Instructions

  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.

  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 60 to 75 minutes, until it's puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

  3. Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

  4. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Round each piece into a smooth ball, or shape into knots.

  5. For pull-apart rolls, lightly grease two 9" round cake pans or one 9" x 13" pan. Space 12 rolls in each of the 9" pans or all 24 rolls in the 9" x 13" pan. Alternatively, for individual rolls or knots, lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets; space 12 rolls on each pan.

  6. Cover the pans, and allow the pull-apart rolls to rise until they're crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For individual rolls, let them rise until nicely puffy, though they probably won't touch one another. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

  7. Uncover the rolls and gently brush them with the egg wash, if desired. Bake the rolls for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown, tenting them with foil for the final 5 to 10 minutes of baking if they appear to be browning too quickly. A digital thermometer inserted into the middle of a center roll should register at least 190°F.

  8. Remove the rolls from the oven, and brush with melted butter, if desired. After a couple of minutes, turn the rolls out of the pan onto a cooling rack.

  9. Serve warm. Store completely cooled rolls, well-wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.