Always Perfect Dinner Rolls

roll 1I like these rolls for a few reasons: one, they’re always perfect. (Hey, let’s put that in the title!) Two, they’re easy to make, and the results are delicious. And three, they come with a fond memory — that of my friend, Robin, standing in my kitchen some twenty years ago and showing me how she forms her own dinner rolls. “You just take a hunk about this big, round it out, smash it on your left thumb, and then squish it up between this little circle in your right hand …”

I think all the best things are passed on just this way. “You take a hunk about this big … ” It’s the transferring of life skills and hard-earned wisdom between friends. “Start with just a little, because you can always add more.” “Cut right here, but not too close to the seam.” “Don’t over mix or your muffins will be heavy.”

Robin’s memory comes to visit whenever I make these rolls. And that’s a comfort to me, because she lives all the way over in Post Falls, Idaho now, and I don’t get to see her much … except for dinner roll days.

Always Perfect Dinner Rolls

  • 1 cup warm (not hot) water
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TBSP butter or olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 TBSP dry milk powder (no substitute)*
  • 1 tsp salt*
  • 3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups flour

To the warm water, add the yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes to proof the dough. You’ll know that “It’s ALIVE!” when you see little bubbles forming over the surface.

In your Bosch or Kitchen Aid or by hand, add the melted butter or olive oil, the beaten egg, the dry milk powder, and the salt. Mix well.

*NOTE: The thing about the dry milk powder is that it tenderizes the dough, adds flavor, preserves it longer (not that it ever lasts more than a day in my house anyway), and gives you a better crust color. But if you forget it, like … uh … I did today … I doubt anyone will notice. If someone DOES make a face after taking a bite, then turn to you and say, “Hey! Where’s the 1 TBSP of dry milk powder?” well … let’s not bake them anything for awhile.

And about the salt. If you are absolutely, positively, 100% sure that no one will think to grab a roll later and slather it with peanut butter and/or jam, then I suggest that you substitute garlic salt for the regular salt. But that could be a traumatic experience if someone tries to make a pb & j out of your garlicky roll later. Word to the wise.

Start adding flour and mix in just enough to make the dough stick together in a cohesive ball, but not so much that it’s dry.

Knead 3-5 minutes using a mixer; a little longer if by hand.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover with Pam-sprayed plastic wrap, and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

It will start out looking like this:

And end up looking like this:

After it’s risen, punch it down. But that’s a relative term. Don’t give it a whuppin’ — just deflate it gently.

Here’s the thumb and circle part … and I apologize for not being able to hold a glob on my left thumb, smooth it with my right hand, AND take the picture. Until I grow that desired third appendage, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

First, divide your dough into 12 fairly even globs. I just set those in my buttered pan. Today I’m using my 9 x 13 stoneware, but I used to have an oval Pyrex dish that I used exclusively for these and for cinnamon rolls. But someone dropped and shattered that dish. She has missed it terribly ever since …

Where were we? The globs. Pick one up and smooth it into a nice little ball. Stick that on your left thumb like this:

Now, still holding it on your left thumb, form a circle with your right thumb and index finger and press it over this little dough ball. The idea is to smooth it even further, tucking the rougher edges under while you do so. Pretend there’s a left thumb under the glob in the picture below:

That was easy, huh? Now set all those perfect little balls in rows 3 across and 4 down in your buttered pan. Cover with plastic wrap which you’ve sprayed with Pam. (A trick for this: lay the plastic wrap over your pan, spray with the nonstick spray, and THEN flip it over and secure it on your pan. That’s much easier than holding a rectangle of plastic wrap in the air and trying to spray it.)

Place your covered pan in a warm, draft-free area. My oven has a bread-proofing setting, but before I had this oven, I used to set my pan on a wire rack above my wood stove or over the vent on my stove top. You just don’t want direct heat on it. Let rise 30-45 minutes or until they look like this:

Remove the wrap and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-25 minutes. That’s not a very specific length of time, but only you can decide when they’re the perfect shade of brown. I like mine about this brown:

Brush the tops with a little melted butter …

Then, after they’ve cooled about 12 seconds (if you can wait that long), remove one from the pan.

Because, you know. What if they’re poisoned? You don’t want to serve your family poisoned rolls, do you? Someone should check for that.


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