Recipe Post: Soft Dinner Rolls

These rolls are the softest, fluffiest, most delicious bread product I have ever made…and I have made a LOT of bread over the years!

Slathered with softened salted butter, it was extremely difficult to stop myself from eating them one after the other until they were gone.

I baked these off in a glass baking pan, which kept them from browning too much, but you do you, boo. They’ll be more golden in a metal baking pan, but make sure they don’t go too far the other direction and burn on the bottom.

Soft Dinner Rolls

I developed this recipe by adapting from the original recipe “Patty’s Quick-To-Make Bread”, which is itself an adaptation of a popular Mennonite community recipe from Neil’s Harbour, NS. It was first published by the late Canadian author Edna Staebler in her second cookbook, More Food That Really Schmecks.

With a few small substitutions, this recipe can be made dairy-free or even vegan.

Yield: 32-36 buns

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water, lukewarm
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp yeast (equivalent to 2 packets)
  • 2 cups water, lukewarm
  • ¼ cup liquid honey (can substitute for white sugar)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ cup light oil or melted shortening (can also use melted butter)
  • 8-9 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour*, plus more for kneading
  • Optional Toppings:
    • 1 egg white, whisked or 1 tbsp butter, melted
    • Toppings of your choice: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, flaked or kosher salt, seasoned salt, garlic or onion salt, cracked black, pink, or white peppercorns, granulated garlic, sweet, hot or smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, fresh herbs (dill, oregano, basil), grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese

Method

Proofing the Yeast: Pour a quantity of boiling or tap-hot water to fill a large ceramic, glass, or metal mixing bowl and let sit until bowl is warmed (1-2 minutes). Discard hot water, and pour 1 cup lukewarm water into the now-warmed bowl. Stir in 1 tsp white sugar until dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let sit until yeast has activated and surface is foamy.

Making the Dough: Stir in 2 cups lukewarm water, sugar, salt and fat of choice until combined. You can use a robust tabletop mixer for this step if you choose. Mix in 3 to 4 cups of flour; incorporate the remaining flour 1 cup at a time until combined. Most mixers will struggle at this point, so onto hand-kneading!

Kneading the Dough: Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface, dust with more flour as needed, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic; this should take anywhere from 8-15 minutes. You will know when the dough is ready for the next step when it passes what is called a “windowpane test“.

Benching the Dough: Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place until it’s doubled in size (anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on ambient room temp).

Deflate the dough (known as “punching it down”) and form into rolls. I recommend using a kitchen scale at this point to ensure each roll is the same weight (I recommend 50g/2oz). Nestle the rolls into a large, well-greased baking pan, not touching but only slightly apart from one another, and slash vertically through the centre of each roll with a baker’s lame**, or a very sharp paring knife. At this point you can add your preferred toppings, helping them stick with the application of brushed egg white or butter first.

Cover as before and let rise again (2nd bench), about an hour. Preheat your oven sometime during this stage to 400°F, setting the racks as close to the middle as possible.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until buns are lightly golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans at once and let cool on a rack. Try not to eat the entire batch all at once (but no judgement if you do!)

* whereas white and whole wheat flour can technically be substituted for one another 1:1, I’ve found that 100% whole wheat doughs are much drier and stiffer than 100% all-purpose flour doughs. I recommend substituting no more than half white for whole wheat flour.

** as a baker’s lame is essentially a curved razor blade on a stick, you can frugally make your own with a clean, unused razor blade threaded on a chopstick, but you didn’t hear that from me!

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