funeral. Most recently, she has been a part of making meals for Street Level Cape, a group that hands out hot meals to the unsheltered.

“When serving food, I feel like I’m doing something that Jesus would do,” says Bishop, who served meals to the intensive care unit (ICU) during the COVID-19 pandemic. “If someone was hungry, he’d feed him.”

On many occasions, Molly has been right there helping her mom cook and serve, but she’s also prepared food for Ignite and the IF Gathering, plus cookies for the Madrigal Feast in Jackson.

“I love to feed people and to enjoy food with them,” Molly says. “Taking cookies to a neighbor, dropping off food for a meal train — it’s a way to show love with no strings attached.”

Last year, the Browns moved their family of seven into the home Molly grew up in. Their kids are active, and their schedules are busy. Sometimes they cook from scratch, and sometimes their food is store-bought.

“No mom guilt. There’s too much of that,” Molly says. “Your kids just want to spend time with you, no matter what you’re making.”

And while there’s still no dishwasher in the home, Molly is thankful to be there. And she’s grateful for the time spent with her grandmother, all of the recipes and her cake pan that she inherited.

“I use it all the time,” she says.

 

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

2 packages yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 stick soft butter

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

5 to 7 cups flour

2 cups brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 stick melted butter

Add yeast mixture to milk. Cream butter and sugar, add salt and eggs. Add milk/yeast mixture. Add 3 cups flour, then slowly add more flour to soft dough. Let rise in greased bowl.

After dough rises, roll into a large rectangle. Cover with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up from long side and pinch together. Cut into 1-inch slices.

Spray pan with Pam Cooking Spray. In a 9×13-inch pan, you should be able to get three slices across and four slices down. Let rise again on top of stove, while preheating oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes. Usually makes 36 to 40 rolls.

Icing

Melt 4 tablespoons butter, then add 2 tablespoons milk. Stir in 3 cups powdered sugar. Add more milk or powdered sugar as needed for spreading consistency. Frost while warm. Rolls are good without frosting when hot.

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