I can say with complete confidence that these dinner rolls are the best dinner rolls that will ever pass your lips. Sweet, buttery, moist homemade rolls – there’s no comparison. I started making this recipe maybe 20 years ago, but have eaten them every single Thanksgiving since I was a little girl. It is easiest to make them in the bread machine, but I have also included instructions to work the dough for these yeast-based rolls without a bread maker.
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 sweet dinner 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!
Making the Rolls in a Bread Machine
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 (aff). 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. Let’s get baking!
Start by making the sour milk. This is a substitute for buttermilk and while I don’t typically have buttermilk in the house, I always have regular milk and lemons. Prepare the sour milk 5-10 minutes before adding the roll ingredients to the bread machine. Stir one tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of whole milk and leave to become sour.
Add the sour milk, egg, and softened butter into the pan. Next, add the flour and sugar, salt and baking soda.
On top of the dry ingredients, add the yeast. So easy! Now it’s time to let the bread maker do the work.
Turn on the bread maker, set it on the dough setting, and press start. The machine mixes the dough and lets it rise.
When the bread maker is done, your dough should be puffy and ready to form rolls.
Oooooo, doesn’t that dough look good??
Shape and Proof the Rolls
Prepare a 13×9 casserole dish by coating the bottom and sides with butter.
Coat your fingers with a little butter and pinch off a piece of dough to form your first roll.
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.
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.
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, listening for a hollow sound. The tapping for doneness trick doesn’t work for me, but I still do it as a gesture every now and then. lol.
See that soft center? Perfection.
Slather some butter in there. Try not to eat the whole batch before dinner. Mmmmmm.
THE Dinner Roll Recipe
Homemade Sweet Dinner Rolls
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp butter, softened
- 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp Rapid Rise active dry yeast
Making the Dough in Bread Machine
- Stir lemon juice into milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes to make sour milk.
- Place sour milk, egg, and softened butter into bread machine pan.
- Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into pan, completely covering wet ingredients.
- Add yeast to the top of the ingredients.
- Place in bread machine and set to form dough. Run the full dough cycle. When the dough cycle is complete, move on to forming the rolls.
Forming the Rolls
- Grease 13x9 inch pan with butter. Place some butter on fingertips. Take a golf-ball size piece of dough and use your fingers to tuck the dough under the bottom, forming a smooth round top.
- Form 20 rolls with the dough. Cover with a light dishcloth and set in a draft-free, warm area to rise.
- Allow rolls to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. When rolls have risen and the dough does not bounce back when you press it lightly with your finger, they are ready to bake.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes. The rolls should be well browned on top.
Making the Dinner Rolls by Hand
If you don’t have a bread maker, you can make the roll dough by hand. You will be using mostly the same ingredients as indicated in the recipe, but you will need to reduce the amount of milk as per the instructions below.
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. Follow the roll forming and baking instructions above.
Proofing the Dinner Rolls
Bread dough rises twice before baking. The first rise is done after the dough has been mixed (either in the bread machine or after hand mixing.) The second rise occurs after the rolls are formed. The formed rolls need to be covered by a light tea towel while rising. I typically set them in an oven or on a countertop adjacent to other cooking/baking. This kicks a little warmth in their direction. Anywhere, as long as there isn’t a cool draft, should be suitable for proofing the rolls.
Freezing and Reheating Rolls
Once the rolls have baked and cooled completely, transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. Allow rolls to thaw completely at room temperature when ready to eat. Heat in the microwave for small increments to warm the rolls (15-30 second spurts).
More Tips for Perfect Rolls
A few things that I think make a significant difference in the outcome of the rolls.
- milk with a higher fat content is preferable, but 2% or even nonfat milk will do in a pinch.
- use real butter, not a butter substitute
- use a glass baking dish so that you can see the underside of the rolls when checking for doneness
- undercooked is better than overcooked. You’re welcome.
Other Baked Goods to Make with this Roll Recipe:
This post has been updated with fresh info and pictures, but the same tried and true recipe. If you’re looking for the recipe that goes with these photos….
you’ve come to the right place! Same recipe, new look. xo