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How to Make and Shape Dinner Rolls

Learn how to make an easy-to-work-with dough and shape it into knotted, Parker House, cloverleaf, and butterflake dinner rolls using cooking instructor and author Peter Reinhart’s simple technique

Fine Cooking Issue 113
Sarah Breckenridge
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Soft, rich, and worlds better than store-bought, homemade dinner rolls easier to make than you think. In this video, Fine Cooking’s Julissa Roberts demonstrates Peter Reinhart’s method for making and shaping buttery dinner rolls.

Soft, rich, and worlds better than store-bought, homemade dinner rolls easier to make than you think. In this video, Fine Cooking’s Julissa Roberts demonstrates Peter Reinhart’s method for making and shaping buttery dinner rolls.

Baking instructor and cookbook author Peter Reinhart has taught bread making for 20 years, and while his students all say that they’re most excited to make the classic French baguette, it’s really his soft, buttery dinner rolls they go crazy for. “They’d bake them every day if I let them,” Peter says. And it’s no surprise—dinner rolls are simple to make and unfailingly delicious.

You begin by making a yeast-based dough that’s enriched with ingredients like sugar for caramelization, oil for a soft texture, butter for flavor, and milk and eggs for moisture. The resulting dough is richer and a touch sweeter than regular bread dough and incredibly easy to work with. In fact, shaping it into knotted rolls is a cinch. When baked to a beautiful golden hue, these tender, buttery rolls will be a hit at any table.

Get the recipes 

Knotted Dinner Rolls 

Parker House Dinner Rolls 

Butterflake Dinner Rolls 

Coverleaf Dinner Rolls______________________________________________________________ 

Peter Reinhart’s Golden Rules for Great Rolls
Keep these suggestions in mind when preparing your dough, and your rolls will come out perfect every time:
Measure your flour by weight – A scale is much more accurate than a cup measure.

Choose unbleached bread flour – Unbleached flour has the natural beta carotene pigments that are removed from bleached flour. These pigments give the rolls a pleasant aroma and a subtle nutty flavor. Bread flour, which contains more protein than all-purpose flour, gives the rolls more “chew.”

Use both oil and butter – Although you could use one or the other, a combination of the two yields the best results: Oil makes the rolls softer, while butter adds more flavor.

Add milk or flour as needed – Depending on the brand and age of your flour, you may have to adjust the dough’s consistency. Follow the recipe’s texture indicators to gauge if you need to add more milk or flour; the dough should be supple, not stiff, and tacky to the touch but not sticky.

Prevent sticking with oil or water, not flour – When shaping the dough, spritz your work surface with a light coating of vegetable oil spray, or wipe it with a damp towel. Sprinkling it with flour will dry out the surface of the dough.

For the dough 

1-1/2 cups whole milk; more as needed
1 packet (1/4 oz. or 2-1/4 tsp.) instant or active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil; more as needed
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 lb. 7 oz. (5-1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
1-1/4 tsp. table salt or 2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg

For shaping and baking 

Vegetable oil spray
1 large egg
Poppy or sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Tip: Active dry or instant yeast? 

You can use either active dry or instant yeast for this recipe. Active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in a warm liquid, but instant yeast (also called quick rise or rapid rise) usually doesn’t. For this recipe, though, I recommend that you dissolve whichever yeast you use in heated milk before preparing the dough. Hydrating activates even the instant yeast more quickly, which is particularly helpful if you plan to let the dough rise slowly in the refrigerator.

Make the dough 

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 95°F). Remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast until it dissolves. Add the oil and butter—the butter may begin to melt, but it’s OK if it doesn’t melt completely—and then whisk in the sugar. Let rest until the yeast just begins to float to the surface, about 5 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl), combine the flour, salt, and egg. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed (or with a large spoon) until a coarse ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed (or knead by hand on a lightly oiled work surface) until the dough feels soft, supple, and pliable, about 3 minutes; it should feel tacky to the touch, but not sticky, and pull away from your finger when poked instead of sticking to it. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 Tbs. flour at a time, kneading to incorporate. If it’s stiff, knead in 1 Tbs. of milk at a time.

Rub a little vegetable oil on a work surface to create an 8-inch circle and put the dough on this spot. Stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four sides to the center, crimping it where the folded ends meet, to form it into a tight, round ball.

Put the dough seam side down in a lightly oiled bowl that’s twice the size of the dough. Tightly cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 90 minutes, or refrigerate for 1 to 4 days so that it slowly rises to double its size.

Shape the rolls

Line two 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners and lightly mist them with vegetable oil spray.

Using a bench knife, divide the dough into eighteen pieces (about 2-1/4 oz. each).

With your hands, roll one piece into a 12-inch-long rope. If the dough starts to stick, mist your work surface lightly with vegetable oil spray or wipe it with a damp towel. Don’t use flour.

Wrap the dough around your fingers into a loose knot; there should be about 2 inches of dough free at each end.

Wrap the left end of the dough up and over the loop.

Wrap the right end down and around the loop. Lightly squeeze the two ends of dough together in the center to secure them.

Gently squeeze the whole piece of dough into a nice rounded shape. Put the roll, pretty side up, on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Mist the top of the rolls with vegetable oil spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let the rolls sit at room temperature until they just begin to swell, 30 minutes to 1 hour for room-temperature dough, 1 to 1-1/2 hours for refrigerated dough.

Bake the rolls

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. If using a convection oven, heat it to 375°F; if using a conventional oven, heat it to 400°F.

Thoroughly whisk the egg with 1 Tbs. water and brush all over each roll. Sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds (if using) on the rolls.

While the oven heats, let the rolls continue to rise at room temperature, 20 to 40 minutes. They should be 1-1/2 to 2 times their original size before they go in the oven. (Once in the oven, they will rise about 20% more.)

Put the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees and swap their placement on the racks. Continue baking until the rolls turn rich golden-brown on top and develop some browning underneath, another 6 to 8 minutes. Let the rolls cool on the sheets or on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.  


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