We're entering the holiday season: busy days and weeks lie ahead. You might be entertaining houseguests, having family stay for the weekend, or hosting cocktail parties. Or maybe you won't be, but your days will be full of shopping and school plays and early dismissal times and get-togethers. This will likely make getting dinner on the table a little more challenging than usual.
Sometimes these weeks cause us to revert to takeout meals or shortcuts in the kitchen (frozen food, I'm looking at you). And it's during these holiday weeks especially that many of us reserve baking for special occasions: cookie swaps and cakes for a party and Sunday morning cinnamon rolls. But there's a way to keep enjoying simple homemade baked goods and save yourself time.
Enter the freeze-ahead dinner roll. This clever recipe instructs you to make and shape your dinner rolls, then freeze them before their final rise. The frozen rolls keep in the freezer for up to a month. When you're ready for warm, tender rolls with a golden exterior, just remove them and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours, then bake. It's nice knowing you have a cache of ready-to-go, homemade bread waiting in your freezer. You could even just bake a few off for a morning respite, and spread them with butter and jam while still hot.
The rolls are pretty classic in flavor and texture: white, fluffy, and airy. A touch of sugar keeps the crumb delicate and also adds a very mild sweetness. To offset that, I like to finish mine with a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt before sliding them into the oven.
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Not only is this recipe extremely versatile in flavor (you could easily add chopped fresh herbs, dried herbs to the dough, or a sprinkling of cheese over top before baking), but they're simple to shape any number of ways. You can roll them into balls and bake them in a round metal pan or pie plate. You can roll them into even tinier balls and squish three apiece into a greased muffin tin, turning them into mini cloverleaf-style rolls. You can divide the dough into equal pieces, roll each piece into a thin rope, and twist them into coils or pretzel shapes. You could even knead the entire batch of dough into one large round and bake it in a Dutch oven as a boule. Whatever you choose, just be sure to make the shapes evenly-sized so they bake uniformly. Or, if you bake some smaller-sized rolls alongside larger ones, keep an eye on the smaller ones as they'll finish first.
Filling your freezer with these rolls is the nicest favor you can for yourself this season. Come Thanksgiving week, you'll be very glad you did, and you can check "bread" off the to-do list.