old-school dinner rolls

I have a serious soft spot for dinner rolls: small, buttery, plush rounds that I have, to this day, never actually eaten with dinner, you know, warmed in a basket. (But I hear it’s great!) At the bakery where I worked in high school, they’d come out of the oven in a big pan, fully kissingcrusted and that part where you pull two rolls apart and a few feathery filaments of bread that couldn’t decide which roll they’d like to adhere to when separated are absolutely my favorite part. A warm roll, split and spread with salted butter or jam or both was my breakfast so many mornings. When I make them at home these days, I’m equally likely to use them for small egg sandwiches for breakfast, slider rolls for pulled pork, or even alongside a bowl of soup on a chilly day like this.


kneading the dough

a loose doughready to rise, fully aware that this bowl is not big enoughpopping out of her shower capa big flop of doughmy too-lazy-to-cookie-cutter methodform the rollsform roundsroll in a little butterline them up in the panafter proofing another hourfrom the oven

We all need an airtight recipe for these and I found mine in Vallery Lomas’s first cookbook, Life Is What You Bake It (Amazon, Bookshop, More Indies). I first heard of Lomas a few years ago from this article which explains that while she was the first winner of the The Great American Baking Show (a spinoff of the wonderful Great British Bake-Off), the series was never aired after sexual harassment allegations emerged against one of the season’s celebrity judges. I cannot even imagine how frustrating that must be, to be at the precipice of a well-earned new career and spotlight only to have the whole show essentially scrubbed from TV listings. But Lomas decided it was still then or never and left her job as a lawyer to pour her energy into this book and it pays off. It’s a mix of baked goods she grew up with and newer ones she developed for the show. But, despite being Bakeoff-associated, the recipes are delightfully unfussy with wonderful names like Almost-Ate-The-Plate Carrot Cake and Thicky-Thick Peanut Butter Brownies. I’ve had my eye on these rolls since I previewed and blurbed the book last spring and they did not disappoint — stretchy, rich, and basically adorable. I hope they make your Sunday smell delicious.

brush with remaining butter

old-school dinner rolls

Previously

6 months ago: Classic Shortbread for all of your Ted Lasso-ing needs
1 year ago: Morning Glory Breakfast Cake
2 years ago: Skillet Ravioli with Spinach and Chicken Curry
3 years ago: Even More Perfect Apple Pie
4 years ago: Quick Pasta and Chickpeas and Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
5 years ago: Garlic Wine and Butter Steamed Clams, Baked Alaska, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup and Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses
6 years ago: My Old-School Baked Ziti and Cannoli Pound Cake
7 years ago: Better Chicken Pot Pies and Better Chocolate Babka
8 years ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl and Purple Plum Torte
9 years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
10 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
11 years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
12 years ago: Quiche Lorraine and Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp
13 years ago: Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah (Egg Bread), and Mom’s Apple Cake
14 years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Bagels and Peanut Butter Brownies
15 years ago: Lemon Cake

Old-School Dinner Rolls

This is half-batch of the original recipe in Lomas’s book, which doubles everything and bakes the (approximately 35) rolls in a half-sheet pan. Because I’m a restless recipe-tinkerer, I made a few other tweaks: Hand-shaping the rolls (vs. using a 2.5-inch cookie cutter and re-rolling scraps) and I start the dough with cold butter.
  • 1 cup (235 grams) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine, diced small, plus 3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted or unsalted, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used Diamond brand; use half of another)
  • 1 1/4-ounce (2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams) packet instant yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups (455 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Oil, for the bowl
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the warm water, 2 tablespoons diced butter, granulated sugar, the egg, kosher salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and add the flour. Knead on low speed until all of the ingredients come together, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl, 8 minutes. (It’s too soft to form a ball around the hook, and that’s okay.)

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to it. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. [It took 1 1/2 hours in my kitchen each time.]

[Do ahead: These first two steps can be done up to 24 hours in advance. Transfer the bowl of dough, covered, to the refrigerator at this point. The cold air slows the rising process, leading to a richer flavor. When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and continue the recipe from here.]

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter [salted butter is great here] and set aside. Scoop the dough onto a well-floured counter, and use floured hands to pat the dough into a 12×9-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 24 (6×4 rows), 20 (5×4 rows, as shown here) or even 12 rolls (4×3 rows), depending on your final use for them. Shape each square into a round.

Dip both sides of each round lightly in melted butter. “You want a thin coat, not a total dunk,” Lomas explains. (To do this, Lomas’s mother melts the butter in a small saucepan, then tilts it so the butter puddles on one side, then dips the circle of dough in the other side, where there was just a coating of buttery residue.) You should have a little butter leftover; save it.

After dipping, transfer rounds to a 9×13-inch (quarter-sheet) baking sheet, lining the rolls up with room to expend. Use a light hand; the dough doesn’t like to be touched.

Let the dough rise again until the rolls are puffed up and springy, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Heat oven to 400°F. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with remaining melted butter. If you used unsalted butter, sprinkle the tops with a few pinches of flaky salt. (Skip if you used salted butter.)

Eat right away or rewarm before serving. These rolls keep best in the freezer, if you’re saving them for future.