Caramelized Shallot Dinner Rolls

By • December 14, 2010 25 Comments

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Author Notes: I'll admit I'm a sucker for a soft, slightly sweet, buttery, warm dinner roll, slathered in butter and honey. When I make dinner rolls, I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe for Best American Dinner Rolls as it hits the nail on the head for me. When forming the rolls, the recipe instructs you to press the dough out into a rectangle then roll it up. It has always reminded me of making cinnamon rolls, so it struck me you could add a "filling". I had never done so, but the best dinner roll contest inspired me to give it a go. I decreased the amount of sugar from the original recipe, and added caramelized shallots and some fresh herbs. It gives the rolls a nice allium and slightly earthy flavor, but doesn't overpower the bread. You could omit the herbs or use other herbs if desired. These are delicious with butter, and for a sweet-savory effect fruit butter plays nicely as well.hardlikearmour

Makes 16 rolls


  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (2 tablespoons reserved for baking)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperture
  • 2 & 1/4 teaspoons fast acting yeast (one packet), commonly labled for bread machines
  • 3 to 3 & 1/4 cups unbleached, AP flour, plus additional for kneading and rolling dough


  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced (approx. 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 16 small sage leaves (optional decoration)
  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until small bubbles start to form. Remove from heat, and after 3-4 minutes skim off the skin that formed on the surface of the milk. Place milk, 6 tablespoons melted butter, salt, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer, and whisk to combine. Allow to cool until just warm to the touch (about 100 degrees F), then whisk in yeast and eggs.
  2. Add flour to bowl; using dough hook, mix on low speed on standing mixer until combined, several minutes. Increase speed to medium-low and knead about 3 minutes more; when pressed with finger, dough should feel moist but should not stick. If dough is sticky, add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons flour in 1 tablespoon increments until dough is no longer sticky. This is a soft dough, so err on the side of less flour. Continue to knead on medium-low until dough is elastic, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but still stick to the bottom.
  3. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Knead dough by hand 1 to 2 minutes. Dough should be very soft and moist but not overly sticky. If necessary knead in additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Form dough into a ball. Lightly oil medium bowl with canola or other neutral oil. Transfer dough to bowl and roll it to lightly coat with oil, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free location until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
  4. While dough is rising heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat until butter stops foaming. Add diced shallot and sugar, and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer shallots to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside at room temperature.
  5. Once dough has risen lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9 by 13-inch baking pan with canola oil and set aside. Turn dough out onto very lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into rough 12 by 10-inch rectangle, gently pressing out air; one long end of the rectangle should be toward you. Sprinkle dough with shallots and herbs, leaving about 1 and ½ inches of dough clear at the edge closest to you. Starting from edge farthest from you, tightly roll dough into 12-inch long cylinder. Using palms, roll dough back and forth until cylinder is about 17 inches long and of even thickness. Using bench scraper or chef's knife, cut into even sized pieces, each end piece should be about 1 & ½ inches thick, and the rest of the pieces should be about 1 inch thick.
  6. Working with one piece at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap, pinch cut edges on each side together, top to bottom to help embed the shallots and herbs. Set piece of dough on unfloured area of work surface. Loosely cup hand around dough (think of your hand as a cage); without applying pressure to dough, move hand in small circular motions, until a tight ball forms. A few pieces of herbs or shallot may pop out of the rolls in the process; just discard them. Arrange shaped rolls in prepared cake pans, with one in the center and 7 equally spaced surrounding it for the round pans or 3 rows of 5-6-5 for the 9 by 13. Cover pan(s) with lightly oiled plastic wrap, then cover pan(s) securely with foil. Refrigerate overnight, preferably 24 hours, and up to 48 hours.
  7. Remove foil (but not plastic wrap) from pan(s); let rolls rise in draft-free cool room-temperature location (about 68 degrees F) until doubled in volume (rolls should press against each other). This should take 6-7 hours. The slow rise allows the rolls to rise more consistently centers to edges, and creates lighter, fluffier rolls. When rolls are nearly doubled in volume, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. Brush rolls with 2 tablespoons melted butter and gently press sage leaf on top of each roll if desired. Bake rolls for 10 minutes, then quickly rotate pan(s) 180 degrees, and bake until deep golden brown, an additional 5-8 minutes. Cool rolls in pan(s) on wire rack about 3 minutes, then remove and cool rolls on wire rack an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Take care when transferring them, as sage leaf decorations may fall off. Break rolls apart and serve warm.
  8. Note: Alternate, less appropriate for a dinner-roll, but very yummy filling: Peel and 1/4-inch dice 1 firm ripe d'Anjou or Bartlett pear, Saute in butter over medium-high heat with 1 tsp sugar, until brown. Pear should still have some texture. Sprinkle dough with pear, 1 - 1 &1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, and 2 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, also 1/4-inch dice.

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