This is my favorite and most versatile bread recipe. You can make these rolls right before you need them in just about an hour. You can make them ahead (up to 5 days) and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to bake them. Or you can make them weeks ahead and freeze them until you are ready to bake them. You can make a slight variation of the ingredients and have wonderful hamburger or hotdog buns that are a little less fluffy and more “sturdy” than the rolls are. You can roll them up with some butter and cinnamon and sugar and have yummy cinnamon rolls. You can even use this as the crust for a yummy Stromboli.
About an hour before you are going to bake, set your butter and eggs out and allow them to come to room temperature. If you forget to do this, you can put eggs in a dish of very hot tap water for a couple of minutes until no longer cold to the touch. Butter can be softened in the microwave at the lowest power setting. Check it frequently since you don’t want melted butter, just room temperature butter.
Here is all you need:
- 1 cup very warm milk (about 110 degrees – my microwave gets milk this warm in 1 minute on high)
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP instant yeast
- 4 cups bread flour (4 1/2 – 5 cups for hamburger or hotdog buns)
Mixing the dough and shaping the rolls: If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, just dump in the ingredients and mix on low with a bread hook for about 6 minutes. If you have a bread machine you can use the dough setting. If you don’t have either one, you’ll need a little more elbow grease to mix the dough by hand and knead it for about 10 minutes.
Cover the dough (I use a piece of Saran Wrap that I’ve sprayed with cooking spray) and let it rest for about 10 minutes before shaping your rolls. Prepare your pans by spraying with cooking spray.
Shape your rolls depending on what you are making. For standard dinner rolls, divide dough into 12-16 even pieces, roll into balls and place in a cake pan about an inch or so apart (you want them to touch each other and the sides of the pan when they finish raising). For clover leaf rolls, roll into balls (a little larger than 1″) and drop 3 into each cup of a muffin tin. For hamburger or hotdog buns, divide dough into 8-12 even pieces, roll into balls or long rolls and place on a cookie sheet. For cinnamon rolls, roll out flat, spread with butter, sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar and roll up. Slice them (I use a piece of thread) and place in a cake pan.
To freeze: At this point you can freeze the dough for use later. I just cover it and set it in the freezer. Later when it is frozen solid you can remove the rolls and put them in a Ziploc or other container for easier storage. If I put them in a Ziploc, I often write the rest of the instructions on the bag with a Sharpie so I don’t have to look the recipe up again. When you take the rolls out, give them 3-4 hours to thaw before baking as directed below. For hamburger buns, I flatten them with my hand a bit after they rise.
To refrigerate: You can also refrigerate the dough at this point. It will do a slow rise in the fridge and be ready to bake anytime (allow at least 8 hours in the fridge to get a full rise). When you take the rolls out they can go right to the oven.
To bake: If you are ready to bake the rolls immediately, allow the rolls to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. I like to let my dough rise in the oven with the oven light on to provide just a little warmth. They rise quickly this way and are ready to bake in 45 minutes or maybe a little less if you are in a hurry. You want the dough to double in size before baking.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Brush rolls with melted butter or an egg glaze (1 egg white and 1 Tbsp water whisked together). An egg glaze makes very pretty brown shiny rolls, but butter is very tasty! Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes. When they come out of the oven I brush them again with the melted butter. Or for cinnamon rolls you will want a simple powdered sugar glaze (I like 1 stick butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 pound powdered sugar, and enough milk to make a nice drizzling consistency).
There you go. LOTS of options! And the best and most fool-proof rolls I’ve ever made!