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