Tag Archives: Book Review

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert

The down-home baker known simply as “Sister,” whose irresistible yeast rolls are legendary in the South, shares recipes and her inspiring story in her cookbook, Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.

by Bakery Boy

I’ve been eating Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls for many years and for several reasons:

• Because they consistently taste terrific, from buttery to sweet to savory ends of the brown-and-serve spectrum.

• Because they’re as easy as picking up pans from the grocer’s freezer case and popping them in the oven for 20 minutes.

• Because Sister Schubert, a fine southern lady from the heart of Alabama, supports worthy charities through a foundation she created when her bread business grew from a home kitchen project into a nationwide juggernaut.

• And because I met her recently at a book signing and learned first-hand that she’s genuine “good people,” as we say down south without fretting the grammar.

THERE’S A BOOK? That there even was a book signing to attend, and thus a book, set off bells in my bakery-obsessed mind. I thought, if Sister Schubert has a cookbook out, I can make my own Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk biscuits, orange rolls, and sausage wrap rolls, just like hers.

I got a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters—Recipes for Success, Cooking & Living, and sure enough recipes for some if not all my favorite Sister rolls are included, plus many more unrelated to her frozen-rolls empire. I baked several items before going to meet her, glad to add new recipes and techniques to my personal arsenal.

Even with her book in hand, I will continue picking up store-bought Sister Schubert pans. Partly because making any kind of bread at home is very time consuming. Partly because it’s just too easy, at the supermarket, to grab those green-striped packages with Sister’s smiling face on them and know that at least that part of tonight’s dinner is taken care of.

Everlasting Rolls based on her grandmother's launched Sister Schubert's empire.

SHE’S GOOD PEOPLE Patricia Schubert Barnes of Andalusia, Alabama—dubbed “Sister” as a child by a sibling—ranks as a food celebrity in her home state. Locally the story is well known about how she started baking Parker House-style rolls the way her grandmother, known as “Gommey,” taught her, first for family, then for church fundraisers where they were an instant sensation, and soon for the world.

“I went from baking in my kitchen with a little Sunbeam mixer, to expanding onto my sun porch, to taking over 1,000 square feet in a furniture warehouse my father owned, to renting a 25,000-square-foot building, to moving into a 100,000-square-foot building in just a few short years,” Sister says of the business she launched in 1986.

“At first I took a few pans with stick-on labels to a little curb market in Troy and small grocery stores in south Alabama, asking them to sell my rolls. Now they’re sold all across the country and we’re making them by the millions every day at three locations. Two are close to home, in Luverne and Saraland, Alabama. The other is in Horse Cave, Kentucky, where we’re putting in what will be the fourth largest oven in America. That’ll make a lot more Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls!”

Most importantly, she adds: “Even though we’ve grown, we’ve stayed true to our roots. Our rolls have the same home-baked quality and taste as my grandmother’s. We use simple, wholesome ingredients like fresh milk, butter and whole eggs—never any preservatives. And every single roll is still placed in the pan by hand.”

Sister Schubert's Focaccia (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

“BRAND AMBASSADOR” Sister sold her company to a larger entity, Lancaster Colony Corporation of Columbus, Ohio, but she and her husband, George, remain involved in running the Sister Schubert division.

“My title now is Founder and Brand Ambassador,” she told me during her book signing at Birmingham Bake & Cook Company. “I do speaking engagements, appear on TV food shows, autograph books at kitchen supply shops and bookstores, and talk about Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls at every opportunity.

“When I’m home I develop new products. We’re getting into sea salt now, taking the gluten out for people allergic to it, switching to unsalted butter from the lightly salted butter we’ve been using, and things like that. It’s exciting, and it’s all going to be delicious.”

THE BOOK Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters, a good holiday gift idea for bakers and cooks, shares some of Sister Schubert’s best recipes. Her grandmother’s basic Everlasting Rolls (the Parker House rolls that started it all) come first, followed by variations with cheddar cheese, sausage, orange, or cinnamon.

She veers into non-baked items such as with smoked salmon crepes, cheesy shrimp and grits, artichoke crab dip, and chicken and sausage gumbo. But she quickly returns to her popular takes on cornbread, muffins, biscuits, scones, focaccia, challah, hot cross buns, something called tipsy eggnog bread, three kinds of pound cake, and more.

Find two excellent recipes—for corn muffins and focaccia—at two related posts here on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Sister Schubert's Country Corn Muffins (see recipe elsewhere on the Bakery Boy Blog)

Besides recipes and beautiful pictures, the book also shares Sister’s outlook on life, faith, family, and community. Bible quotes appear, from a favorite psalm (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer”) to a verse from Corinthians (“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”).

Even the book’s title has biblical roots in Ecclesiastes: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”

THE FOUNDATION A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes to the Barnes Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 2001 by Sister and George. Its missions include:

• Feeding the hungry by funding food banks and shelters

• Sending college students to learn about other cultures through the Sister Schubert’s Annual Scholarship for Study Abroad operated by Auburn University School of Human Sciences

• Funding an orphanage called Sasha’s Home in the Ukraine (where the Barnes’s adopted their son Alexsey, or “Sasha” for short)

The foundation’s mission, Sister says, is “To show by what we do—that we are thankful for food in a hungry world, that we are thankful for friendship in a lonely world, but mostly, that we are thankful for the opportunity to help save and love all of God’s children in the world.”

Amen to that! And please pass the dinner rolls!


Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls: 100 Crenshaw Parkway, P.O. Drawer 112, Luverne, AL 36049; www.sisterschuberts.com; 334-335-2232

To order a copy of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters by Sister Schubert (© 2009 CECA Enterprises LLC; $40), visit castyourbreaduponthewaters.com. Sister Schubert provided a copy for this review.

For more about the Barnes Family Foundation, to which a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters goes, visit www.barnesfamilyfoundation.org.


Two recipes from Sister Schubert’s book appear on the Bakery Boy Blog.

Country Corn Muffins

Click here for the Country Corn Muffins recipe


Click here for the Focaccia recipe


Book Review: Cakes to Die For! by Bev Shaffer

A food columnist’s tasty and detailed ode to cakes.

by Bakery Boy

Cake bakers have another reason to live, as if they need one more. Let’s face it: Cake bakers already have plenty of friends and admirers. Whether they’re making a single treat for the family table, dozens for a banquet hall, or truckloads for supermarkets, their sweet creations brighten celebrations  and make people happy. Now they also have Bev Shaffer’s inspiring and thorough ode to the genre, Cakes to Die For! (Pelican Publishing Company, $26.95).

Bev Shaffer

The Ohio-based chef, author, and culinary instructor is known for her long-running food column “Ask Bev” in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, her functional-fun column “Gadget Freak” in Northern Ohio Live Magazine, her radio spots broadcast on Akron’s WAKR, and her many appearances on Cleveland affiliates of major TV networks. She has developed more than 9,000 recipes and counting. In Cakes to Die For!, a 288-page hardback, she shares 175 of them, all for cakes.

Crunch of Praline Torte with Eggnog Cream. Photos by John Shaffer (Bev's husband).

It opens with the crowd-pleasing Moist Dark Chocolate Mocha Cake with Raspberry Filling, her “go-to” cake when she needs something “seductive,” she says. It ends with Bev’s Butterscotch Filling, about which she facetiously claims, “you could slather this between two pieces of cardboard and people would rave about it.” Between these appear scores of cheesecakes, cupcakes, “flipped over” cakes (her term for up-side-downs), “fancy-schmancy cakes” (which take more work but promise impressive results), and more. Photography by Bev’s husband, John Shaffer, show many of the cakes in mouthwatering detail.

Luscious Layered Tiramisu Torte

TIPS GALORE Useful tips are sprinkled throughout. Some explain the finer points of techniques like “cutting in the butter” or “folding ingredients” together. Others cause that light-bulb-above-the-head reaction with their but-of-course common sense. I like how she places tips labeled “a slice of advice” in the margins close to where they’re most needed. For example, next to the recipe for Deep Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Roasted Pear Cream she writes: “When you draw your clean finger across the back of a metal spoon dipped in the custard mixture, and it leaves a path, it is ready.” I can visualize that perfectly now.

Here are a few more tricks of the trade:

  • To avoid spilling batter down the hole in a tube or Bundt pan, cover the hole with a paper cup while filling the pan.
  • Cool a cake completely before frosting. Dust off any loose crumbs gently with a soft-bristled brush. Freeze layers for several hours or overnight before frosting…which helps the frosting adhere better.
  • Just before using refrigerated nuts, toast them over low heat in a dry skillet to brighten their flavor.
  • Can’t find cranberry preserves [for the Pumpkin Patch Cranberry “Flipped Over” Cake]? Pomegranate jelly is a perfect substitute.

Although come to think of it, if I can’t find everyday cranberry at my grocery, I probably won’t find more-exotic pomegranate either!

Cookies to Die For!

Brownies to Die For!

ALSO BY BEV Like Cakes to Die For! (May 2010), Bev’s  earlier books, Brownies to Die For! (March 2006), Cookies to Die For! (February 2009), and Mustard Seed Market Cafe Natural Foods Cookbook (September 2007) are also available from Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, Louisiana; www.pelicanpub.com, 504-368-1175. For more about Bev see www.bevshaffer.com.

BEV’S MUST-HAVES FOR A CAKE BAKER’S PANTRY I found this helpful. Maybe you will too.

1 – Flour, unbleached, all purpose

2 – Baking powder

3 – Baking soda

4 – Sugar, granulated

5 – Brown sugar

6 – Confectioners’ sugar

7 – Sale, sea salt preferred

8 – Arrowroot (a starch thickener with certain advantages over cornstarch)

9 – Butter, unsalted please!

10 – Milk, preferably whole milk

11 – Eggs, large please!

12 – Chocolate: bittersweet, semisweet, milk, white, and unsweetened cocoa power—only the very best will do!

13 – Vanilla extract, pure please!