WHEN IT COMES TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON, TRISHA YEARWOOD IS ALL ABOUT KEEPING UP THE TRADITIONS passed down from her parents. And in the Yearwood family, the biggest traditions centered around food. “When I was a kid, my dad would get up early every Christmas and make biscuits,” she says. “Christmas morning was about Santa Claus and a big breakfast with his biscuits! Now that I’ve lost both my parents, I know how precious those memories are. When I’m making those biscuits, I think about my dad, who’s been gone seven years, and it’s a great memory.”
Now it’s Yearwood making the biscuits for her own family, husband Garth Brooks and daughters Taylor, 20, August, 18 and Allie, 16, at their home in Oklahoma. (Garth likes his with sausage gravy while Trisha likes hers a little crispy with butter.) “I love it when my youngest walks in and says, ‘Oh my gosh, it smells so good in here!’ ” she says. “My favorite part of baking and cooking is not necessarily the food, it’s what the house smells like and feels like when the family is all together.” Yearwood’s talent in the kitchen is also her secret weapon when she wants to gather her active family together. “With our children in high school and college, and Garth’s schedule, everybody’s really busy, so those moments around the table as a family are few and far between,” says Yearwood. “But if everybody’s off doing something and I go, ‘Hey, I’m making dinner tonight,’ they’re here! That’s our family time, and we really try to make it a priority.”
In fact, according to Yearwood, whose cooking show Trisha’s Southern Kitchen returned to the Food Network for its second season Oct. 20, her home cooking doesn’t just bring the family together-it’s the best part of the holidays. “One big tradition that Garth has always had with his girls is decorating the tree. I’ve never seen anybody put so many decorations and ornaments on a tree in my life. There’s a gazillion!” says Yearwood. But the star on top of it all is the meal the family sits down to when the decorating is done. “It would be really disappointing if you had the tree finished, the presents wrapped, the music going, and then I’m like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t cook this year.’ That wouldn’t go over well. Cooking is my gift to my family.”
Though Yearwood admits it might be a gift that’s also a little self-serving. “Garth says the food tastes so good because I bake with love, and that might be true, but it’s really an ego trip!” she says with a laugh. “When they start to eat and get that look on their face and they can’t speak because they’re so happy, it’s gratification for me. I do it out of love, but as a singer, I’m also all about the applause.”
A note from Trisha: “These are fairly simple recipes. And what I love about the spoon rolls is you can keep the batter in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. You can have fresh rolls every night!”
Makes: 10 biscuits Hands-on time: 15 min. Total time: 25 min.
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups self-rising flour
¾ cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 450. Cut shortening into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 3 to 4 times.
2. Flatten or roll dough to ½-in. thickness; cut with a 2½-in. round cutter and place 1 inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Makes: 4 to 5 dozen mini rolls Hands-on time: 25 min. Total time: 9 hrs. 40 min.
1 (¼-oz.) envelope active dry yeast
2 cups warm (100 to 110) water
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
4 cups self-rising flour
1. Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.
2. Beat butter and sugar on low speed with an electric mixer until blended; add egg, beating until blended. Add yeast mixture, beating until blended. Gradually add flour, beating until smooth. Pour dough into a 2-qt. greased bowl. Cover and chill overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 400. Spoon dough into greased miniature muffin tins. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.
It’s easier than it looks: “I always loved homemade biscuits and rolls,” says Yearwood. “But I had the misconception that it’s got to be way harder than just going to the store and buying them. It is a little more time consuming, but it’s not an all-day thing.”
Where the recipe came from: “I got it from a friend who is 95 years old,” says Yearwood. “When you get a recipe from a Southern lady that’s been cooking for that many years, you know it’s going to be awesome!”
Makes: 1 (9-in.) loaf Hands-on time: 20 min. Total time: 2 hrs. 30 min.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup warm water
1 large egg
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped cranberries
1½ cups white chocolate morsels, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together flour and next four ingredients; set aside.
2. Combine orange zest and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in walnuts, cranberries and chocolate, if desired. Pour into a lightly greased 9×5×3-in. loaf pan. Bake 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan and cool completely on rack.