Soft White Dinner Rolls are as important to the Southern table as biscuits and cornbread.
Alabama’s successful Sister Schubert rolls prove my point. They’ve pretty much hijacked the long tradition of roll baking at home. Their millions of frozen pans of handy, good quality rolls sell like mad across the South. Sister Schubert’s are an absolute must for holiday and family dinners and they do it all. Sop up the gravy, slather with butter, and stuff with sliced ham, beef tenderloin, and turkey. The smart Nashville hosts know to shop for them ahead of holiday rushes. I’ve been in a panic a time or two from not planning ahead.
Soft white dinner rolls are also an important restaurant item here in Nashville. Meat & three restaurants are famous for serving them, like the airy puffs at Barbara’s Home Cooking and Arnold’s and one of the many holiday specialities of Nashville’s sorely missed Becker’s Bakery. They always taste yeasty and a little sweet. On the home front, many generations of home bakers have elevated them to their kitchen specialty and are absolutely expected to bake them for special occasions.
You can make them yourself at home. This recipe for Soft White Dinner Rolls is a good place to start.
It’s a simple soft dough flavored with butter and a bit of sugar that is very forgiving. You can use either bread flour or all-purpose flour. Make the dough a day or two ahead and keep it in the refrigerator to bake on party day. I usually refrigerate the bowl of dough a day or two before forming the rolls because it’s easier for me to store a bowl than a baking sheet in my fridge. However you can swap the process and refrigerate the formed rolls and pull them out an hour or two before baking.
The most important thing is to make a soft pliable dough that is easy to work with. Doughs with too much added flour are stiff and uncooperative. You can shape them anyway you like–cloverleaf, Parker House, crescents.
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 package (or about 1 tablespoon) dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
- About 5 to 6 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- Sprinkle the yeast, sugar and salt over the warm water in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve and allow to proof a few minutes.
- Scald the milk in a small saucepan. Stir in the butter to melt. Allow the mixture to cool to luke warm while the yeast proofs.
- Add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Add the warm milk and stir until sticky and blended. Add 2 more cups of the flour and stir.
- If using a dough hook on a mixer, start kneading the dough on a low speed, adding enough additional flour to form a soft dough that starts to form a ball on the hook and leaves the sides of the bowl. (If you are using all-purpose flour, you'll probably use a little more flour than bread flour). The dough should be very pliable, but easy to handle.
- If you are kneading by hand. Add enough flour to create a soft kneadable dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth, about 7 minutes.
- Place the dough in a large greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. For faster rising, place the dough in a warm room for a couple hours or so. If you want to make the rolls the next day, place the bowl in the refrigerator.
- When the dough has risen, pinch off small golf ball-sized pieces and shape into smooth balls by pinching the dough together at the bottom of the roll. Place the rolls seam side down on a greased baking sheet.
- Brush with cooled melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and a warm damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size. Timing will depend on the temperature of the room.
- Heat the oven to 375 F.
- Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Serve hot! But, they're also great at room temp.