Soft pull-apart wheat rolls, with sourdough starter or active dry yeast

By • December 16, 2010 • 11 Comments



Author Notes: This is based on the recipe I use for challah, but scaled up to produce 30 perfect dinner rolls risen and shaped in two 9x13 pans. I use about 1/3 whole wheat flour to make them a little wholesome, but they're still soft, light, and rich with honey and butter. The benefit to pull-apart rolls is that they stay fresher longer because there's less exposed surface area. You can make these up to three days in advance and pull them apart just before serving--or let your guests pull them apart themselves--and they'll still be optimally soft and fresh. I use a sourdough starter, but I've adapted this recipe to work with either a sourdough starter or active dry yeast. - smargotsmargot

Food52 Review: These lovely pull-apart rolls are quite delicious, exceptionally tender and very simple to make. They melt in your mouth and would be a lovely accompaniment to any meal! – VictoriaA&M

Serves 30

Using Sourdough Starter (100% hydration, or 1:1 flour:water)

  • 1 cup refreshed sourdough starter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups all purpose or bread flour
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral cooking oil, plus a little more for coating the bowl
  • 3 eggs (2 in dough, 1 for brushing)

Using Active Dry yeast

  • 2 packets active dry yeast (4 1/2 t.)
  • 1 2/3 cup warm milk (100-110F)
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 3 2/3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or other neutral cooking oil, plus a little more for coating the bowl
  • 3 eggs (2 in dough, 1 for brushing)
  1. If using active dry yeast, heat the milk in the microwave or saucepan. If you don’t have a thermometer, test it by dabbing a bit on your wrist—it should feel hot to the touch, but should not burn. Whisk in the sugar and yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients except the 1 egg reserved for brushing and stir until the dough begins to come together.
  3. Knead for 10-15 minutes. If the dough is too sticky to knead, let it rest for 10 minutes underneath the mixing bowl to let the flour absorb more of the moisture. Then, continue, adding bread flour 1/4 cup at a time just until it sticks to itself more than it sticks to you.
  4. Coat a mixing bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise for 1 1/4 hrs (active dry yeast) or between 4-12 hrs (sourdough starter). You can tell when it's risen when it's roughly doubled in size and you can make an indentation in the surface and it doesn't heal automatically.
  5. Butter two 9x13 pans. Divide dough into two equal pieces, and divide each of those into 15 equal pieces. If you have a kitchen scale, you can weigh the dough and divide. For me, each roll usually ends up being between 50-55 grams (1.75-2.00 oz). Cover the dough you're not working with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
  6. Once you've divided the dough into 30 pieces, shape each one by pressing it onto a clean surface to form a small disk. Then, gather the edges together to form a ball and pinch them together to seal it. Place each ball, pinched-edge down, in the prepared pans about 1" apart. They should be arranged in rows--3x5.
  7. Cover the pans and let the dough rise for another 1 1/4 hrs (if using active dry yeast) or 2-9 hrs (if using sourdough starter). Again, they should double in size and when fully risen, an indentation will not "heal" automatically.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 for 20 minutes. Just before placing the rolls in the oven, beat the last egg slightly and use it to brush the tops of the rolls.
  9. Bake for 20 min, or until the tops are golden brown and the interiors are between 190-200F.
  10. Let cool on wire racks for 5-10 minutes. Then, turn the rolls out of pans gently, leaving them attached. Serve warm or let cool completely on wire racks (at least 3 hrs) and store in a an airtight container--supersized (2 or 2 1/2 gallon) zip-top bags work well.
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Tags: bread, bread, dinner rolls, Holidays, serves a crowd, travels well

Comments (11) Questions (0)

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10 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

smargot, have you ever made only half of this recipe? I'd like to test drive these this weekend, using my 100% hydration wild yeast levain, but I don't need 30 rolls. Thank you so much. ;o)

Minigolf

10 months ago smargot

yep, works fine. can also be done in two 9" round or 8" square cake pans instead of a 9x13.

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10 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you for the prompt reply! Just fed my levain, will be starting the dough in the morning. ;o)

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12 months ago Wanda Dixon

When the recipe calls for refreshed sour dough starter
I'm prettie sure it means after starter has been fed .. & it will be okay to use 5 1/3 cups of bread flour instead of whole wheat ? I love to bake it's very soothing love your recipes

Minigolf

12 months ago smargot

Yes, I feed my starter the night before baking, so my 6-12 hours after a fresh feed. And you can use all bread flour instead of whole wheat. You might need a little bit of additional flour as whole wheat seems to absorb more moisture--just keep adding flour until you can knead it without it sticking to you too much.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

This looks like an excellent recipe. Bet the honey keeps the rolls from being overly (dessert-like) sweet. My sons have been asking me lately to use more whole wheat flour in my baking, so i think I'll try these out next week when both are home from college. I'm trying to figure out if they like sourdough, which I've actually never made. The idea of a sourdough challah-type roll is utterly fascinating. Plus, my boys love any roll that pulls apart. ;o)

Mrs._larkin_370

over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Yes, very easy to understand recipe! Thanks! Pictures look so good too. Q: in step 7, do you mean active dry yeast?

Minigolf

over 3 years ago smargot

Oh, thanks for catching that--I sometimes use "instant" and "active dry" interchangeably but I'll edit it to clarify. You could use either "rapid rise" or regular active dry yeast. Either way, it's probably a good idea just double-check the package--some might suggest a higher or lower temperature for the liquid in the recipe, and I'd follow their recommendation.

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

The most important difference between active dry and instant is that the active dry has a coating on it, so it really does much better when it's put directly into liquid to dissolve before mixing with the dry ingredients. Instant yeast can be mixed in at the same time as the dry ingredients, which is why it's recommended for use in bread machines. I've never heard of there being any difference in the temperature requirements. ;o)

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Great instructions--I love challah--and beautiful rolls. Can you use all butter in place of the canola oil?

Minigolf

over 3 years ago smargot

Absolutely. Really, any kind of fat would work. Sometimes I add 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil (usually along with a few cloves of finely minced garlic and some basil or parsley and oregano). In that case, I often substitute some of the oil in the recipe for the oil drained from the tomatoes and and use olive oil for the rest.

I have made them with all butter before, too. I think using half oil makes them a little softer (though that may be my imagination). I'm not sure if that would be because butter is solid at room temperature or because commercial butter is 16-17% water. If it's the latter, clarified butter or ghee might be the best choice for lots of buttery flavor and the softest texture.