This Homemade Dinner Roll Recipe Has Been a Family Favorite for Years
These dinner rolls have been a staple recipe in my family for decades. They show up on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas of course, but also on birthdays, family dinner nights, and nearly every time someone in my house says, “Can we have those rolls?” Or, when someone invites us to dinner and says, “Would you please, please bring those rolls?”
That, by the way, is what we call these dinner rolls – “those rolls”. And we all know what we’re talking about. Here’s why we love them:
- They are incredibly soft and pillowy, with the perfect amount of chew
- The enriched dough is easy to work with and full of things that make them rich and flavorful – like butter, milk, and eggs.
- They only take a few hours to make and most of that is hands-off
- The amount of rolls you make can be scaled up or scaled down, and…
- The whole process of making the dough and letting it rise can be adjusted to fit your schedule
What Makes Dinner Rolls Soft and Fluffy?
The secret to making soft, billowy dinner rolls is to add plenty of butter, milk, and eggs to the dough.
Every week I make a couple loaves of sourdough bread. The loaves are chewy, with a crisp outer crust that audibly crackles when you slice it. Sourdough bread, along with most varieties of chewy, crusty bread, does not contain any fat. It’s simply a blend of starter (yeast), flour, water, and salt.
To bake bread that’s soft and pillowy, you’ve got to add fat. In the case of these dinner rolls, that means adding plenty of butter, eggs, and milk.
- Butter: Fat acts as a tenderizer in bread dough, coating the grains of flour and creating a barrier that slows down gluten development. A strong gluten network creates bread with a sturdy structure and a lot of chew, like sourdough or a French baguette. A weak gluten network creates bread that’s light and tender, like these rolls.
- Eggs: Eggs add flavor, structure, and color to bread dough. In addition to creating tenderness, fat equals flavor. That’s why this recipe contains an egg plus an extra egg yolk, which gives the rolls another boost of rich, buttery flavor.
- Milk: Just like butter and eggs, the fat in milk contributes both flavor and tenderness to this dinner roll dough, making them extra pillowy. In addition, yeast doesn’t break down the sugar (lactose) in milk, leaving it behind to contribute a subtle sweetness to the flavor of the dough.
How to Make the Best Dinner Rolls Ever
This recipe makes 24 rolls. If that seems like too many…. you should know that they will go surprisingly fast.
Also, your family will eat some before your guests arrive. (So will you.) It won’t matter if you tell them not to. It won’t matter if you hide the dinner rolls or make terrifying threats. They will risk your wrath and find a way to sneak a few. Just accept it.
Regardless, if 24 rolls is more than you need, you can:
- Cut the recipe in half. The challenge here is in how to cut the 1 egg and 1 egg yolk in half. The solution: make the dough with 1 egg and leave the extra egg yolk out.
- Freeze the leftover rolls. Wrap each roll individually in plastic and then put them in a zip top bag or wrap them again in foil. If they are well wrapped, they’ll keep in the freezer for about 3 months. Since they are individually wrapped, you can pull out as many or as few as you want.
If 24 rolls is less than you need, you can:
- Make successive batches. Unless you have a commercial size stand mixer, I would not suggest doubling the recipe. For standard 4.5, 5, or 6 quart stand mixers, just give your mixer about a 10 minute rest between batches of dough.
- Make one batch in the evening and another the next morning. This is almost always what I do when I need to make a LOT of rolls. Make one batch of dough in the evening, shape the rolls, place them in a baking dish, brush them with melted butter, and cover them with a sheet of plastic wrap. Place the rolls in the refrigerator so that they complete their second rise overnight. Because cold temperatures slows down yeast development, the rolls will rise much slower than at room temperature. The next morning, pull them out of the refrigerator and bake the first batch while you get going on a second batch.
Do you have to have a stand mixer to make homemade rolls?
Definitely not. Even though the directions for these dinner rolls call for mixing and kneading the dough using a standing mixer, you can most certainly knead the dough by hand.
Just mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form and then knead by hand on a floured surface, adding only as much flour as is necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the counter.
The important thing to remember when hand kneading dough is to work the dough long enough to achieve a high level of gluten development. For these rolls, that means hand kneading for at least 12 minutes.
How to adjust the timing of bread baking to your schedule
As mentioned earlier, you can adjust the timing of this recipe by simply putting the dough in the refrigerator at any stage. Cold temperatures will not kill yeast – it will just slow down its activity.
If you want dough to rise quickly, put it in a warm environment.
The ideal temperature for dough to rise relatively quickly is between 80 and 85 degrees. Dough will rise just fine in rooms as low as 70 degrees, it will just take longer. If your kitchen is on the cool side, and you want your dough to rise quickly, here are a few good options:
- Use a bread proofer. I have been baking bread for decades under the assumption that bread proofers were relegated to the realm of commercial bakeries and kitchens with waaaaaaay fancier ovens that what you’ll find in my home. I was wrong. I’ve been using this Brod and Taylor Bread Proofer for the last few months and I LOVE IT. It gives me total control of the temperature of rising dough and folds up into a flat little box for easy storage.
- Let the dough rise inside your oven. For an electric oven or a gas oven with the electronic ignition, heat the oven at the lowest setting for one or two minutes, then TURN IT OFF. In other gas ovens, the pilot light will provide enough warmth, so you don’t need to turn it on at all. You can also place a pan of boiling water inside the oven along with your dough, which will raise the temperature. If you have an oven thermometer, now is a great time to use it. Do your best to keep the temperature inside your oven to between 80 and 85 degrees, and it’s very important that it not get any higher than 90 degrees.
- Let the dough rise inside your microwave. If the inside of your microwave is large enough, it can also be used to create a warm environment for the dough to rise. Fill a small dish with boiling water and place it inside the microwave along with your dough. The water will raise the temperature inside the microwave.
If you want the dough to rise slowly, put it in the refrigerator.
Slowing down the rise of bread dough by putting the dough in the refrigerator is a super handy trick that I employ all the time to adjust bread baking to my schedule. Here are a couple examples of how this might work for these dinner rolls…
Scenario #1: Mix the dough in the evening, put it in a buttered bowl, brush some melted butter over the top, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature (this will take about an hour), shape the rolls, put them in a buttered baking dish, brush them with some more melted butter, cover with plastic wrap, and put them back in the refrigerator to slowly rise during the day. In the evening, let the rolls sit out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then bake.
Scenario #2: Make the dough in the evening, allowing the first rise to happen at room temperature. Shape the rolls, put them in a buttered baking dish, brush the tops with some melted butter, cover them with plastic wrap, and put them in the refrigerator, leaving them there overnight.
In the morning, take the rolls from the refrigerator, let them sit out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, then bake.
How to Tell if Dough is Done Rising
In baking the word “proofing” is used interchangeably with “rising”. Allowing the dough to proof is the same thing as allowing the dough to rise. In other words, it’s allowing the dough to sit for a while so that the yeast has time to eat up the sugars in the dough and expel the carbon dioxide gas that causes the dough to rise.
The trick is to know the difference between dough that is under-proofed, perfectly proofed, and over-proofed
The simplest way to tell if your dough is well-proofed is to press a finger, or knuckle, gently into the top of the dough.
- If it springs back immediately, it’s under-proofed and needs to be allowed to rise for a bit longer.
- If it springs back slowly, leaving a slight indentation in the surface of the dough, it’s ready to bake.
- If it doesn’t spring back at all, it’s over-proofed.
When carbon dioxide exerts more pressure than a fully proofed dough can withstand, the cell membranes tear, releasing the gas and deflating the dough. This is over-proofed dough. The problem with an over proofed dough is that it won’t expand much during baking, and in some cases, the dough will deflate entirely in the oven.
To avoid this, be sure to let the shaped rolls rise only until they are “nearly” doubled in size. Allowing them to rise for too long will cause over proofing.
You can often rescue over proofed dough by simply deflating it, reshaping it, and allowing it to rise again. In the case of these rolls, because they are brushed with butter, this means incorporating more butter into the dough, which will make them a bit heavier. But, I do think it would still work.
Is this a good recipe for beginning bread bakers?
Absolutely! This dinner roll recipe is an excellent place for beginning bread bakers to start because it’s fairly quick and easy. Not as quick and easy as pulling some pre-packaged frozen dinner rolls from the freezer, but quick and easy as far as homemade bread goes. And once you try them, you will never be tempted to purchase dinner rolls ever again.
Watch the video above for visual cues on mixing and shaping the dough, and then just dive in.
More homemade bread recipes:
- Soft, Homemade Flour Tortillas
- Simple Homemade White Bread
- Simple Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
- Homemade Pizza Dough
- Homemade Potato Rolls
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Scroll down to rate the recipe, leave me a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- 2 cups (500ml) whole milk, at room temperature, between 75 and 85 degrees
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 tsp (10.75g) active dry yeast
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
- 6 tbsp (85.2g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 6 cups (900g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp( 12g) table salt - OR 3 tsp (18g) kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, melted (for brushing on the pan and over the tops of the rolls)
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a standing mixer, and add the sugar and yeast. Stir to combine and then let sit for about 5 minutes to let the yeast begin to come alive. (*See note) Whisk in the egg, egg yolk and 6 tablespoons melted butter.
- Fit your mixer with the dough hook, add 5 cups of the flour and mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together. Slowly add enough of the remaining cup of flour so that the dough forms a soft, slightly sticky ball. This might take the entire remaining cup or only a bit of it. What you're looking for is a soft, smooth ball of dough that clings to the dough hook, does not stick to the sides of the bowl, but does stick slightly to the bottom of the bowl.
- Once the dough has come together, sprinkle in the salt. Continue to knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes. At this point, the dough should be very soft and smooth.
- Brush the inside of a large bowl with a thin layer of the melted salted butter and dump the dough into the bowl. Brush the top of the dough with a bit of the melted salted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until it's doubled in size. The warmer the room, the faster the dough will rise. (*See the tips earlier in the post about speeding up and slowing down the dough's rise time.)
- After the dough has risen, dump it out of the bowl onto a clean work surface. Using a dough knife or large butcher knife, cut the dough in half. Then cut each half into 12 equal pieces.
- Brush the inside of two 9x13 baking dishes with some of the melted salted butter.
- Shape each piece of dough into a ball by gently stretching the outside of each piece into an oblong, pinching the sides together at the bottom. Bring the opposite sides together and pinch together at the bottom. (*See the video earlier in this post for photos of shaping the dough into rolls.) Repeat with each piece of dough, placing 12 rolls in each pan.
- Brush the tops of the rolls with some of the melted salted butter and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 1 hour, until the rolls have nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190.5 degrees C). Remove the plastic wrap, and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. To test for doneness, remove one pan from the oven and insert a knife in-between a couple of the rolls in the center of the pan. Pull the sides of the rolls apart slightly. If they still look doughy, put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then check again.
- Remove the pans from the oven and brush the tops of the rolls with more melted butter. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. These are best served fresh and warm, but can be stored in an air tight container for up to 2 days.
- If the yeast doesn’t get foamy after sitting in the milk for about 5 minutes, it’s probably inactive. The only solution is to start over with new yeast. If you suspect that your yeast might not be active (perhaps it’s old or was exposed to high heat), stir it into just a half cup of room temperature milk to test it. If it gets foamy, then it’s fine to add the rest of the milk and proceed with the recipe.
- If you want to cut the recipe in half, so that you have 12 rolls instead of 24, use one whole egg and leave out the additional egg yolk.
- If you want to make 24 rolls, but need to mix the dough in two separate batches, crack the egg and egg yolk into a measuring cup and whisk with a fork. Then use half for one batch and half for the other.
- I've heard from a couple of bakers that the tops of their rolls get too brown and overcooked during baking. I think this is because some ovens radiate too much heat from the top of the oven, overcooking the tops of the rolls before the middles are done. If after about 20 minutes of baking, you notice the tops of the rolls getting too brown, loosely cover them with a piece of aluminum foil. Be careful to not put any pressure on the rolls themselves as you cover them – just lay the foil over the top of the rolls, which should protect them from the heat and help keep the tops nice and soft.
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Wheat Montana All Purpose White Flour (Pack of Two – 10 Lb. Bags)
OXO Stainless Steel Good Grips Multi-Purpose Scraper & Chopper
Product Review: Brod and Taylor Bread Proofer
STAUB Ceramics Rectangular Baking Dish, 13x9-inch, White
KitchenAid KP26M1XNP 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 roll
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 212Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 263mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g
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