How do I make good dinner rolls?

Joined Aug 13, 2006
Can you be more specific Abe?  What kind of dinner rolls, soft? crusty? whole wheat? white?

and mainly, have you been trying to make dinner rolls and they don;t come out good?  Or are you looking for a recipe for rolls? 

I make some really soft, nice, whole wheat dinner rolls.  For special occasions i braid them with 3 strands, rolling one in sesame seeds, another in poppy seeds and the third plain, then roll up the braid and brush with egg.  Really good, and very attractive. 
Joined Mar 12, 2005
Soft, whole wheat.

Haven't tried them yet.

Interesting, with the braids, how big are they?
Joined Aug 13, 2006
I usually make these once a year for a big christmas party i do, where i do everything home-made and special.  The rolls are about as big as large apricots? small plums? but could certainly be made bigger - since there are 50 people i make them small so everyone will have one, and not leave half uneaten on their dish after all my hard work. 

I got the recipe from Laurel's bread book, which i bought because i really liked her vegetarian cookbook for all the useful information based on extensive research - hippie, but smart - which was very useful when my daughter stopped eating meat.  The bread book is all about making bread with 100% whole wheat flour, which every other cookbook says is impossible.  The rolls are the epitome of her technique, which involves coddling the gluten, keeping it from breaking, and getting the most rise out of flour which is full of bran.  They contain buttermilk, and lots of butter (another surprising discovery, kneading it, cold,  into the dough AFTER the gluten has been formed and the dough is very elastic- like the technique with brioche - which makes it raise even higher - she says it greases the gluten strands, rather than weighing them down as you would if you melted it and added it with the liquid.)  Now i know there are great bread experts here who may contradict the explanatory hypotheses behind this, I don;t know, but what i do know is it works. 

She calls them "dinner rolls for aunt agatha" - meaning when you have to bring your bread to someone very traditional, who wants nice soft bread and not any heavy hippie whole grain health food, you can make these. 

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

3 tbsp honey

1 cup buttermilk (i've occasionally used yoghurt, but buttermilk seems to give a nicer taste)

1 egg

5 cups finely ground whole wheat bread flour (Since we don;t have these categories here, i use whole wheat flour that's been "sifted" removing the larger flakes of bran, though it's still got bran)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (as i say, i use only one type)

2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cool butter (pound it a bit to soften, but DON'T melt, should be solid and cool

Keep in mind that all flours are different so these measurements are not written in stone - use hands and eyes to make sure the texture is right.  If you have a hard dough it needs more water, if it won;t hold together, give it more flour, always a little at a time. The hand and eye are mightier than the scale and cup!
  • Dissolve yeast in warm water
  • stir flours and salt together in mixer bowl (assuming you have a heavy duty mixer with dough hook - if not, you make a well and put liquid in center, stirring in from the center adding more flour as you go.
  • knead till smooth ans supple - add water if necessary, wetting hands and sprinkling on dough.  It should be very soft.
  • cut butter into slivers and knead in a little at a time. As it disappears add more.  (If hand kneading, smear it on the board and gradually knead in)
  • knead till dough is completely silky and shiny
  • let rise, covered (i invert a plastic bag over the bowl of the mixer) in a warm room (on top of fridge, if room is cool, but not on radiator) for about 2 hours.  The hand is also mightier than the clock.  wet your finger and press into it - it should make a hole that doesn;'t fill in.
  • deflate CAREFULLY, by pulling the dough from the sides of the bowl, and gently pressing out the air (don't punch the dough or you'll break the gluten strands which have to be protected because they hold the air when the yeast does its work).  Keep the top surface intact and on top.  rise again, this time it can be a little warmer, like in a pilot-lit stove or turned on and off stove or an overheated house) for about another hour, till the hole you poke doesn't fill in.  It should not, however, deflate around the hole, so check it)
  • turn out on lightly floured board.  deflate.  Divide in 4 parts and keep the other parts in bowl covered with plastic or a damp towel. You can make round balls, pack them nearby in a pan, or cook separate in a baking sheet, or make any shapes you like.   I like to roll into snakes about finger thickness (i have big fingers), have two dishes available one with poppy seeds and the other with sesame seeds.  If the dough is still a little sticky you can roll the snakes in one of the two, or you can wet your hand and run over the snake and then roll in the seeds.
  • Take the snakes and braid and cut into about 5-6inch lenghts, roll ends under and you'll only see blops of sesame, poppy or plain dough, which no longer seems to be a braid, or you can make the snakes thicker and make longer rolls for small sandwiches, or whatever you like. 
  • put them on greased sheets, with enough distance to rise a little, and cover with plastic or a cloth.
  • heat oven to 400 degrees F, let them rise for about 45 min, test with finger - this time they should really make a hole when you press, and may slightly collapse, rise more if necessary, and then brush quickly with egg or egg yolk (you might only be able to brush successfully on the non-seeded parts ) (this makes them shiny and golden)
  • bake about 20 minutes but check earlier, because they may cook earlier or later (the eye is mightier than the clock!) only until they;re a nice golden color and if you made them large, test one with a toothpick to see if it's cooked inside (no raw dough clinging to the pick) -
  • remove to racks and let them cool.  if you don;t eat immediately, then wrap in plastic, and store fridge is ok). warm before serving wrapped in a damp towel or damp paper bag for just a little if you like
You can also make a loaf bread with this dough, just make sure you put the dough top down on a floured board, press flat, fold inwards, all around, turn back over, so top "skin" is up again, cover ten minutes to rest, then flatten again top down on the board, and roll up into loaf shape, rise and bake (you don;t want the dough to get to the collapsing under your finger stage here, just rise to the point where if you poke it it leaves a dent.) and bake 350 about 40 min.

I really like this bread with raisins in it and a little more honey, and then i make a cinnamon swirl when i roll out the final loaf - wet your hands, wet the dough on top, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then roll back up and rise and bake.  Sliced and toasted for breakfast it;s great, if it lasts until breakfast and you haven't eaten the loaf warm from the oven! 

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