Food Memories – Grandmother’s Dinner Rolls

I met Jen Schall last year at Big Summer Potluck.  And then we both found ourselves attending the IFBC conference a month or so later.  One thing led to another and before I knew it we were tweeting back and forth and leaving comments on each other’s blogs.  Let me tell you something about Jen, she creates amazing things in the kitchen. Go.  Look.  Here’s the link.  Her talent isn’t limited to the sweets and savories.  That’s only half the story.  Her pictures are sublime.  Knowing that she’s only about 90 minutes away from B’more, I’m tempted to show up on her doorstep one day and request a private tutorial in how she sets up these shots.

I had asked Jen after IFBC if she had a recipe that I could include in my Food Memories Project.  She said she thought she did and then life got busy in the way it often does.  Later we were chatting about my challenges making bread and she mentioned that she had this great dinner roll recipe that she was going to post in her bread baking series.  So imagine my surprise when I read her post about her grandmother’s dinner rolls.  It was as though I had hit the trifecta….grandmother story (and I’m a big sucker for those), food memory, and a flawless roll all in one.

Thanks to Jen and her generosity, I now have perfect dinner rolls in my freezer and a food memory to share with you.

The following appeared on My Kitchen Addiction on 3 May 2011.

Light and Soft Dinner Rolls

If you ask anyone in my family, they will tell you that these are the ultimate dinner rolls. But, I can’t really take credit for them.

These are my grandmother’s famous rolls…  Whenever we would have get togethers with the whole family, she would make a big batch of these rolls. They were a holiday staple for years. My brother and cousins would fight over them, and I’m pretty sure that there were times where they each had more than 10 rolls in one meal. They really are that good.

My grandmother was a great cook and baker. Though she passed away a few years ago, I often think of her when I am in my kitchen. I am fortunate enough to have many of her recipes, and though I can’t prepare them quite the way she did, they always remind me of her.

Until recently, the recipe for her rolls was one of the few recipes that I didn’t have. In December, my mom and I were putting together a book of family recipes for my brother and his new wife.  When we asked around for recipes, one of my cousins happened to have the recipe for the rolls. We put it in the book (especially since my brother was one of the biggest fans of the rolls), and I set out to learn to make them myself.

Perhaps my grandmother is looking down on me, because there’s just something about these rolls that always amazes me.  They really are quite simple to make, and they always turn out beautifully.  They are the lightest, softest dinner rolls I have ever made. They’re also pretty adaptable. I have swapped out the all purpose flour for whole wheat, added flax, used oil in place of the butter, and even made them with herbs and cheese. The rolls also make fantastic buns for hot dogs and hamburgers… You’ll want to keep the recipe on hand this summer!

Light and Soft Dinner Rolls
(Makes 18 dinner rolls or 12 sandwich rolls)

Adapted from Jen Schall

BAH Note: I’ve made these as cloverleaf rolls with success.  After the second rise, portion the dough into 18 rolls. Divide each roll into three equal pieces and roll them into three small balls.  Place the group of three dough balls in the buttered cavity of a muffin tin so that it looks like a pyramid.  Brush the tops with melted butter,  cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise just until it reaches the top of the muffin tin.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  I’ve also frozen the cooked rolls and let them thaw at room temperature or warmed them in a 350 degree oven.

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    (or cut it into small chunks and microwave for about 15 seconds)
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Begin by combining the milk, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together until the yeast and sugar are mostly dissolved.

Add the butter and egg.  Stir to incorporate and break up the egg.  Add 1 cup of flour and beat vigorously to fully incorporate the flour and any lumps of butter that may have been remaining.

Gradually, add the remaining flour, stirring until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough with your hands, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.  Knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth, but still light and soft.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).  Punch the dough down, reshape into a ball, and let rise a second time until the dough has doubled in volume again (an additional hour).

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Shape the rolls and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. Let the rolls rise while the oven preheats, until they are a bit puffy.  If desired, brush the tops of the rolls with some egg wash (to make them shiny) and sprinkle with sesame seeds (I usually do this for the hot dog and hamburger buns).  Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes, until the rolls are golden on top.

Let the rolls cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack. The rolls are best served warm, but they will keep for a few days in an airtight container, or wrapped in plastic.

{printable recipe}

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18 Responses to Food Memories – Grandmother’s Dinner Rolls

  1. JenniferA says:

    I have GOT to try these rolls, tout suite!

    Love the Food Memories series. Keep em coming.

  2. Anything that comes in the form of bread, has me hooked! These look amazing and would be mighty delicious with a little homemade jam that someone *wink* dropped off at my house! Thank you again!
    ~Kristin

    • Wendi says:

      Kristin, these rolls would love to make the acquaintance of some of that jam. Thanks for being such a good sport about my early morning “jambush” yesterday!

  3. Lan says:

    i love gma stories.

    these rolls would make for the most perfect weekday sandwich-type bread for lunch at work, i get so tired of making loaf breads sometimes.

  4. shutterboo says:

    Oh yum. I need to have a “tackle yeast and breads” weekend at my house. I think co-workers would thank me after the fact.

    • Wendi says:

      Brooke, your coworkers will worship you if you brought in these rolls…especially if you rolled the dough out into a rectangle, filled it with cinnamon/sugar/butter and made cinnamon buns.

  5. omawarisan says:

    Yeah, if those are around I am not eating anything else.

  6. I so get overdosing on something like this; they look PERFECT and then add a wonderful memory too? Thanking you and Jenn; will absolutely be trying them. Will wait til others are here with me to make sure I don’t eat a dozen in one sitting!

    • Wendi says:

      Barbara, here’s a secret…these roll freeze beautifully. Bake, cool, and freeze. I still have a few left in my freezer and they take no time at all to come to room temp or pop in a low oven for about five minutes to warm.

  7. Jen Schall says:

    So glad you enjoy the rolls, Wendi! They are definitely one of my favorites, and a great recipe for bread baking beginners!

  8. Libby says:

    Add one more egg will make the dough even more yellow in color and a small bit more flavorful. I make this dough all the time for sandwich rolls, loaves, and even braided challah type bread. Learning to turn out a sweet yeast dough is one of the best things you can learn in yeast baking. Very versatile. I base many of my final breads on it. For what is known as the “straight dough” method, the sweet yeast dough is one of the staples in baking. Don’t think you are just limited to dinner rolls.

    • Wendi says:

      Libby, it occurred to me as I was in the middle of making some cinnamon rolls that this dough and that one were very similar. Can’t say I’ve mastered it yet but I’m learning as I go.

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