Dark & Soft "Chain Restaurant" Dinner Rolls

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Dark & Soft "Chain Restaurant" Dinner Rolls

star rating (45) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

These dinner rolls are an attempt to replicate the soft, kind of sweet, deep chocolate-colored rolls served at various chain restaurants (particularly steakhouses) around the country. The taste-testers here at King Arthur Flour and The Baker’s Catalogue raved about these, so even if they’re not an exact match for those restaurant rolls, we’re sure you’ll find them tasty.

1 1/3 cups (10 5/8 ounces) warm water
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter, softened
1/2 cup (6 ounces) honey
2 3/4 cups (12 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 ounces King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon powdered caramel color OR 2 teaspoons liquid caramel color (optional, but without it the rolls will lack their distinctive color)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

yellow cornmeal

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bucket of a bread machine, or in an electric mixer. Mix and knead until you’ve formed a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

If you’re using a bread machine, program it for the dough or manual cycle. If you’re using a mixer, start with the flat beater, then switch to the dough hook when the dough starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the bowl.

Note: You may also prepare this dough by hand; it’s very sticky and a bit messy at first, but just keep at it, flouring your hands and trying not to add too much additional flour to the dough; eventually it’ll smooth out.

Let the dough rise in the bowl (or bucket of the bread machine) for 1 hour. It won’t have doubled in size, but should be just a bit puffy. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces (about 4 ounces each), and shape the pieces into 6 x 2-inch oval rolls. Coat each roll, top and bottom, with some yellow cornmeal. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, and allow them to rise, covered, in a warm place, for 90 minutes to 2 hours. They won’t have doubled in size, but will appear puffy; when you gently press your finger into one, the indentation will rebound quite slowly.

Bake the rolls in a preheated 350°F oven for 24 minutes, until the bottoms appear slightly browned (you’ll have to carefully pick one up to look), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll reads about 200°F. Remove the rolls from the oven, and cool them on a rack. Yield: 10 rolls.

Nutrition information per serving (1 roll, 109g): 304 cal, 5g fat, 7g protein, 44g complex carbohydrates, 14g sugar, 4g dietary fiber, 13mg cholesterol, 430mg sodium, 173mg potassium, 46RE vitamin A, 3mg iron, 12mg calcium, 131mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XII, No. 3, Early Spring 2001 issue.


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  • star rating 02/16/2015
  • dloyche from KAF Community
  • Excellent rolls! They taste delicious and have a soft texture. High praise even from the "whole-wheat haters" in my family. Added half-honey, half-molasses (for color)...otherwise, I followed the recipe.
  • star rating 12/20/2014
  • vandana from KAF Community
  • I just tried these today and eliminated the caramel colour and used whole wheat instead of white whole wheat. Excellent recipe especially for beginners! If you dont like sweet rolls, cut down on the honey because this recipe is sweet. It was easy to knead by head. No mess! Not much kneading either. I brushed the tops with egg and they were so beautifully shiny and brown.
  • star rating 12/04/2014
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  • star rating 12/03/2014
  • SG from Ypsilanti, MI
  • I like to substitute a 1/2 cup dark molasses for the 1/2 cup honey, don't bother with the caramel color, and my rolls have been turning out AWESOME. Everything else for this recipe is perfect... yields dark, soft, sweet flavorful rolls. As I'm writing this review, my fourth batch of rolls is kneading in a bread machine. Yay!
  • star rating 11/27/2014
  • Robyn from Pensacola, Florida
  • These rolls are delicious. I do them in my bread machine on the dough setting and they always turn out perfectly.
  • star rating 11/02/2014
  • gvd9229 from KAF Community
  • Absolutely delicious. My daughter in law said "I have a new favorite dinner roll" with the first bite. My son said these taste like you get at a steak house. Easy to make
  • star rating 05/18/2014
  • Litegal1 from KAF Community
  • OMG these were SO delicious! Didn't have caramel flavoring, so sub'd 1 T of cocoa and 1 tsp instant espresso. Light, fluffy ... and I love the bit of texture from the cornmeal. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the recipe!
  • star rating 01/09/2014
  • SuSu from Asheville, NC
  • These rolls are absolutely delicious. I made them for the first time this evening. I followed the recipe exactly with the exception that I tented the rolls with foil after the first 15 minutes of baking and only baked for 23 minutes total time. Melt-in-your-mouth yummy! Thanks for another fabulous recipe, KAF!
  • star rating 12/26/2013
  • hubblecat from Baltimore
  • Made these for Christmas dinner exactly as written. They were dark, soft and delicious but huge! For dinner rolls I think 20-24 would be about right--these were a great size for hoagies. I did omit the cornmeal since my husband doesn't like the "crunch", so I topped them with rolled oats (only a few of which actually stuck). Baking on parchment worked great. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
  • star rating 12/07/2013
  • Amy from San Jose, CA
  • Absolutely delicious as dinner rolls! Does anyone know if this can be baked as a loaf of bread? Specifically, I have a Zo (2lb) breadmaker and the instructions say it will work for breadmaker mixing and rising... Would it be possible for me to bake it in the breadmaker as a loaf of bread rather than using the dough/manual setting for rolls? Thanks for any feedback... =)
    Yes, this should be okay as a regular loaf in the machine. Try it and keep a close eye on the texture during kneading so you can adjust as needed. MJR
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