Best Dinner Rolls – Old-Fashioned and Rustic

best dinner roll recipe
Ask 100 people to describe to you their ideal hamburgers, pancakes, cinnamon buns, etc., and you will most likely get 100 different opinions some of which are entirely incompatible and all of which are subjective. But isn’t that the way it is with pretty much everything in this world? How, then, can we evaluate all these opinions and decide which one(s) we should allow to influence our position regarding the issue at hand?

Personally, when it comes to matters in which there is no clear right or wrong, I often find myself influenced by people who can aptly, logically, and eloquently outline the reasons behind their position. This is why it’s kind of sad that some valid opinions in this world are dismissed because they are ineptly presented, oftentimes with the underlying belief that the louder or insistent one is, the more authoritative and, consequently, the more convincing one appears.

I’m not sure how aptly, logically, or eloquently I can state the reasons for my intense like of these dinner rolls. My guess is – not much. But would you kindly allow me to try anyway?

In my opinion, old-fashioned “homey” dinner rolls — the kind that I want alongside of tender pot roast or beef stew — should be:

  • White or, at the most, half white half whole grain.
  • Soft.
  • But equipped with long, strong gluten strands that result in some chewiness.
  • Crustier than Wonder bread, but certainly not to the degree of artisan bread which requires a strong serrated knife to saw through.
  • Light and tender.
  • Yet strong enough to allow you to use them to mop up thick sauce and gravy without falling apart.
  • Not sweet. I’ve had and made several dinner rolls that taste almost like dessert rolls. Several of the recipes for “best dinner rolls ever” on some recipe sites yield this type of rolls. And, apparently, based on the glowing user reviews, people like them. So I guess I’m in the minority here. I think dinner rolls should not be sweet; their flavor should complement, not interfere with, the savory entrée(s) with which they are served.
  • Not too buttery or eggy for the same reasons as the previous point.
  • Shaped in such a way that you get both the soft, chewy interior and the browned exterior in each bite. That means they should not be in loaf form which requires slicing. Sliced bread has only minimal brown and lots of white. The ratio is kind of screwy, in my opinion. Small rolls are like miniature, yet complete, entities with just the right ratio of brown and white. And that’s the way I like my dinner rolls. (I’m going to pretend the previous 3-4 sentences make perfect sense.)
  • These dinner rolls fit the aforementioned description.

    best dinner roll recipe
    One added benefit is that they are very easy to make. Forget that whole soaker and biga thing; just dump all the ingredients all at once into your stand mixer bowl or a mixing bowl and mix with the machine or manually. It’s one of those things that exist to prove that cheap, easy, and seemingly unsophisticated are not to be sneered at.

    With that, I present to you —

    Old-Fashioned Dinner Rolls As I Think They Should Be
    (Makes 18 3-inch rolls)
    Printable Version

    Mix together, with a machine or by hand, 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder, 2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/4 cup (56 g) butter (softened), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Gradually add in enough of King Arthur bread flour (the only flour I use for this recipe — if you have it, use the best bread flour you can find in your locale) to create a ball of dough that is not so sticky that you can’t knead it, starting with 3 cups. Add more flour as you go, as needed. Knead until the dough is satiny smooth and when you stretch it out, it forms almost translucent “gluten window” without tearing apart.

    Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and let it rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in volume, about an hour. Deflate the dough gently and form it into 18 balls. Place them side by side in a greased ceramic or glass pan (10-inch in diameter or 8″x8″), cover, and let rise in a warm place for an hour. Bake at 350° F for 40-45 minutes or until the tops are brown and the rolls sound hollow when tapped.

    Did I convince you? Or did I fail? How would you describe a perfect dinner roll?

    25 Responses to Best Dinner Rolls – Old-Fashioned and Rustic

    1. Kelly @ EvilShenanigans January 29, 2010 at 2:35 am #

      Those look pretty good to me! I like my dinner rolls very soft with a buttery crust. To that end, I brush the rolls with butter before AND during baking. 🙂 I do loves me some butter!

    2. tracieMoo January 29, 2010 at 2:56 am #

      Soft and fluffy! So this is how old fashoioned dinner rolls should be!

    3. Arwen from Hoglet K January 29, 2010 at 4:36 am #

      I definitely don’t want sweet bread with my dinner, so your version sounds good. I wish it was possible to achieve this beautiful stretchiness with a gluten free flour!

    4. Jenn January 29, 2010 at 4:55 am #

      Yum!! Nothing like a warm dinner rolls with a spread of butter. I love the nice rounded shape of the top crust. The first picture sort of reminds of of monkey bread from the way they’re grouped together.

    5. MaryMoh January 29, 2010 at 9:27 am #

      Wow…the best rolls I’ve seen! I want some 😛

    6. OysterCulture January 30, 2010 at 3:38 am #

      I’m going to have to differ from you here. For me the perfect rolls are whole wheat Fresh from the oven with melted butter and honey – oh wow, you are bringing back memories. My mom and grandma made them, and I have too (won grand champion in the State Fair, thank you very much) but they were so light and fluffy and tasty – just about perfect. We ground our own wheat and I think the secret was that we let them rise twice. Aside from that small difference, I’ll thumb wrestle you for the last roll, because you had me at roll.

    7. pigpigscorner January 30, 2010 at 9:45 am #

      wow the texture looks perfect!

    8. Rick January 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

      Love dinner rolls, I do like the pull aparts for the good ratio of white bread to crust. It’s important for the overall flavour. If you haven’t yet check out The Fresh Loaf

    9. KennyT January 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

      I am with you, I like them soft!

    10. Manggy January 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

      Oh boy. I think we will have to agree to disagree on the sweet part (I think the sweet is complementary — but I’ve been the bacon in pancakes kind of guy). Buttery I don’t mind either 🙂 But I agree on everything else (and I don’t like sweetish things *all* the time.) So, based on that, these do look perfect and ideal 🙂

    11. Memória February 3, 2010 at 5:22 am #

      You convinced me!! While I do prefer the buttery variety with a hint of sugar, not too much, though, I would try these rolls in a second. Lovely photos. Thanks for a great recipe. Bookmarked!

    12. Kathleen February 3, 2010 at 6:30 am #

      I love the way you describe these dinner rolls. That’s how I personally decide whether or not to try a recipe. I am totally going to try these. Thanks for sharing!

    13. LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! February 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

      all of your descriptions are my idea of an ideal dinner roll! these rolls look great almost like pan de sal which are truly my favorite roll.

    14. Tanya February 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

      These look so good! Anything I can substitute for the milk powder?

    15. Leela February 3, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

      Hi Tanya – Thanks. You can replace the water with the same amount of evaporated milk (which is more concentrated than regular milk without being as rich as half-n-half or heavy cream) and forget the milk powder. You can use this trick in any bread recipe that calls for milk powder.

    16. Mimi February 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

      Those rolls look just perfect! All you needed to do was show me that picture of the one you pulled off of the loaf to convince me!

    17. goodfoodhunting February 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

      These seem very much like my grandma’s rolls. There was, of course, no recipe, but we did try to measure as she went along once in an attempt to get a ballpark estimate.

      Two slight differences- half the batch always got a extra dollop of butter after coming out of the oven. And those were the ones we used for jelly and jam.

      Second, there was no gentle deflating after the first rise. The real secret ingredient? Whichever kids were around got to punch down the dough ball; we took punch literally. We also got to make a number of mini rolls, about the size of our thumbs to fill in any gaps in the trays.

    18. dining room tables February 6, 2010 at 2:09 am #

      Thanks for this one. I would like to make some today. I like this one served hot with butter on the top.

    19. Joanne February 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      These look incredibly fluffy and delicious! I am going to have to agree that they are the perfect dinner roll. But to corroborate fully, I am going to have to make them. I think that can be arranged…

    20. Laura February 8, 2010 at 12:06 am #

      These rolls really do look like the Platonic ideal of a dinner roll . . .

    21. Shazza September 24, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      Ah, I tried making them today and failed utterably….
      Will try again tomorrow! Any tips? It’s cold at the moment, so the ‘warm place’ I put the dough was an oven that was heated to the lowest setting for 3-5 mins then switched off.

      The bread was crispy on top and didn’t really rise in the oven. The inside was soft but not fluffy and the bubbles left inside were fairly big compared to what I see in the picture.

      Thank you for the recipe anyhow! 🙂 I’m glad I stumbled into your blog. Your words are so interesting and funny to read. 🙂

    22. RealLiveHousewife December 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

      Thank YOU! for a recipe that’s not sweet. I was searching all over.

    23. Sorilea October 6, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Ditto on the sweet thing. Dinner rolls should NOT be sweet. We Americans have too much sugar in our diet anyway. :O)


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