Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls
Follow this make-ahead soft yeast rolls recipe for easy homemade rolls any night of the week. Refrigerate the dough until ready to bake, and top each tender roll with melted butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Simplify dinnertime and prep this side dish in advance. Make the dough and shape the rolls the day before, then bake them fresh 15 minutes before mealtime. They’re easy enough for a weeknight family dinner but so delicious and special for a holiday meal.
Why I love these make-ahead soft yeast rolls
- By preparing the rolls the day before, you can eliminate stress when pulling a meal together.
- Homemade dinner rolls are an easy way to kick a simple meal up a notch.
- These rolls are ultra soft and buttery – you’ll want to make them for holiday celebrations and casual family dinners.
Ingredients and Substitutions
The dough for these rolls is the same dough I use for all sweet doughs like cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, and yeast donuts. Although they contain sugar, they’re not actually sweet. The sugar simply helps the rolls stay soft and fluffy.
Yeast: Yeast is a type of biological leavening. It is what makes yeast dough rise.
Milk: Milk is used in sweet dough recipes (as opposed to water in lean dough recipes) to keep the dough soft and add richness in flavor. Instead of whole milk, non-dairy alternatives like oat, almond, or soy milks work great.
Sugar: Sugar retains moisture which keeps these rolls soft and tender (and keeps them softer for longer).
Flour: Flour is the main ingredient in any bread recipe as it builds the structure of the dough. For a gluten free option, substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten free alternative like Pillsbury’s Gluten Free Flour. Whichever gluten-free flour blend you choose, make sure it contains xanthan gum. If it does not, add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum to this recipe in step 2.
Salt: Without salt, these rolls would taste flat and boring. It also acts as a preservative and keeps any leftover rolls fresh.
Butter: Yeast doughs made with fat are soft and tender as opposed to crispy and chewy (like pizza dough). For a dairy free alternative, substitute the butter with a vegan butter like Earth Balance.
Eggs: Whole eggs work to bind the rolls together. They add structure and strength to finished baked goods. For an egg free alternative, try a flax meal or chia seed replacement like flax meal or chia seed (I have not tested these options so if you do try it, let me know how the rolls turn out).
Soft Yeast Roll Variation Ideas
- Herbed Dinner Rolls: To the flour, whisk in 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried), and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried). After baking, brush on melted butter with a sprinkle of chopped herbs and flaky salt.
- Everything Seasoning Dinner Rolls: After baking, brush on melted butter and a generous sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning.
How to Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls
The key to preparing these dinner rolls ahead of time is to refrigerate the unbaked rolls overnight and bake them fresh the next day.
PROOF THE YEAST
Warm the milk to about 110-115°F/43-46°C. Transfer the warm milk to a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbles and foam start to form.
*This step is called “proofing the yeast.” While option, it’s a good way to test the yeast to make sure it’s active before using it in the recipe. If you do not see any bubbles or activity after 10 minutes, then your yeast is dead or your milk is too hot. Start the process over with fresh yeast and/or cooler milk.
Place all of the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the milk/yeast mixture. (The order in which everything is added/combined doesn’t make a difference.) Mix together in a stand mixer, or with a wooden spoon, spatula, or your clean hands.
KNEAD THE DOUGH
Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. This takes about 8-10 minutes by hand or 6-8 minutes with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
While kneading the dough, add more flour as needed. Stop kneading the dough when it’s still slightly sticky to the touch but feels smooth and elastic. It should stand tall when rounded into a ball.
Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat and cover with a piece of plastic wrap, a damp cloth, or clean shower cap (my preference) to bulk ferment until doubled in size – about 1 hour for quick rise yeast and 2 hours for active dry yeast. To speed up the process, place the covered bowl in a warm place in your kitchen.
After proofing, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and divide it into 12 equal pieces. I like to use a bench knife and a kitchen scale to ensure they are all the same size. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape the rolls. Pull down on the sides of the dough, creating a seam at the bottom.
Place the piece of dough seam-side down on an un-floured part of the countertop. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it under your palm until a smooth piece of dough forms.
Line a sheet pan (or cookie sheet) with parchment paper or lightly grease a 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) baking dish. Place the dough balls evenly spaced onto the sheet pan or into the baking pan. Cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate Overnight (optional)
To make these make-ahead rolls, refrigerate the pan of shaped rolls for up to 18 hours. For holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, I like to prep these rolls ahead so I’m not dealing with flour all over the counter while making other recipes.
The next day, remove the pan of rolls from the refrigerator about 90 minutes before serving. Keep them covered and let stand for about 75 minutes before moving onto the next step.
If you’d like to skip the refrigerator slow rise, let the rolls rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes (if using quick rise yeast) and about 75 minutes (if using active dry yeast).
Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and brush the egg wash on top of the rolls. The egg wash gives the rolls a shiny, golden top. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. While still hot, I like to brush melted butter onto the rolls and garnish with a sprinkle of flaky salt. Serve warm.
What kind of yeast should I use?
This recipe calls for active dry or quick rise yeast. Quick rise yeast is also known as instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast.
How far in advance can I make dinner rolls?
These unbaked dinner rolls can be refrigerated for up to 18 hours before baking. Remove from the refrigerator an hour and a half before serving. Let them stand for about 1 hour 15 minutes before baking.
Can I bake dinner rolls the night before?
I don’t recommend baking the rolls in advance. Dinner rolls are best served fresh from the oven.
Can I use bread flour?
You can use either all-purpose flour or bread flour in this dinner roll recipe. You do not need to make any other changes to the recipe if you are using bread flour. All-purpose flour will give you light and tender rolls while rolls made with bread flour will be slightly chewier.
How to Store Dinner Rolls
Room Temperature: After baking, let the rolls cool completely. Store any leftover rolls in an air-tight container at room temperature. They are best enjoyed within 24 hours of baking.
Freezer: After baking, let the rolls cool completely. Once cool, wrap in aluminum foil and place the foil package in a zipper bag – freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to serve, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and place into a 325°F/163°C oven for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you enjoyed this make-ahead recipe, you might like to try these other recipes that can be prepped in advance.
For the rolls
- 7 grams (1 package, 2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry or quick rise yeast*
- 227 grams (1 cup, 240 milliliters) whole milk (lower fat or non-dairy can be substituted)
- 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 480-600 grams (4-5 cups) all-purpose flour
- 7 grams (1 ½ teaspoons) kosher salt or table salt
- 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
For the egg wash
- 1 whole egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Warm the milk (227 grams/ 1 cup) to about 110-115°F/43-46°C. In a large mixing bowl add the warm milk, the yeast (7 grams/ 1 package), and ½ teaspoon of sugar and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until you see some bubbles and foaming.
- Add 480 grams (4 cups) of flour, the rest of the sugar (50 grams ¼ cup), salt (7 grams / 1 ½ teaspoons), butter (85 grams/ 6 tablespoons), and eggs (2 large) to the mixing bowl. Use clean hands to mix together until a sticky dough forms.
- If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. Dust flour over the top of the dough and knead the dough by hand for about 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. If kneading with a stand mixer, fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead at medium speed for 6-8 minutes. Add more flour as needed while kneading the dough. Stop kneading the dough when it’s still slightly sticky to the touch but feels smooth and elastic. It should stand tall when rounded into a ball.
- Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat and cover with a piece of plastic wrap, a damp cloth, or clean shower cap (my preference) to bulk ferment until doubled in size - about 1 hour for quick rise yeast and 2 hours for active dry yeast.
- After proofing, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape the rolls. Pull down on the sides of the dough, creating a seam at the bottom. Place the piece of dough seam-side down on an un-floured part of the countertop. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it under your palm until a smooth piece of dough forms.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or lightly grease a 9x13-inch (23x33-cm) baking dish. Place the shaped rolls onto the sheet pan or into the baking pan. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap.
- To prep ahead: Refrigerate the pan of shaped rolls for up to 18 hours. 90 minutes before serving, remove from the refrigerator. Let them stand at room temperature for 75 minutes before continuing with step 9. To skip the refrigerator slow rise: Let the rolls rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes (if using quick rise yeast) and about 75 minutes (if using active dry yeast).
- Position an oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
- Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and brush the egg wash on top of the rolls.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. If desired, brush baked rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky salt.
*Quick rise yeast is also known as instant yeast or rapid rise yeast.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0