I can say with complete confidence that these rolls are the most delicious rolls that will ever pass your lips. Sweet, buttery, moist – there’s no comparison. I started making these rolls about ten years ago, but have eaten them every single Thanksgiving since I was a little girl. Some of my most vivid memories of Thanksgiving are of my granny sitting at her kitchen table, shaping balls of dough into rolls for our dinner. My cousin and sister and I would try to sneak bits of dough to eat and Granny would playfully banish us from the room. Everyone loved her rolls. After Granny passed away, my aunt and mom took over bringing piles of rolls to our holiday gatherings, and now, even for our smaller family celebrations, someone always makes the rolls. Yesterday, I was looking through a booklet that my grandma filled out about her life – I was actually trying (unsuccessfully) to scan in her picture to share – and I got caught up reading some of her entries. I came across a page with commentary about family traditions and meals and, wouldn’t you know, my Granny wrote down her rolls as a favorite family tradition. I love that!
So, the rolls. I make my roll dough in a bread maker. Do you have one? Bread makers really make the process easy, but you don’t have to use one. My bread maker is an older version of this one:Breadman Programmable Bread Maker (affiliate link). Not too fancy and it works just fine for my occasional bread maker needs. It takes a little more work, but you can hand mix the dough instead. I’ll provide instructions for both methods.
Homemade Sweet Dinner Rolls
Roll Dough Recipe:
1 Cup sour milk (mix 1 C. 2% or whole milk with 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes)
4 Tablespoons of softened butter (let it sit out for 20 minutes or so, do not microwave to soften)
3 1/4 C. flour
1/3 C. sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Rapid Rise active dry yeast
Breadmaker Instructions: You simply dump in all of the ingredients in the order listed and start the dough cycle on the machine. The machine mixes the dough and lets it rise. After about an hour, the machine is done doing its work and it’s time to form the dough into rolls.
Handmixing Instructions: Mix 1 teaspoon sugar, yeast, and 1/2 C. warm water and leave untouched for 5 minutes. Reduce milk by 1/2 cup – warm until lukewarm, add lemon, and let sit. After 5 minutes, stir the yeast mixture into the milk mixture and stir in a large bowl. Add in egg and butter; stir well. Combine remaining dry ingredients and gradually stir into the wet ingredients. When about half of the dry ingredients have been stirred in, sprinkle flour on a work surface and dump the dough out of the bowl – it will be really sticky at this point. Work the remaining flour mixture into the dough, kneading and turning the dough, and adding flour mixture until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Grease a large clean bowl with butter and place the dough inside. Flip it over once so all of the dough has some butter coating it. Place a damp towel over the bowl and place it in a warm draft-free location to rise. You can turn on your oven to its lowest setting for a couple minutes and place the dough bowl in there or just set it in a warmer part of the kitchen/house. The dough will double in size over about an hour’s time. Once it has risen, punch the dough down and you are ready to form the dough into rolls.
Forming the Dough into Rolls: Grease an 9″ x 13″ glass casserole dish with butter. Dab the tips of your fingers in some butter and pluck a golf ball size piece of dough from the bowl. Form it into a smooth ball by wrapping the dough from the top and sides around and into the bottom center. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you’re kneading the roll in your hands and forming a smooth top on the ball at the same time. The dough can be a little sticky – be sure you regrease your fingers for every roll and work the dough just on your fingertips. Place the roll into the pan. I make 20 rolls for each batch of dough. You may have to redistribute some of the dough to make evenly formed rolls to fill the pan – that’s fine. Once your pan is full, place a dry towel over the top and place the pan in a warm, draft-free location to rise once again. This takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When you can gently press your finger into the roll and the dough does not bounce back up, they’re ready to bake.
Baking the Rolls: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towel from the roll pan before baking. Bake rolls for 12-15 minutes. The rolls are done when the tops are deep golden brown and the bottoms of the rolls are mostly cooked. When you’re baking in a clear glass pan, you can peek at the sides and bottom edges to see if there’s a little browning. It can be hard to tell and you’ll likely need to bake a few batches to get a feel for the level of doneness you want. I like my rolls just a little dough-y, but some people don’t. Granny used to tap on the rolls in the oven to check for doneness; I do this, too, but I have no idea what I’m listening/feeling for, it’s just a gesture. ha!
A Couple Notes: A few things that I think make a significant difference in the outcome – 1. milk with a higher fat content is preferable, 2. use real butter, 3. use a glass baking dish, 4. undercooked is better than overcooked.
Do you think your Thanksgiving menu has room for these heavenly rolls this year? I know I’ll be making up a batch or four and shuffling my girls out of the kitchen when they run by trying to snatch my dough right out of the pan. What traditional dishes will you be cooking?
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