Pulling a pan of piping hot, super soft milk rolls out of the oven is one of life’s simple pleasures. I make my soft dinner rolls recipe a lot for my kids. One day I discovered that they’d eat the entire roll whereas when I made homemade bread, they would leave the crusts. Such a waste! Ha! So I tweaked one of my very favorite bread recipes from Joy of Cooking and created what I think are the very best soft dinner rolls recipe ever.
What is a soft roll?
Sometimes you’ll see rolls labeled as “hard rolls” and “soft rolls.” Hard rolls are just that: hard exterior and a sturdier interior. Soft rolls, however, are soft inside and out. They tend to have a higher percentage of liquid to flour as well as extra fat in the form of butter or oil and eggs.
Hawaiian sweet rolls are some of the softest out there. These come close to that, but are less sweet.
What makes the bread soft and fluffy?
To make soft and fluffy bread and rolls, it’s important to not add too much flour. If you add too little flour, they won’t hold their shape. I have also found that using oil rather than butter yields softer bread and rolls.
Commercially, dough enhancers or conditioners are added. Ingredients like soy lecithin or various types of gums, and even different types of flours (such as potato) will produce a softer loaf or roll. They can be purchased by home bakers as well.
How do you keep rolls soft?
Besides the ingredients and amount of liquid and fat in rolls, the best way to prevent dry rolls is to be careful not to over-bake them. The longer the rolls bake, more of the liquid will evaporate. The same is true when they come out of the oven and sit on the counter. They will dry out quickly. Simply keep them covered or in an airtight container and they’ll stay soft for a few days.
These milk rolls come together in a snap. Be sure not to add too much flour. The oil (or butter) will help keep the dough less sticky, so don’t add as much flour as you normally might. The rolls won’t be as soft.
My 5 year old son won’t eat very much. He is in the pickiest of the picky eating stage. But he will eat homemade rolls. His eyes light up when he sees me pull out my Bosch and the giant bucket of flour. He can hardly wait for them to rise and come out of the oven all golden and delicious.
And of course, he loves them slathered with butter and honey. Honey being more favored than even butter. His best friend is the stuffed Winnie the Pooh my parents gave him when he was a baby. We got the latest Pooh movie from Netflix and even as I’m typing this, he’s watching it for the 20th time. We often catch him on the counter, cupboard open, spoon in hand, reaching for the honey.
Honey…honey, honey, honey. :)
I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!
Looking for other roll recipes to try?
- Refrigerator Rolls 101 (this is my other favorite recipe)
- Homemade Rolls or Buns (we use these for sloppy joe’s, hamburgers, and BBQ)
- Cooks’ Illustrated Crescent Rolls (my Thanksgiving go-to roll recipe)
- Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits 101 (for anyone scared of using yeast)
- 4½ tsp. active dry yeast (use 4 tsp. if using instant yeast)
- 6 tablespoons lukewarm water (about 100-105 degrees F.)
- 2 cups whole or lowfat milk, heated to 105-110 degrees F.
- 8-10 tablespoons canola oil or melted unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar or honey
- 2½ tsp salt
- 5-7 cups flour (I used some all-purpose and some whole wheat)
- Place warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle yeast over the top. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up.
- In electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar. Add the warm milk and melted butter. Touch to make sure it's not too hot--it should just barely be warm. Add the yeast mixture. urn mixer onto low speed and add 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time. Add the salt. Continue adding flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. It should not be stiff at all, but also not too sticky. After the last tablespoon of flour has been added, let electric mixer knead the dough until smooth and elastic. (Test by pulling a little piece of the dough away from the rest. It should be long and stretch, and not break from the rest.)
- Transfer to a large, well-oiled bowl. Let rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in volume. Punch down and let rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. With oiled hands, pinch off equal-sized pieces of dough and form into 24-30 balls.
- Arrange on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size, about an hour.
- While rolls are still rising, preheat oven to 400° F. One rolls have doubled in size, remove plastic covering and place in hot oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown on top.
- While rolls are still warm, brush with butter. Serve while warm or allow to cool completely and transfer to an airtight container to prevent rolls from drying out. Will keep fresh for 2-3 days at room temperature. Can be made ahead and frozen. Thaw at room temperature and place on a baking sheet in 400°F oven to warm them up and give them a little refresh.