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

By • December 16, 2010 21 Comments

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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! – VictoriaThe Editors

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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 cups 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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