Dinner Rolls

December 13, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Makes 9
Author Notes

First off don’t ask the host where they bought them. I mean, please, that is like rolling up a wet towel and smacking someone in the ass. It is the exact same insult as asking someone where they bought their meat after they have served you and you have eaten the best steak of your life. People do it to cooks all the time. I want to tell them it was road kill an hour ago. To those that do this do you understand what you are saying. Do I need to explain it is not a compliment to tell someone, “anyone could do what you just did as long as they know the right place to shop.” I know there was a time when this might have been a compliment but I still haven’t figured out when that was . And you say but Tom this is about dinner rolls not steak. Your right. OK. Dinner rolls. There is no such thing as a quick roll. No, be quiet. Let me finish, please, hear me out. My definition and understanding of quick rolls isn’t that they are any easier to make but just means a lack of prior planning. I don’t mean by you but by the person who called it a quick roll. It isn’t any easier to make a quick roll, you still have to mix the dough, let it rise, usually twice, but after the second rise you bake it. What a quick roll lacks is time, not less effort. This is what is important. This is the step that separates the baker from the apprentice, a quick roll from a great roll. After the first rise let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator. You need to know that the amylase rest overnight in the refrigerator helps to convert more starch to sugar and this step is what gives bread a deeper taste and a beautiful crust color. When bread dough is in the right hands it goes from a bland communion biscuit to manna from heaven. Southern cooks, for example, have for centuries been more passionate about their bread products than most. Take Edna Lewis’s Yeast Rolls from Sponge Batter in her book A Taste of Country Cooking. It is a potato roll that is made over the course of two days. If you read the recipe it is more than “just a recipe.” This is a total act of submission, not to the dough, that is a huge gesture of respect for her dinner guests and a desire to serve them the best. Look how beautifully she writes her directions, “After setting overnight the sponge will be aromatic and light as sea foam..” Sea foam, what a perfect way to describe a starter, could it be any more visual. You can feel the love Edna Lewis has for her dinner guests in her recipes, without even tasting her food, you know it is going to be spectacular. On the other hand, the other day I was looking for a kids show on PBS for Vivian when I came across Cooks Country. I saw Christopher Kimball doing his test kitchen science and talking about rolls with one of the researchers on the show. They did an audience taste test of frozen store bought rolls and they snuck in a homemade roll that fell flat against the store bought. I wanted to know more about the home made roll. Who made it? How was it made? ( actually I was thinking if Kimball’s staff can’t bake a better roll than a store bought roll and this is the best Kimball can do then why on Gods green earth would I want to use his recipes.) Then I thought why would a show like Cooks Country do this? Hasn’t country cooking always stood for home made. Then it dawned on me, the reality is most people don’t care until they are actually eating a really good roll made by someone who cared enough to make it right. I don’t know, maybe I am weird, maybe I care to much, but I guess I look at the world of food and eating a little differently than most people. I guess I look at dinner rolls as part of the foreplay of passionate and great meals. Need I say more, or should I just finish with take your time, there is always room for improvement, it takes practice, and don’t let anyone tell you it is not worth the effort and if they do you might want to divorce them from your guest list. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup water, body temperature
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, heaping, if you use a fine grind salt only use 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons raw wheat germ, toasted in a saute pan until nutty smelling
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened, plus some for brushing the rolls
  • 2 large eggs
  1. In the bowl of a mixer add the water and sprinkle in the yeast and let it bloom.
  2. Once it has dissolved add the rest of the ingredients adding the butter last. Save the butter wrapper.
  3. Using a dough hook mix the dough until it becomes elastic. Sit tight on adding any water the dough looks dry but it takes some time for the butter and eggs to hydrate the flour.
  4. It should form a loose ball and pull cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and kneed it a few times until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Grease the inside of the bowl wiping it with the reserved butter wrapper.
  6. Place the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl with a warm damp towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place. Just above room temp is fine. Set a timer for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
  7. Punch down the dough. Divide it into 9 equal pieces. Using the palm of your hand and rolling in a circular motion roll the pieces of dough into nine balls.
  8. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit into a 9 x 9 inch cake pan and place it on the bottom of the pan. Place the rolls into the pan keeping a little space between them. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and put them into the fridge.
  9. The next day remove them from the fridge and let them slow rise until they get to room temperature or have doubled from the original size from the day before.
  10. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the rolls for 15 minutes and then brush them liberally with butter. bake them another 10 minutes until the tops are golden brown and delicious. Remove them from the oven and let them cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • marynn
  • Sagegreen
  • ChefJune
  • fiveandspice
  • luvcookbooks

65 Reviews

marynn December 20, 2010
This is passion, plain and simple, and it shows in every post you have made. It is the extra step, the added detail, the discipline and craft that coaxes every bit of flavored nuance out of the ingredients at hand. There is a rare satisfaction in the thoughtful, deliberate intentionality
of making what can seem basic brilliantly. It also shows the tremendous respect you have for your food and the lucky people in your life who get to share it with you.
AntoniaJames December 20, 2010
Hear, hear! My sentiments exactly, marynn. Great, great post. I'd just add that we are among the lucky people who get to share, in our own way, his amazing knowledge, practical wisdom and imaginative creations. Thank you, marynn, for stating so eloquently what so many of us, I'm sure, often think. And thank you, Mr H, for sharing so generously with us. ;o)
thirschfeld December 20, 2010
first off you all are way to kind and I really appreciate the compliments but you must understand this is a two way street. I learn lots every time I log into f52. AJ I am working as I write on a post for prime rib. Should be up soon.
fiveandspice December 20, 2010
Couldn't agree more with all of you. This is such an amazing place to learn from amazing people. And now, raise your hand if you're pretty much running out as we speak to buy a roast in order to cook it, accompanied by these rolls, as soon as Mr. H's recipe is posted...that's what I thought. Me too!
AntoniaJames December 20, 2010
fiveandspice, I didn't know what I was going to serve on C-Day until reading about Mr H's prime rib, and yes, I'm going out to the butcher to order mine, as soon as I see the recipe (as time is at a premium and I need to combine that visit with some other errands). ;o)
Sagegreen December 15, 2010
Fun: I just discovered a host of classes even for home bakers at King Arthur's education center in Norwich VT! I have been wanted more help with whole grain baking and this looks like the ticket!
thirschfeld December 15, 2010
Those are the ones I was talking about. Let me know if you go because I want to hear alll about it
Sagegreen December 15, 2010
Well, I am first on the waiting list for "the whole of it: baking with grains" for late December and all signed up for "Yeast Breads II: beyond the basics" later in January. Full reports later! I love all the different types of wonderful scone mixes you can get at their shop which I never seem to find in our markets. A friend took me up there for a mystery surprise trip on my 50th birthday. Time to return!
drbabs December 15, 2010
Oh, I want to go! My brother-in-law and nephew have taken classes there! When is it?
Sagegreen December 15, 2010
They have classes all the time. I am signed up for Jan 11th and waitlisted for Dec 29th, but you can see the whole schedule:
We could have a meet up! Some summer I want to take one of their extended 4 or 5 day courses.
drbabs December 16, 2010
Oh, i wish, but my schedule is crazy-I'll have to plan farther in advance.
ChefJune December 15, 2010
What a paean to "real" dinner rolls! Thanks! The roll recipe I submitted this week is just such a recipe. I have to tell you that the favorite starter I ever did was made from grapes that I allowed to "catch" the natural yeasts in the air. (That's also a Nancy Silverton recipe.)

I live in a city where it's possible to buy all sorts of fantastic breads, but I still prefer to make my own. Turning out a beautiful loaf or batch of rolls is so satisfying, and everyone loves them.
thirschfeld December 15, 2010
thank you ChefJune so much. The starter I had for a number of years was Silvertons that is made with grapes. For my tastes that starter was the best and it always produced great loaves if properly cared for.
Sagegreen December 14, 2010
Thanks for everyone's help. I just managed to make a new batch that are so much better even using spelt with bread flour.
TiggyBee December 14, 2010
Sagegreen, I definitely need to catch up with everyone's recipes here for this week!! I thought your first attempt looked great! I was on my fourth attempt and have come to the decision that the first batch tasted the best. It's fun though, excepting the burn on my hand, but hey, I earned it!
thirschfeld December 14, 2010
tiggybee did you get a kitchen tattoo?
TiggyBee December 14, 2010
I did indeed! She's a beauty.
thirschfeld December 14, 2010
Triple antibiotic cream goes a long way to healing those especially if it has aloe in it.
TiggyBee December 14, 2010
thirshfeld, thanks! I just saw your Pocket Rolls... I'm going home.
fiveandspice December 14, 2010
Hear hear!
luvcookbooks December 14, 2010
you have issues about breadbaking!! hope u had some therapeutic kneading time after writing. i also love to bake bread and love edna lewis. reminds me i want to buy the book she wrote with scott peacock. do you like the laurel's kitchen bread book? nancy silverton? i own both but they are so hard core i haven't baked from either of them, tho in my youth i made the laurel's kitchen bulgur bread. feel slightly embarassed now to think how heavy it was. made it for a family who had a child in the hospital and were eating all their meals from the hospital cafeteria.
i assume you wouldn't use a bread machine?
also, if you're in los angeles, visit la brea bakery.
would be proud to say i bought their bread when i put it on the table.
happy holidays, i luv your recipes and comments!!
thirschfeld December 14, 2010
I baked bread with Nancy Silverton's sourdough starter every Sunday and Thursday for about 10 years . We went on vacation and our fridge went out and my in laws, who were looking after the house, threw it away because they thought it went bad. I had nursed that thing for all those years and wasted a lot of flour. Really unless you are a commercial bakery it is sort of silly to keep a sourdough starter alive and healthy, healthy being the key word because they aren't hard to keep alive but hard to keep healthy and who wants to eat sick bread. Have you ever read the part in Bourdain's book about the sourdough starter. I have not used Laurel's Kitchen. Don't take me to seriously because if I lived next to La Brea, Bouchon or any number of good bakeries I probably wouldn't make bread but it so happens I live in the country and even though I am not far from the city I have yet to find a good bread made at one of the local bakeries.
monkeymom December 14, 2010
About the starter...I made one in only 3 days when trying to make the Tartine Country Loaf. The author, Chad Robertson, says that all starters are very similar in their culture of particular strains of yeast and bacteria so it really isn't that necessary to keep the starters going forever. 3 days with water and flour only. I was amazed and the bread turned out great. I'd highly recommend that book as well as the bread is spectacular. On, and amazingly enough, the recipe for it is also in the January edition of Martha Stewart! But I'd get the book...MS condensed the 28 page recipe into 2. The pictures they left our really help.
thirschfeld December 14, 2010
I have used all kinds of starters, including Martha's where she uses a red cabbage leaf. Without seeing the recipe it would be hard for me to say anything one way or another. What I do know is if you are letting flour and water sit for three days at room temp. you are building flavor that will transfer wonderfully to the final loaf. As a matter of fact the first book I came across with anything related to sourdough was a Chez Panisse recipe and Alice Waters said it was not a true sourdough but using commercial yeast and letting it ferment for several days created a wonderful loaf. There is so much info out there on this. I especially like Jeffrey Hamellmans book Bread, he is the head baker for King Arthur and his book is a wonderful collection of recipes.
lapadia December 14, 2010
Kayb took the words out of my mouth.....Amen! Thanks for sharing all you have to share...
Kayb December 13, 2010
Amen, Brother Hirschfield! I'll play the invitation hymn whenever you're ready. Seriously, I'm in agreement with all you said. Great rolls, too!
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
thanks Kayb
monkeymom December 13, 2010
I'm thrilled to get your dinner roll recipe. Your passion is really inspiring.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
thanks monkeymom
Daphne December 13, 2010
Thank thirschfeld, I'm taking your word and just ordered A Taste! Can't wait to read it. Have you used Gold Medal bleached as they suggest?
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
I am not a big fan of bleached flour, Gold Medal makes an unbleached flour that I like and I especially like the cost but even so I am sort of hooked on King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill flours. I have used them for years and just know how they work. I hope you like the book I do because for one it has to be one of the first farm to table books out there. Look at her fried chicken recipe, I don't know if you make fried chicken but it seems to be regaining favor these days and as many recipes as I have seen I have never seen anyone add a piece of country ham to the oil to add depth and richness of flavor. I started adding a piece of applewood smoked bacon to the oil and, oh man, did it change my world.
Daphne December 13, 2010
I haven't used bleached in 20 some odd years either. Look at p.201 of The Gift and you'll understand my question. I make fried chicken a few times a year and my latest favorite recipe is from Ad Hoc. For many,many years it was the Union Hotel fried chicken. As I pull the book, California Fresh, off the shelf to find this recipe, I notice i the recipe is from Judy Rodgers when she worked there, never knew... I got the book and started making her fried chicken back in 1985. Look very much forward to getting A Taste and I will for sure try Edna's fried chicken.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
I use the ad hoc recipe with the slice of bacon although I just use salt and sugar in the brine. Yeah the protein percentage is important. I am not sure but I think King Arthur all purpose is 10%.
Daphne December 18, 2010
Got The Taste today, thirschfeld, thanks! Am so enjoying reading the preface and introduction by the fire tonight. I will make the chicken, but I've prime rib on my mind now. The spring and summer, I'll make fried chicken a few times. Will let you know how it turns out!
For Christmas Eve I'm making a dry age prime rib for 14, 7 ribs, the whole prime rib. Last year I over cooked it just a smidge. It was still delicious, but I want to get it true med. rare this year. I start at a higher temp. then lower it. I don't really want to use a blow torch. How do you do yours? Actually, I've never tried food pickle, I think this would be a question for them....
thirschfeld December 19, 2010
glad you like the book, look at the Christmas menu. I make prime rib 2 or 3 times a year. I love the stuff but I do it a little differently. I crust it with a rub I came up with from a Alan Ducasse sauce recipe and then sear it in a smoking hot big pan on the stove top, let it cool in the roasting pan and then I roast it in a very low oven, 275 degrees. Funny I like steaks medium rare but I like my prime rib so it doesn't have raw meat in the center so I want it as pink as I can get it but cooked. Somehow it seems so much more luxurious to me when it is barely cooked through. Most of the time I take it to 120 to 125 and then let it rest covered in a warm spot by the stove. Now you've got me hungry.
Daphne December 20, 2010
Your prime rib sounds wonderful. Mine will be bone-in, maybe not so easy to brown stove top, but I think I'll try mine your way.... rub too
AntoniaJames December 20, 2010
Mr. Hirschfeld, I realize this is an outrageous "ask" but if you would post your recipe for prime rib, there are thousands of people who would be grateful. If that is not realistic, perhaps you could answer a few questions: What's in the rub you use? What type of oil do you get smoking hot for searing? How many minutes to the pound at 275 do you roast it, or what internal temperature to you look for? I've decided to make prime rib for C-Day, but need some guidance. Thank you, as always. ;o)
Daphne December 13, 2010
Sweet. I Like your reference of Edna Lewis and the loving care that goes into making dinner rolls. I use The Gift Of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis and I really like their thoroughness about ingredients and technique etc in this book...
My husband's Grandmother and his Mom( from Kansas City) used to make potato split biscuits for holidays but I like/use the recipe for the yeast rolls from potato starter from the book mentioned above. I make them starting quite early, all in one day and they are timed to serve right out of the oven....
It's fun to pull dough pieces off the big mound of dough right when guests arrive. They love to watch me slather butter all over my hands and work shaping the rounds while we talk and sip champagne.Then, they get to see the last rise happen in the pans before we pop them into the oven.
Store bought rolls have their purpose too. We can get great small local bakery made rolls that we love too.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
Daphne I am a big fan of The Gift of Southern Cooking too. The potato starter rolls are the same in this book as the rolls I am talking about from A Taste of Country Cooking with some minor changes. I have made both and think I like the The Gift version a little better but I like the writing better in A Taste of Country Cooking. Both books are great resources on food. It was in the Taste of Country Cooking that I found the pear preserves that I had been searching for for years that remind me of my grandmother's preserves. If you could deem someone a national treasure I am pretty sure Miss Lewis would easily be on that list.
dymnyno December 13, 2010
Great rant which included a lot of what I was doing wrong on my first...second...and a few more failures. Patience! Mary. I've always had trouble with patience. No wonder bread making is like a religion!
Sagegreen December 13, 2010
Long live patience and perseverance. This week we seem to be helping each other get better all along the way both with moral support and knowledge! I so appreciate this help, too! Thanks, everyone.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
thanks dymnyno and sagegreen isn't cooking and food sharing, I mean at its core that is what is about isn't it? I never got the secret recipe thing.
TiggyBee December 13, 2010
I'm so feeling the love here. I love all my new food52 friends. I really do. You've all taught me so much. I'm grateful. : )
luvcookbooks December 14, 2010
it's also a peaceful experience, like prayer ... much to recommend it. don't know why there is such a mystique about yeast. silly.
fave bread prayer (from War and Peace): "let me lie down like a stone, O Lord, and rise up like new bread." :)
mrslarkin December 13, 2010
Right on, thirschfeld. Oh, and nice buns, too.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
thanks mrslarkin
TiggyBee December 13, 2010
I'm starting to have doubts about my contribution. Sigh.
Sagegreen December 13, 2010
Let me join you, TiggyBee!
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
TiggyBee I have know idea why you are having doubts about your wonderful rolls. The headnote I read is full of love for a grandmother, who obviously, spent lots of time giving the love back. There is no better roll than the one you shared with everyone, thanks for shoring your recipe
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
and sagegreen, your headnote reminds me of the importance of getting your hands into the dough. It has convinced me to make bread by hand again. Something I do rarely if at all anymore. I am sure it is going to take me a while to get back into the swing of things. Thanks for reminding me we used to do these things with out all the fancy machinery.
Sagegreen December 13, 2010
Well, I just mixed up a fourth batch, now inspired to see if the overnight refrig. after the first rise will improve my recipe, which I am sure now it will....I am making this batch for my son! And I still have rosemary from my garden now inside. Updates later.
dymnyno December 13, 2010
TiggyBee December 13, 2010
thirschfeld, you are a gem and I thank you for the encouragement. PS. why aren't these bad boys entered into the contest?
luvcookbooks December 14, 2010
i think it's essential to knead by hand if you want the therapeutic experience. needful in the stressful pre holiday season. feeling like the grinch today.
drbabs December 13, 2010
That was a beautiful sermon, Tom. I suspect you're preaching to the choir here, but it gives us all a little ammunition. Reminds me of a friend of mine, a professional singer (with an amazing voice) who works very hard to perfect her craft, and when she sings, it seems like the love and strength and beautiful tones she makes are as natural as breathing. But you know she works at it like a professional athlete works at a sport, or like we who love to feed people work and study and breathe cooking. And there are people who just pick up a guitar and sing and tell her that they are just like her.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
Thank you drbabs. I did not doubt that I was preaching to the choir but sometimes you just have to say it anyway to make yourself feel better.
dymnyno December 13, 2010
Hey! I am listening to the minister!
Sagegreen December 13, 2010
drbabs December 13, 2010
So, your Grace, may I suggest that submit this recipe to this week's contest?
hardlikearmour December 13, 2010
These are beautiful! I love and agree with your rant.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
thank you hardlikearmour.
AntoniaJames December 13, 2010
Wow, that's some "serious" (as the kids would say) butter and eggs to flour ratio you've got going there. Love the headnote, especially the homage to the great Edna Lewis. Don't get me started on "quick." I figured out decades ago that the beauty of Mrs. Rombauer's ice box rolls is not that you can do most of the "work" the day before, but that if you don't make them the day before, you don't get as tasty a roll. Nice, too, to see someone else giving wheat germ a little love. ;o)
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
Thanks and, as you well know. after you have eaten whole wheat flours for a while plain old white flour is pretty much tasteless. There is nothing like a little wheat germ to solve that problem.
thirschfeld December 13, 2010
leave them right in the pan
nannydeb December 13, 2010
Sounds great! Do you bake them in the 9x9 or do you need to transfer them to a bigger pan? Forgive me if this is a stupid question...