These easy soft yeast rolls can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve. They result in tender, fluffy, chewy and buttery rolls!
Every time a big holiday meal is about to roll around I have a struggle with the huge life decision of yeast rolls or biscuits? These are the big questions in life. How do we make these kinds of decisions?!
But I realized the other day that I had disproportionate number of biscuit recipes to roll recipes on the site. And since we are still in the middle of the working with yeast series, I thought this would be the perfect time to teach you how to make my favorite soft yeast rolls!
If you remember from the first recipe in the series, we made an easy rustic bread. This rustic bread was a lean bread, requiring only 4 ingredients and no fat. Lean breads are crusty and chewy.
Today we are going to make a rich bread. Rich breads include more liquid and fat, usually from eggs, butter, and/or oil. Rich breads are more tender, but this also means that the dough is a little trickier to handle.
The dough tends to be softer and stickier and this tends to pull people into adding more flour to the dough to make it easier to handle. Try to avoid this! You want a high fat to flour ratio to keep the bread tender and soft.
If you have a stand mixer, this dough can easily be mixed with the dough hook. But I actually prefer to knead bread dough by hand. It is therapeutic for me and I like to get a feel for the dough to know when it is ready.
It is up to you how you want to knead the bread, but really try to avoid adding more flour than necessary.
I made another video tutorial for you to show how to make the bread. I hope you guys are liking these! I think it really helps to see the process to understand that it really is pretty simple! But I’m going to walk you through the process below as well.
Step 1: Scald the milk. Heat your milk over medium-low heat until almost simmering. This process denatures the proteins in the milk which helps the bread rise. Remove the milk from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. You want it to be warm but not hot before adding your yeast.
Step 2: Proof the yeast. Add the active dry yeast to the warm milk and stir. Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to come out of its dormant state. You can tell it is activated when you see some foam and bubbles forming.
Step 3: Stir together all ingredients. While this recipe has a few more ingredients than an easy rustic bread, they are still pretty simple. Sugar, butter, flour, eggs, salt, and the yeast/milk mixture.
Step 4: Knead the dough. Kneading develops the glutens in the dough and also helps develop flavor. As I said before, you can either do this by hand or with a dough hook in a mixer. In the video above I show you the technique how to do this by hand.
Step 5: Let the dough rise. After the dough is kneaded, place it in an oiled bowl and let it ferment. This means that the yeast is feeding on the sugars and producing carbon dioxide. The point of letting the dough ferment is that it creates most of the flavor in the bread and also helps develop the gluten network.
In a warm place (about 80F) this takes about 1 hour. If your kitchen is very cold, this might take a little longer. I like to turn my oven on for about 2 minutes, turn the oven off, then put the bread in the oven to ferment. The warm oven makes this process work a little faster.
Step 6: Shape the dough. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape them into balls. 12 pieces makes pretty big puffy rolls, which are perfect for a hearty dinner. But you can also cut them into smaller pieces. To shape, pull down on the sides of the piece of dough and pinch underneath to seal the seams. Space the rolls out evenly in an oiled 9X13″ pan.
Step 7 (optional): Refrigerate. If you are prepping these rolls ahead, you can cover them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until you are ready to bake. For big meals, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, I definitely like to prep rolls ahead because I don’t want to be dealing with flour all over the counters while cooking other food.
BUT you don’t have to prep them ahead. If you aren’t prepping ahead, skip to step 8. If you do want to prep the dough ahead, you can refrigerate the shaped rolls for up to 18 hours.
Step 8: Proof the rolls. Cover the rolls with a clean towel and let them rise in a warm place until doubled in size. If you refrigerated them, they will likely already have started the proofing process slowly in the refrigerator. Let them sit out at room temperature for about 1 hour to finish proofing and to take the chill off. You want to yeast to be active when it goes into the oven.
Step 9: Brush with an egg wash. Whisk together an egg with 2 TBSP of water. Brush the mixture over the top of the rolls. This gives the rolls that beautiful golden color and shine.
Step 10: Bake. Bake the rolls at 375F for 14-16 minutes.
Step 11: Stuff your face! Seriously. Eat them while hot and eat a lot of them!
2 hr, 30 Prep Time
16 minCook Time
2 hr, 46 Total Time
- In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to barely bubble. Just under a simmer. Remove the milk from the heat, pour into a bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes.
- When the milk is cooled to warm, add the yeast to the milk and stir together. Let sit for 5 minutes to proof.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, and flour. Add the milk/yeast mixture and stir together until it forms a dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes until its smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can knead with a dough hook in a stand mixer.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Deflate the dough by gently pushing your fist in the center and folding the sides over. On a clean un-floured surface, pat the dough out into a rectangle. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces (or more if you want smaller rolls).
- Shape the pieces of dough into balls by pulling down on the sides and pinching the seal underneath. Grease a 9X13" pan, and space the shaped rolls our evenly in the pan.
- If prepping ahead: Lay plastic wrap directly on the rolls and refrigerate for up to 18 hours. Remove from the refrigerator an hour and a half before serving.
- Cover the rolls loosley with a towel and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
- Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg with the water. Brush the rolls with the egg wash.
- Bake in a 375F oven for 14-16 minutes.
- Serve hot.
A few notes based on some reader comments that their dough did not rise: Make sure that you are using active dry yeast and not instant yeast. Because this dough goes through a slow rise overnight, instant yeast will not work because it releases it's gasses too quickly. Make sure that the milk is very warm but not too hot to touch, or you may kill your yeast. You can also add a small pinch of sugar in with your milk and yeast to make sure that your yeast is alive. The sugar will jump-start the yeast waking up, so if you do this but still do not see any activity with your yeast then it is very likely that your yeast is not alive.
Tools I used and recommend for this recipe:
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