old-school dinner rolls – smitten kitchen

This is half-batch of the original recipe in Lomas’s book, which doubles everything and bakes the (approximately 35) rolls in a half-sheet pan. Because I’m a restless recipe-tinkerer, I made a few other tweaks: Hand-shaping the rolls (vs. using a 2.5-inch cookie cutter and re-rolling scraps) and I start the dough with cold butter.

  • 1 cup (235 grams) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine, diced small, plus 3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted or unsalted, melted
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used Diamond brand; use half of another)
  • 1 1/4-ounce (2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams) packet instant yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups (455 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Oil, for the bowl
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the warm water, 2 tablespoons diced butter, granulated sugar, the egg, kosher salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and add the flour. Knead on low speed until all of the ingredients come together, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to knead until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl, 8 minutes. (It’s too soft to form a ball around the hook, and that’s okay.)

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to it. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. [It took 1 1/2 hours in my kitchen each time.] [Do ahead: These first two steps can be done up to 24 hours in advance. Transfer the bowl of dough, covered, to the refrigerator at this point. The cold air slows the rising process, leading to a richer flavor. When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and continue the recipe from here.]

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter [salted butter is great here] and set aside. Scoop the dough onto a well-floured counter, and use floured hands to pat the dough into a 12×9-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 24 (6×4 rows), 20 (5×4 rows, as shown here) or even 12 rolls (4×3 rows), depending on your final use for them. Shape each square into a round.

Dip both sides of each round lightly in melted butter. “You want a thin coat, not a total dunk,” Lomas explains. (To do this, Lomas’s mother melts the butter in a small saucepan, then tilts it so the butter puddles on one side, then dips the circle of dough in the other side, where there was just a coating of buttery residue.) You should have a little butter leftover; save it.

After dipping, transfer rounds to a 9×13-inch (quarter-sheet) baking sheet, lining the rolls up with room to expend. Use a light hand; the dough doesn’t like to be touched.

Let the dough rise again until the rolls are puffed up and springy, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Heat oven to 400°F. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with remaining melted butter. If you used unsalted butter, sprinkle the tops with a few pinches of flaky salt. (Skip if you used salted butter.)

Eat right away or rewarm before serving. These rolls keep best in the freezer, if you’re saving them for future.

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