I am hesitant to post a recipe for dinner rolls for fear that you will think I am the kind of person that makes bread. I love bread, but I do not make bread. I also would never want you to think that I think that making dinner rolls from scratch is required for your holiday table to be lovely. Frozen rolls are amazing, and I wholeheartedly support buying rolls from your grocery store freezer because oftentimes that is the right decision.
Making bread is trouble with a capital T, and if I am going to make dough, the return on my investment better be freaking awesome. A few years ago I decided to give dinner rolls a go, wondering if maybe there was something wonderful to be discovered, and when I did, my mind was blown.
These dinner rolls are freaking awesome, worth every ounce of time and trouble.
Let’s break the process down a bit, shall we?
The thing that makes these dinner rolls so delicious is the butter. Not just any butter. Browned butter. If you have never browned butter, I have written a post (with a video!) that you can reference. I cannot put into words how life-changing browned butter is, particularly in the context of bread.
We are going to brown some butter, and then set it aside. Then, we are going to create a milk paste (butter, flour, milk) that will cook until it is the consistency of craft glue.
Then we are going to wake up some yeast by stirring it into not-too-hot and not-too-cold milk. Yeast is fussy, and there’s no way around that. You’re going to have to use a thermometer to ensure the high maintenance yeast has exactly what its little yeast heart desires.
With our milk paste, browned butter, and activated yeast, we are going to create a dough in our stand mixer using bread flour (high gluten yields better bread!). The dough will rise, and then we will form fifteen dinner rolls.
A word about working with dough. Don’t fret. It’s not going to be perfect. Your rolls are going to look wonky and be different sizes and shapes, but I promise they will still taste amazing. You have enough to worry about with getting upset about the shape of your homemade dinner rolls. Promise me you’ll be chill and just keep going. As someone who struggles with “being chill,” we can do this.
Once your rolls are formed you have a choice. You can let them rise again, and bake them. Or, bonus points, you can pop them in the freezer until you are ready to bake them at a future date. Option B is my jam, and is how I manage to serve homemade rolls on Thanksgiving. All the details on how to execute frozen rolls in the recipe, but trust me. It’s the way to go.
When the baked rolls come out of the oven, they get slathered in more butter, sprinkled with a bit of salt, and make their debut on your dinner table to a crowd of adoring fans. One bite, and you’ll be reminded why trouble is always worth the effort.
To quote my son, there is nothing better about Thanksgiving than a plate full of homemade dinner rolls. I hope you agree.
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons for the pan, 6 tablespoons for the dough, 2 tablespoons to brush on the warm rolls before serving)
- 3/4 cup whole milk, divided (1/4 cup for the flour paste, 1/2 cup for the yeast)
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 1/4 cups bread flour
- 1/4 ounce active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons, which is usually one envelope from the grocery store)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, divided (1 egg for the dough, 1 egg to use as an egg wash)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Prepare your pan…
- You will need a metal 9X13 pan to hold the rolls. Get this out and set it aside. You can also use disposable aluminum pans.
Brown some of the butter…
- In a medium pot that we will use again, brown 8 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat.
- Remove the pot from the heat and carefully remove 2 tablespoons of the browned butter and use it to coat the bottom of your waiting 9X13 pan. Do you best to spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan, then set the pan aside. Do not clean the butter pan, but set it aside off of the heat.
Activate the yeast…
- In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, briefly heat the milk in the microwave until it registers at least 90 degrees but not more than 110 degrees. If your milk is not warm enough it will not activate the yeast. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast.
- Once your milk is at the right temperature, sprinkle the yeast into the milk and gently stir it in to mix a bit. Let is sit for five minutes. You should see some small bubbles accumulate as a sign that the yeast is awake and active.
Make the milk paste…
- While the yeast activates, using the same pan you used to brown the butter, whisk 1/4 cup whole milk, 3 tablespoons bread flour, and 1/4 cup water over medium heat.
- Continue whisking until the mixture become thick and has the consistency of paste. Remove the pot from the heat and scrape the milk paste into the bowl of your stand mixture. We will not use the pot again.
Mix the dough…
- To the milk paste in your mixing bowl add the activated yeast mixture, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 egg, and 2 1/4 cups bread flour. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and turn to the lowest speed for about a minute until everything is combined and a shaggy dough forms.
- Turn the mixer off and add 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Turn the mixer back to medium, and allow it to kneed the dough for three minutes. The dough will form a single mass, but will still stick to the sides of the bowl.
- Next, reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the browned butter to the dough, one tablespoon at a time. The butter will make the dough look shiny and greasy, but this is fine. It will continue to mix in as we go.
- Once all of the butter is added to the dough, turn the mixer to medium speed and allow it to kneed the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft and supple. Stay close by your mixer as it can sometimes travel across the countertop.
Let the dough rise…
- Lightly spray a bowl with cooking spray. Add the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for an hour. It should double in size.
Form the rolls…
- After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl to a clean work surface. Kneed it a few times to deflate it and shape it into a thick log. Use a knife or a bench scraper to evenly divide the dough into thirds. Then, divide each third into fifths. This will give you 15 pieces of dough, and they will all roughly be the same size.
- Take one dough portion, roll it in your hands, and do your best to pull the corners of the dough ball in towards the center creating a taut surface. Place the roll taut side up in the waiting pan with the browned butter in the bottom.
- Repeat with all of the dough balls, spacing them evenly in the pan. They should not touch.
Let the rolls rise…
- Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise again for about 45 minutes. They should puff up and touch each other.
- Once they have risen, preheat the oven to 375 and beat the remaining egg until it is fully mixed. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with flaky sea salt if desired.
Bake the rolls…
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the rolls are deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Let them cool in the pan for at least ten minutes. Separate and serve!
NOTES ON FREEZING
- For maximum convenience, particularly around the holidays, I usually mix the dough and form the rolls a couple of weeks in advance. Once the formed rolls are in the pan, I cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.
- On the day I am serving the rolls, I will remove the pan from the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw and rise. This may take three hours, which works beautifully for a full day of preparations. Once the rolls are thawed and risen to the point of touching each other, I add the egg wash and salt and bake them. I don’t worry about them being piping hot for our meal. I have found they are delicious at any temperature, and the convenience of making them ahead allows me to incorporate them into an otherwise very full day of cooking.