Tender White Rolls

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Tender White Rolls

star rating (8) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

What would Thanksgiving be without plain white rolls, tender and airy inside, golden brown outside, hot from the oven and begging for a large pat of butter to melt within their steaming hearts? There are whole wheat people in this world, and multi-grain people; bread bakers who embrace fancy fillings and involved techniques, and those who just want to make white bread in a traditional shape, bake it, and enjoy its nostalgic aroma and taste within minutes of its emergence from the oven. Vive la difference; these rolls are for all of you white bread bakers out there. (But a whole-wheat person can always substitute, measure for measure.)

We like this recipe because of some particular attributes which make it perfect for Thanksgiving; you can mix up the dough the night before (it doesn’t even require kneading), refrigerate it, and in the morning shape your rolls. Rolls will rise slowly all morning, and will be just ready to pop into the oven after the turkey comes out. When the turkey’s cool enough to carve, the rolls will be ready to serve.

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar or malt powder
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 cup milk or buttermilk*
3 eggs
1 to 4 tablespoons sugar*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted (to brush on rolls after they’re baked)

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar or malt, and warm water. Stir to dissolve, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine butter or margarine, and milk or buttermilk. Heat over low heat, stirring, until butter melts (you can do this in the microwave, if you prefer). Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

When milk mixture is lukewarm, transfer it to a large mixing bowl and stir in eggs, sugar and salt. Add yeast mixture, and approximately 6 cups flour; dough will be quite slack.

Mix dough in bowl for 5 minutes, either with the flat paddle attachment of an electric mixer or by hand, with a spoon or dough whisk. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, or transfer dough to a well-oiled, very large plastic bag (such as our multi-use plastic bag, in the catalogue). Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Approximately 3 1/2 hours before you want to bake rolls, remove dough from refrigerator. At this point, you can proceed in several ways. You can make simple round rolls by dividing dough into 24 pieces and forming each piece into a ball; you can make shaped rolls, as on page 4-5; or you can go the “sticky bun” route, rolling dough into a 1/2’’ thick rectangle, and spreading with butter and a savory** (or sweet!) filling. Roll dough up, pinching seam to close, and cut into 24 slices; a piece of dental floss works very well here. Simply loop floss around roll and cross ends over one another, cutting rolls without squeezing them down, as a knife might.

Place your 24 round rolls or rolled buns into a large, buttered baking pan, not touching but close to one another. We use a 14” round deep-dish pizza pan, which seems to be exactly the right size for this recipe. If you’ve made shaped rolls (crescents, fan tans, cloverleaf), place in pans as directed on page 5. Set rolls aside to rise for approximately 3 hours.

When rolls have almost risen completely — they should fill the pan — preheat oven to 400°F. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush with melted butter. Yield: 24 rolls.

*If you use a savory filling, use the minimum amount of sugar, and the buttermilk. For plain white rolls, or those using a sweet filling, increase the amount of sugar, and use plain milk.

**Chopped fresh herbs are nice (or dried herbs, if fresh are unavailable), as are seeds — poppy, sesame, caraway or flax. Fennel seeds will give rolls an Italian flavor. For added texture, sprinkle rolls with grain flakes, i.e., rolled oats, wheat or rye flakes, etc. Cheese is always a nice filling, as is pesto. If you want to get really fancy, try combinations: sprinkle sesame seeds in the bottom of the pan, then spread unrolled dough with Parmesan cheese; or sprinkle cheese in the pan, then put chopped basil on dough. (Beware: cheese in the bottom of the pan will make rolls stick; you’ll need to use a spatula to get them out.)

Sweet fillings can include the traditional brown sugar/cinnamon/raisin, dried cranberry/orange oil/ sugar, or canned pumpkin mixed with an egg and sugar (!)

Nutrition information per serving (1 roll, 70 g): 201 cal, 6 g fat, 4 g protein, 22 g complex carbohydrates, 10 g sugar, 1 g dietary fiber, 49 mg cholesterol, 199 mg sodium, 66 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 68 mg calcium, 51 mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 9, November 1992 issue.


  • star rating 11/28/2013
  • Heidi from Orlando
  • If it stays in the frig overnight, it has a little sourdough taste. I made this recipe without the overnight step, and the rolls were wonderful. Also, I prefer to bake them for a little less time.
  • star rating 09/22/2013
  • Victoria from Mississippi
  • WOW. The perfect Sunday supper roll! My husband said this might beat out my buttermilk biscuits as his favorite. Never have had much luck with roll recipes but this one anyone can make!
  • star rating 11/22/2012
  • Louise from Oklahoma
  • This is a rate on me not the rolls, old yeast, stored in freezer but old, did not work. Just don't try it with old yeast.
  • star rating 09/19/2012
  • njmomrocks from KAF Community
  • I have made this recipe every year for the past several Thanksgivings - it never fails me! Perfect rolls every time!
  • star rating 11/26/2010
  • kmtwriter from KAF Community
  • I've made other rolls from KAF recipes but these were the easiest and got the most rave reviews at Thanksgiving. I used Diastatic malt powder, nonfat milk, and 4 Tbs sugar in my rolls. I combined ingredients with my KAF dough whisk (best invention ever) and refrigerated overnight. I baked 20 of them in an odd-sized pan that is 13" long and 9" at the side but is enlarged to about 10" in the middle. The remainder were baked in a round cake pan. The rolls were picture-perfect with rich golden tops and light golden bottoms. They were tender, light, and buttery tasting. I hope KAF keeps my comments posted so that next year I'll be able to remember what recipe variations to use. :)
  • star rating 11/26/2010
  • aleta19290 from KAF Community
  • Wow! This is the first time I've ever baked rolls from scratch. I actually made 2 batches of dough. They were simple to mix--no kneading--and the dough rose like crazy and was easy to shape. They sat uncovered most of the day and never dried out. I received so many compliments at our Thanksgiving dinner. Thank you for this recipe!
  • star rating 11/25/2010
  • londongavchick from KAF Community
  • I baked these rolls for Thanksgiving this year and got rave reviews. My dough was a little dry and I had to add extra buttermilk even with only 5 cups of flour. I do live in a dry climate at high altitude, so this could perhaps have affected the recipe. The end result were beautiful, light and fluffy rolls.
    You are correct. The higher altitude will affect your rolls. Please check-out our high-altitude baking page at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/high-altitude-baking.html or call us at 802-649-3717 - kelsey
  • star rating 12/30/2008
  • Shawn from Atlanta, GA
  • I made these rolls for Thanksgiving. My family raved at how soft and tender the rolls were. I loved that fact that the rolls could be made the night before and shaped in the morning. Then just pop them in the oven right before the meal-Pefect!!