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}

Rose’s Butter Dipped Dinner Rolls

I hope you don’t mind the fact that it’s April and I’m just now talking about what I was cooking on Christmas day.  Wendi time works on its own schedule.  I feel as though I spent Christmas day with Rose Levy Beranbaum. Oh my, what a wonderful thing that would be.

Not only did we have her apple filled dutch baby for Christmas breakfast, we had her butter dipped dinner rolls at dinner.  Christmas was filled with all kinds of Bread Bible Studies.  And it was a complete success.

Rose’s Butter Dipped Dinner Rolls

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbum’s The Bread Bible

BAH Note:  This is not a quick recipe. But if you plan accordingly, the end result will be worth the wait.  I never imagined I would say that about a dinner roll that came out of my oven.  But I did and I stand by it.  I may sound like a broken record here but again, I don’t know if my flour was bleached or unbleached and my results were spectacular.  If you have the space to store both bleached and unbleached all purpose flour, please don’t tell me because I will develop a raging case of storage envy.

Starter

  • 170 grams (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 22 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water between 70 and 90 degrees
  • 22 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon) honey
  • .8 grams (1/4 teaspoon) instant yeast

Combine all the ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer and whisk by hand for 2 minutes until very smooth and the consistency of a thick batter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Dough

  • 156 grams (1 cup plus 4 1/2 teaspoons) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 20 grams (2 tablespoons) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1.6 grams (1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 64 grams (4 1/2 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 7.5 grams (1 1/8 teaspoons) salt
  • 56 grams (4 tablespoons) butter, melted

Once you have made the starter, begin working on the rest of the dough.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, milk powder, and yeast.  Sprinkle this on top of the starter, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to sit for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature during which time the sponge may bubble through the flour in places.

Add the butter to your mixture and mix on low speed for 1 minute with the dough hook until the flour is moist enough to form a rough dough.  Scrape down any bits on the side of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and rest the dough for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt onto the dough and knead on medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes until it comes away from the sides of the bowl, is smooth and elastic, and sticks to your fingers.  Use an oiled spatula and scrape down any bits on the side of the bowl.

Quickly turn the dough out of the mixing bowl and coat the bowl with cooking spray.  Return the dough to the bowl, gently push it down, and spray the surface with cooking spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1 /2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Use an oiled spatula or bench scraper to turn the dough out onto a floured counter.  Gently press it into a rectangle.  Fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third of the dough up as though you were folding a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat.  Return the dough to the bowl and spray the surface lightly again.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

To form the rolls, gently roll the dough into a long log and cut into 18 pieces, each piece approximately 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons.  Roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the melted butter onto the rolls, cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been coated with cooking spray, and allow the rolls to rise for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

During this final rise, place an oven rack with a baking stone on it at the lowest level and place a sheet pan or cast iron skillet on the oven floor and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and set the sheet pan on the baking stone.  Quickly add 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan on the oven floor.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and brush with any remaining melted butter.

{printable recipe}