How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

I originally posted a refrigerator rolls recipe last March when I wanted to make a new recipe for easy crescent rolls. Since then, I’ve been perfecting these rolls. Practice makes perfect, right? And I’ve discovered they are really an all-purpose kind of roll. I have used this recipe to make cinnamon rolls and orange rolls in addition to using them as dinner rolls. Refrigerator rolls are super forgiving and perfect for beginners and advanced bakers alike, and I am going to show you how to make refrigerator rolls from scratch plus how I am able to make smooth, round rolls that look pretty too. 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

Learning how to make refrigerator rolls is a good skill to have whether you’re a beginner or an experienced baker. This recipe is very user-friendly and can be made days in advance making it a staple holiday recipe at my house. 

When I first started baking with yeast, I was a bit intimidated. Now I am more comfortable proofing yeast, but in the beginning not so much. I still rely on quick rise yeast because it’s so easy to use, but this recipe will work with regular instant yeast as well.

Also, this refrigerator roll dough is a dream to work with because it is very soft and you work with it while it is still cold. I have a tendency to want to add too much flour to roll dough because it’s easier to handle. Not a problem here, although you want to be careful about using too much flour in any case.

Beginning Steps

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
1. Place butter, sugar and milk in a large, glass, 4-cup measuring cup. Microwave for several minutes until the butter is almost all melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is very hot to the touch. (I check it on my instant read thermometer and the temp should be about 140 degrees F because it will cool down once you add it to the eggs.)

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs well. Slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking continuously. The bowl and the eggs should be warm. (110 degrees F. is the perfect temperature.)

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
3. Place the flour and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Note: this won’t work with a dough hook–this isn’t a typical bread dough. A paddle attachment can easily handle this very soft dough.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

I will sometimes use bread flour if I have it. It makes for a slightly better roll.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
4. Turn the mixer on low to evenly distribute the yeast.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

5. With the mixer running, add the liquids in a slow, steady stream. When all the liquid has been added, turn the mixer up to medium and let it run for 1 minute. Add the salt. Keep mixing for another three or so minutes, or until the dough starts to form strong webs as it mixes.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

6. Rub the inside of a very large bowl with oil. (See how soft the dough is? You can practically pour it.)

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

7. Place the finished dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

8. Place dough in a warm, draft-free spot to rise. It should double in size and be stretchy.

How To Make Refrigerator RollsHow To Make Refrigerator Rolls

9. Sprinkle it with about 1 Tbsp. flour and punch it down. (Don’t use too much flour–just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your hand.)

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

11. Wrap the bowl well with a few layers of plastic wrap. (You don’t want the dough to dry out.) Refrigerate the dough until chilled. It can be kept overnight and up to 5 days. It may rise up a bit in the refrigerator. If it rises higher than the top of the bowl, just lightly punch it down and cover it back up again.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

12. When you are ready to bake the rolls remove the dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a little flour over a flat, clean surface. (I like to use my silicone baking mat for this.) For this demonstration, I am making basic round dinner rolls. I’ve included instructions in the recipe notes for forming into other shapes and for use as sweet rolls. Also, you don’t have to bake all of the dough at once. You can remove as little or as much dough as you’d like and the rest can stay in the bowl until ready to use. 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

13. Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into equal portions. When making dinner rolls, one batch of refrigerator roll dough will yield the following: 24 smaller (about 2 1/2-inches in diameter after baking), 16 medium (about 4-inches), or 12 large (6-inches, for use as hamburger buns).

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

14. To create rolls that are perfectly round and smooth on top, this is the method I use. (There are other ways out there, but this has worked the best for me.)
-Roll dough into a rough ball. 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
-Place your finger in the center of the dough. 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls
-Push your finger up from the bottom while using your other hand to form a round ball on the top.
-The underside will look all squished as pictured below. 

-Pinch together the seams and turn it over – nice and round! The top should be relatively smooth and will get smoother once the rolls have risen.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

15. Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you don’t have either of these, don’t fret. It’s fine to use a plain baking sheet that has been greased.) 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

16. Cover with a large disposable aluminum pan or a clean, plastic garbage bag. (I use a grocery sack that I cut up one side and lay flat.) Make sure the rolls won’t dry out as they rise. If you live in a humid environment, that may  not be a problem. In drier areas, make sure rolls are completely covered and even place a damp flour sack towel over the plastic to keep them from drying out and cracking.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

-Traditional rise method: let the rolls rise at room temperature until double in size; this could take anywhere between 1-2 hours or more depending on the temperature of the room. The cookbook I originally got this recipe from states that they can even be left to rise as long as 5 hours without any harm done.

Slow rise method: place formed rolls still on the baking sheet, covered well, in the fridge and allow to rise overnight. Bake as directed.

For speed rise method: Bring a tea kettle filled with water to a rolling boil. While water is boiling, place a casserole dish in the bottom of the oven. Preheat oven to 150°F then turn off oven. Place baking sheet with rolls on center oven rack and pour the boiling water into the casserole dish. Close the oven and let rise for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and preheat oven as directed in recipe and bake accordingly.

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

17. Once rolls have almost doubled in size, preheat oven to 375°F. If desired, gently brush the tops of the rolls with a little melted butter or beaten egg. (his will help them develop a beautiful golden crust, but is not necessary.) Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until tops and bottoms are golden brown. 

How To Make Refrigerator Rolls

Recipe notes:

  • These rolls are best the day they are made. To keep them fresh for longer, store in a large Ziploc bag or airtight container and gently reheat in a warm oven for a few minutes before serving.
  • They freeze well if you need to make them in advance. Bake the rolls partially for about 7 or 8 minutes–not until they are golden brown. Let the rolls cool completely and freeze them for up to a month. To reheat and finish baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 5-8 minutes or until golden brown on top.
  • Alternatively, form rolls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet, but instead of allowing them to rise, place sheet in freezer and allow rolls to harden completely. Transfer to an airtight container or bag. When ready to bake rolls, take out the desired number of rolls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet or other baking dish. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size. This can be done overnight in the fridge, if desired, or at room temperature for 5-6 hours. Bake as directed in recipe.
  • For crescent rolls, roll dough into a large circle and use a pizza cutter or knife to cut dough evenly into triangles. Start with the wide end and roll up the dough to form the crescent. Let rise and brush with beaten egg before baking.
  • For sweet rolls, after initial rise and time in the refrigerator, roll dough out into a large rectangle or other shape, fill, or cut into desired type of roll. Allow to rise as directed in recipe and bake. Time will vary according to size and shape of rolls. See recipe for instructions on making cinnamon or orange rolls.

Refrigerator Rolls 101
 
Refrigerator Rolls (adapted from the Lion House Classics Cookbook)
Author:
Recipe type: bread, rolls
Ingredients
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole or lowfat milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant or quick-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions
  1. Place butter, sugar and milk in a large, glass, 4-cup measuring cup. Microwave for several minutes until the butter is almost all melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is very hot to the touch. (I check it on my instant read thermometer and the temp should be about 140 degrees F because it will cool down once you add it to the eggs.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs well. Slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking continuously. The bowl and the eggs should be warm. (110 degrees F. is the perfect temperature.)
  3. Place the flour and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  4. Note: this won't work with a dough hook--this isn't a typical bread dough. A paddle attachment can easily handle this very soft dough.
  5. Turn the mixer on low to evenly distribute the yeast.
  6. With the mixer running, add the liquids in a slow, steady stream. When all the liquid has been added, turn the mixer up to medium and let it run for 1 minute. Add the salt.
  7. Keep mixing for another three or so minutes, or until the dough starts to form strong webs as it mixes.
  8. Rub the inside of a very large bowl with oil. Place the finished dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place dough in a warm, draft-free spot where it can rise. (Test your dough, if needed. It should be strong and stretchy.)
  9. When the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle it with about 1 Tbsp. flour and punch it down. (Don't use too much flour--just enough so the dough doesn't stick to your hand.)
  10. Wrap the bowl well with a few layers of plastic wrap. (You don't want the dough to dry out.) Refrigerate the dough until chilled. It can be kept overnight and up to 5 days.
  11. When you are ready to bake the rolls remove the dough from the fridge.
  12. Sprinkle a little flour over a flat, clean surface. (I like to use my silicone baking mat for this.)
  13. For crescent rolls: roll dough into a large circle and use a pizza cutter or knife to cut dough evenly into triangles. Start with the wide end and roll up the dough to form the crescent.
  14. For round, dinner rolls: Cut the dough into equal pieces. For smaller rolls - make 24, medium - 16, large - 12.
  15. Roll dough into a rough ball. Place your finger in the center of the dough.Push your finger up from the bottom while using your other hand to form a round ball on the top.
  16. Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you don't have either of these, don't fret. It's fine to use a plain baking sheet that has been greased.) Squish the flaps on the underside together. The top should be relatively smooth and will get smoother once the rolls have raised. Cover with a large disposable aluminum pan or a clean, plastic garbage bag. (I use a grocery sack that I cut up one side and lay flat.) Let the rolls rise until double in size. (For speed rise method, place the rolls in a slightly warm oven--about 150 degrees F with a pan of boiling water beneath them.) (The note in the Lion House Cookbook says they can even be left to rise for as many as 5 hours without any damage being done. Great for a day when it's uncertain when the rolls will go in the oven--like Thanksgiving.)
  17. Brush the tops of the raised rolls with a little melted butter or a beaten egg. Bake at 375°F for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden.
  18. Serve warm.
Notes
Other notes:
These rolls are best the day they are made. To keep them fresh for longer, store in a large Ziploc bag or airtight container and gently reheat in a warm oven.
They freeze well if you need to make them in advance. Bake the rolls partially for about 7 or 8 minutes--not until they are golden brown. Let the rolls cool completely and freeze them for up to a month. To reheat and finish baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 5-8 minutes or until golden brown on top.

For making sweet rolls:
Cinnamon Rolls
Roll dough out into a large rectangle. Spread dough with a mixture of softened butter. cinnamon and sugar. (I usually use ¼ cup butter and sprinkle the dough with either brown sugar or premixed cinnamon and sugar.) Top with raisins or nuts, if desired. Using the longer side of the dough, roll the dough over itself and seal the edge. Cut into 16 equal pieces. Let raise as directed above (no egg wash is needed) and bake rolls at 350 degrees F until lightly golden. Let cool slightly before serving. If desired, spread rolls with icing.

Cinnamon Roll Icing:
1 stick butter
3 cups powdered sugar
a few Tbsp. milk
vanilla extract
Beat butter and slowly add the powdered sugar, using milk if needed to reach a spreadable consistency. Add vanilla extract, if desired.

Orange Rolls:
After you add the salt to the dough while it is mixing, add the zest from 1 orange. Continue with the recipe as directed. Shape dough into round balls or twist into knots. Raise and bake as directed.

For the orange glaze/icing:
3 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
a few Tbsp. orange juice
a little vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
Beat butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar and orange juice to reach desired consistency--thicker for a frosting, thinner for a glaze. Add the zest and a little vanilla.

 

Related posts:

Homemade Buns for sandwiches
Elaine’s Sweet Rolls
Cooks’ Illustrated Crescent Rolls

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29 Comments

  1. I love making rolls and have to say I am not too bad at it either. I usually make the Butterhorn shape. I tried to just do the perfect little balls one time – ugly! Good tips thanks!

  2. Oh bless you! I can make pies with my eyes closed, but I have never been able to succeed with rolls. Not only that, I never seem to convert my SAF to the proper amounts for regular recipes. You’ve solved both issues for me. I can’t wait to try these!

    Oh–one question. I have four kids–three teenagers–so how do you think this recipe would handle being doubled?

  3. Thanks for all the comments!

    Compulsive–if you have a mixer big enough, go ahead and double it. But…if I’m remembering correctly from past experience, it works better if you make two separate batches.

    Lauren–just make sure the liquid feels warm to the touch after you add the eggs. The butter and milk should be hot, but it won’t burn you. The hot water in my kitchen is about 140 degrees and I can touch it for a few seconds before it starts to hurt. :)

    Leslie–I wish I had one in my kitchen, too!

  4. Wow, just love the tutorial (and the rolls)!! I’ve been looking for more info on making rolls – that’s exactly what I needed! Thanks a lot.

    One quick question: do you think the recipe could be made in the dough cycle of a bread machine?

    Thanks again!

  5. Thanks for all the sweet comments everyone!

    Rita–I don’t have a bread machine, so I may not give you an accurate answer. (Sorry!) Because this isn’t a traditional kind of dough, I’m going to say that you’ll probably have better luck mixing it by hand with a wooden spoon or even a hand mixer. It is really loose enough that it doesn’t need a stand mixer, I just think the mixing goes by faster.

    But, give it a try. I don’t think it could hurt to use the bread machine. I’m curious to see what would happen. Let me know and thanks for the question!

  6. I made these rolls and they are gorgeous. I have blogged them. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve put in a link to your post. I was so impressed at the time you took to do the tutorial I thought others would like to see.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! I was too scared to try rolls before, after seeing your tutorial I thought maybe I could do it. Thanksgiving was the first time I tried them and they were wonderful!

  8. The Lion House rolls do rock. I like all your variations and tips. Your rolls look great! (Have you ever tried them with the raspberry butter recipe they used to make at the Carriage House?) YUM!

  9. Wow!! Refrigerator Rolls…..this is just delicious. its looking great I would love to try them.its very good recipe for breakfast.i want to make this recipe tomorrow morning and give a little surprise to my husband.Thanks for the recipe.

  10. I know this post is old…but once the dough has been refrigerated does it have to be used all at once or could I take some out for rolls and then use the rest a few days later? Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Natasha–if I remember correctly, the dough keeps well for up to 5 days in the fridge, so I would say yes. I’ve never done it that way–can’t think why not–what a great idea!

  12. I proff my packets of yeast by warming the water in the microwave for 30 sec on high, add yeast and a little sugar, becuase yeast feeds on sugar, and will do great with it. Let sit until it froths.

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