With all the details and planning that go into a throwing a dinner party, bread is often the last item on your mind. At times like this, I’ve noticed, homemade dinner rolls are one of the first things to be cut from the “to-do” list. But they don’t have to be. My dinner rolls are so easy to make and so scrumptious to eat that you won’t want to take the bread off the menu—nor will you be tempted to head to your local bakery instead.
This is one of my favorite yeast doughs because it’s forgiving and gives tender, flavorful results. The dough starts off a little sticky, but it quickly becomes soft and supple; you’ll need little or no additional flour for handling and shaping. A stand mixer makes mixing easy, but if you don’t have one, follow the hand method below.
If you’re a more experienced baker, you’ll notice that this dough has more fat than what’s known as a lean dough (from which you get a crustier, chewier result, as opposed to the softer one here). The fat gives flavor and tenderness and that familiar homemade-roll softness.
Simple flavorings for a neat twist
The great thing about these rolls is that depending on what else I’m serving, I can vary the flavor.
Poppyseeds are a great way to dress up plain dinner rolls with a classic touch. I do it twice, working some into the dough and then sprinkling more on the tops just before baking. Poppyseed rolls are delicious with all kinds of dishes, but especially good with roast turkey or grilled salmon steaks.
Fresh herbs tossed into the dough near the end of kneading give a burst of flavor. Take care not to add the herbs too soon or the dough will be tinted green. The herbs usually throw a little moisture, so you may need a bit of flour on the board (you won’t with the other variations). Herb rolls pair nicely with grilled or baked chicken or a wintry stew.
Cheddar and black pepper make for a heartier finished roll. The Cheddar flavor is subtle—I grate the cheese quite finely—and the black pepper gives a pleasant bite. Be sure to add the grated Cheddar before the dough is fully formed or you’ll end up with clumps of cheese and a greasy result. I love these rolls with seared steak or roast beef.
When I’m invited to a dinner party, I offer to bring a batch or two of my flavored dinner rolls, instead of, say, a bottle of wine. They’ll be a hit at the table and will help out your host or hostess in a welcome way—but without stealing the show.