Confession #117: I Could Live on Bread… Soft Dinner Rolls
Let’s talk about bread. Savory, sweet, in loaf form or in roll form, yeasted or not, I honestly LOVE IT ALL. If every meal for the rest of my life involved a variation of bread, well… I could think of worse things. ;) In fact, sometimes I don’t think life can’t get much better than a soft, fluffy, buttery, bread roll. It’s proof that the simple things in life are often the best.
My memories of dinner rolls always go back to the Thanksgivings when our favorite bakery in town would start selling their white and whole wheat bread rolls. Pre-ordering them and picking them up just before the stores all closed for the holiday weekend was a ritual in my family, and I was always adamant that we couldn’t skip them, no matter how much food we were already planning on serving. Those pillowy rolls of bread were as close to doughy as you can get in a baked roll and they were out-of-this-world-amazing.
But these rolls here? They’re every bit as soft, fluffy, pillowy, and ridiculously good as the rolls I remember so fondly from Thanksgivings of the past. They’re the kind of bread rolls that you can tear bites off of as easily as if you were pulling apart dough, and they’re so soft and buttery that they’re perfect eaten plain. (Although, if you do want to pull one out straight from the oven, slather butter on, and eat it all warm with butter melting into every pocket – well, I won’t judge.) In fact, these rolls are so magical that they’re even fantastic when they’re not warm. You can sneak little bites straight off the counter in the morning and they’ll still be totally soft and delicious (not that I would know, ahem). I’m strangely obsessive about my bread being perfectly warm; me saying these are good at room temperature is crazy.
I honestly don’t know how else to tell you how amazing these rolls are… they may be the best soft rolls I’ve ever had. I don’t say that much, but these are the real deal. I wish I could just hand you all a bite now, so you could melt in the soft, fluffy, almost-doughy-in-the-best-way deliciousness of these rolls. I think you’d be in heaven.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention: if you’re the kind of person who can never decide between white and whole wheat for your bread rolls, I’ve got you covered. I always have an internal debate: “Whole wheat is healthier, but who am I kidding? White is just better.” This recipe makes two doughs – one white and one whole wheat. Alternating them in the pan makes for a nice presentation AND everyone’s happy because they get their choice of roll. Problem solved. Since rolls are perfect for any sort of get-together, especially soft and fluffy, two-in-one white and whole wheat rolls, I can imagine that these would be great to serve for Easter brunch or dinner. This is a recipe made for sharing – although you could probably polish off a few on your own!
These Soft Dinner Rolls are like something from a dream: buttery, soft, and tender. Plus, you don't have to choose between White and Whole Wheat since this recipe makes both! Serve these warm at brunch, lunch, or dinner; they'll be a huge hit.
Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
7 3/8 ounces milk (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons or 7 fluid ounces)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ounces unsalted butter (1/4 cup), cut into tablespoons
Note: If you have enough kitchen equipment you could make both doughs at the same time, and knead the white bread dough by hand while you have the whole wheat dough kneading in your stand mixer. (The white dough will be easier to knead by hand.) However, I've written the recipe as I did it, making the whole wheat dough first and the white dough second, with tips written in italics for being efficient with your time.
Prepping and First Rising:
Begin with the whole wheat dough. Scald the milk in a heat-safe bowl in the microwave by heating it until it reaches 180°F (about 80-90 seconds). Then, let it cool (about 20 minutes) until it reaches 110°F-115°F. Transfer the milk to the bowl of your stand mixer and stir in the granulated sugar to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and stir it in. Let the mixture sit until foaming on top, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, microwave the butter for about 30 seconds, and then stir until it has melted completely (microwave a bit longer if needed). Make sure the butter is below 115°F before combining with the yeast. Start working on the white dough: Scald the milk as you did for the whole wheat, and let it cool to 110°F-115°F.
Pour the butter into the proofed yeast mixture and add the lightly beaten egg. Sprinkle the flour on top, and then the salt. Using the dough hook attachment, start the mixer on low speed. Let the machine knead the ingredients, and once they've come together into a dough, continue letting the machine knead for 5-8 minutes, until you have a soft and fairly elastic dough. Shape into a round with a smooth top and transfer to a greased bowl double the size of the dough, turning the dough once to coat the top with cooking spray. Cover with greased plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place. While the machine is kneading the whole wheat dough, start proofing the yeast for the white dough, and melt the butter for the white dough, setting it aside to cool.
Prep the white dough just as you did for the whole wheat, placing the prepared dough in another bowl to rise. Let both doughs rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Shaping and Second Rising:
Starting with the whole wheat dough, punch it down gently. Divide it into 6 equal pieces (they should weigh about 4 1/8 ounces each). Keeping the remaining pieces covered, work with one portion of dough at a time, shaping it into a ball by stretching the dough out with your palms to form a smooth top and pinching the edges together underneath. Cup the sides of the dough ball in your palms and rotate it gently to further smooth it out. Cover and repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
Repeat the previous step with the white dough. Each portion of dough should weigh about 4 ounces for the white dough.
Place the rolls into a 9" x 13" baking dish, alternating between white and whole wheat rolls in 3 rows of 4. Leave space between each column of dough to allow room for rising. Cover with greased plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for another 45 - 60 minutes, until doubled in size, filling up the space in the baking dish, and at least as high as the top of the dish. Once the rolls appear close to being fully risen, preheat oven to 350°F.
Glazing and Baking:
Brush all exposed areas of the rolls with 2 tablespoons of milk. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the roll are puffy and barely getting a bit of color on top. A toothpick inserted into the one of the rolls should come out clean (and the internal temperature should read at least 180°F, if you'd like to be really accurate). Immediately brush the rolls with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter (use it all). Allow the rolls to cool briefly before serving, which will also give the butter time to soak in and soften the tops. Cover the rolls with a light kitchen linen while they cool.
Once the rolls are no longer very warm, place them in a zip-top bag to store. If they're still warm enough to produce steam in the bag, leave the bag open until the rolls have cooled completely. Store airtight at room temperature. Rolls can be reheated in the microwave wrapped in a very light cloth.
Please do use a kitchen thermometer if possible with this recipe. Accurate temperatures will make the bread-making process much more foolproof. If you're in the market for a good thermometer, I highly recommend the Thermapen. I've also explained why I like it so much if you're interested.
*The butter is a crucial element in achieving a nice, soft top on your rolls. Don't skip it!