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Best Ever Dinner Rolls

This recipe is deceivingly simple. It's hard to believe something this perfect could come from just 6 ingredients. I've tried all sorts of tricks to accomplish a pillowy-soft dinner roll. Dehydrated milk powder, potato flakes, the Tangzhong method, oil, cream, butter... you name it, I've tried it. The other day I decided to rediscover an old recipe that's been grossly neglected since I wrote it down in my recipe journal about 20 years ago. Hours later, I was apologetically bookmarking that page with a giant post-it.

These rolls are so good that my 8-year-old made me promise to make them every single day. You'll be pleased to know that they couldn't be simpler. The only caveat is that you must be patient and give them the rest time that they need. I tried to rush the second batch and regretted it. In fact, the first time I made these rolls, success happened by accident. I got stuck in carpool traffic during the 2nd rise and thought that they had over-proofed when I got home. They were PERFECT. I've tested the proofing times out about 4 times now (gotta keep the kiddo happy in bread) and if you follow the instructions carefully, I think you'll be pleased with the results.


1 1/2 c. warm water (no warmer than a baby's bathwater).

2 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 c. granulated sugar

2 Tbsp oil

1 tsp salt

4 c. / 640 g. high-protein bread flour


Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure the remaining ingredients into a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. (You can also knead by hand in a large bowl).

Check that the yeast-water is showing signs of life: dissolving, creating tiny islands on top, etc. This is a great way to make sure your yeast is alive and ready to get to work.

A note on activating yeast:

The most common cause of yeast death is extreme heat. If you've accidentally cooked your yeast-babies by soaking them in hot water, don't fret. Throw it out and start again with new yeast and cooler water this time. Active dry yeast has a coating that needs to be dissolved. It is dormant and should be mixed with water and sugar to wake it up. Water between 86-100°F is ideal for this. Cold water can be used, too, it will just take a lot longer. Water above 120°F will kill the yeast.

No thermometer? No problem. Drop a spoonful of water onto the underside of your wrist, the way you might check the temperature of a baby's bottle. If it's comfortable for you, it's comfortable for the yeast.

After about 5 minutes you should see a few spots of mushy yeast floating at the surface. Not yet? Give it a little shake and see if some rises to the top. Still nothing? Check again in 5 minutes.

Once your yeast is ready, pour it over the other ingredients. I use an Artisan Kitchen Aid and the flour likes to jump out of the bowl. If this happens to you, just wrap the mixer and bowl with a tight layer of plastic wrap to keep the flour where it belongs. Knead at low speed for five minutes, or by hand for 10. About halfway through kneading in the mixer, turn it off, lift the head, and flip your dough upside down to ensure that your ingredients are fully incorporated.

The texture should be soft, pliable and gorgeous, but should not stick to your finger when touched. It also should be one homogeneous lump of dough and not have any dry, flaky bits at the bottom. Use your judgement to decide if more flour or water is needed, and add accordingly, a teaspoon at a time. Mix thoroughly between additions.

Let the dough rise at room temperature for 90 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Grease or line a cookie sheet (half sheet) with nonstick baking paper or a silicone liner. Divide the dough into 12 balls and place seam-side down evenly spaced over the cookie sheet. Brush the tops with oil and cover the sheet with plastic. (Don't skip this step or the plastic will tear your delicate dough when you remove it).

Let the rolls rise at room temperature for 2 hours, or until they have almost filled the pan. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes, or until the tops are just barely turning golden brown. Fully baked rolls will feel hollow when tapped (true only when first removed from the oven... the tops soften as they cool). The internal temperature of fully baked bread is minimum 170 degrees F.

Leftover rolls can be stored at room temperature for 4 days, covered in plastic.

I call these rolls the BEST because they stay pillowy soft for days. Enjoy them dipped into hot soup, slathered through a saucy lasagna, holding your favorite sandwich stuff together, or melting the perfect slippery slice of European butter. Enjoy!

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