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  • Writer's pictureellencdonker


Homemade dinner rolls: They’re easier to make than you think.

Something I love about holiday cooking and baking is the recipe that you’re likely to make only at this time of year. Many of us have that one cookie or complicated side dish that just screams “Holiday Season!” for us. Over the past two years, making our own bread has become quite trendy, but homemade dinner rolls, a holiday staple for many people, seems to be a lost art. The image of still hot, pillowy rolls piled high in a basket, brought to the table makes me feel warm inside. Imagine pulling one open and spreading on a pat of butter that instantly melts. Here’s a foolproof recipe that can make that daydream a very easy reality this year.

We all know that timing is everything with the holiday meal. Oven real estate is in high demand and needs to be expertly scheduled. For me, this means many of my meal components need to have the feature of being made ahead. Rolls are no exception. I’ve designed these rolls so you have a few options to choose from if you don’t want to make them start-to-finish in one go:

The dough can be made up to the point when you place the shaped rolls in the pan and keep them in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 12 hours. Three hours before you plan to bake the rolls, remove them from the refrigerator, keep covered, and allow to rise at room temperature for about 1-2 hours.

The dough can also be frozen. Make the recipe up to the point when you shape and place the rolls in the pan. Then cover them tightly with plastic wrap and freeze, up to two months. They can either stay in the baking pan or, once frozen, they can be popped out of the pan and into a freezer bag. Six hours before you plan to bake them, remove them from the freezer, place them into the baking pan (if not in one already) and cover with a clean dishtowel. Let them thaw and rise for about 4-5 hours, or until puffed. Bake as directed in the recipe.

3. The finished rolls can be frozen as well: Let them come to room temperature, place in freezer bags, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes or until warm.

The bake time on these is 20-25 minutes. Hence, to ensure they are hot when they hit the table, they should be the last of your baked items to enter the oven. A shallow bowl, lined with a cloth napkin or really clean dishtowel, creates the perfect serving vessel for these and vividly evokes that old-school holiday feeling.

Being extremely delicious on their own, just a good-quality butter would be a very nice addition. But if you really want to blow your dinner guests away, I have a very easy but high-impact flavored butter recipe for you. “Compound butters” are a cheffy term for what is just a softened butter mixed with flavorings, rolled into a log or placed in a vessel and chilled down. In this case the butter is browned to bring out a deep nutty flavor, mixed with sage and stored in the refrigerator until show time. Here I recommend transferring it to a single jar, but if you anticipate guests, feel free to divide the butter up amongst many small jars or ramekins that you can place at different places on the table. You can prepare this up to five days before the main event.

My hope is that my dinner rolls bring warmth and the tradition of yesteryear to your modern holiday table.

Recipe developer, cookbook author, food stylist and local mom Olivia Mack McCool lives in Maplewood. For more of her work and recipes, check out her website and follow along on Instagram @oliviamackmccool.

Dinner Rolls

Makes 12 rolls


1 cup whole milk

2¼ teaspoons dry active yeast (from 1 standard packet)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 large egg, room temperature

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

3¼ cups (390 g.) all-purpose or bread flour, divided

Neutral oil, for greasing

Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling


  • Place milk in a microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave in 30-second intervals until it reaches 110° when checked with an instant-read thermometer. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, use a whisk to combine warm milk, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy. Add 4 tablespoons of melted butter, the egg, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, and salt. Mix with dough hook on medium speed for 30 seconds, until combined.

  • Add 1 cup flour and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds, until combined. Scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula and add the remaining 2¼ cups of flour. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 minute. Scrape the dough off the hook and mix it for 3 more minutes, scraping off the hook halfway through, until the dough becomes smoother and more elastic.

  • Lightly grease a large bowl with neutral oil. Scrape dough into the bowl and toss to coat in oil. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel and let rise in a warm place in kitchen for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.

  • Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan with neutral oil. Punch down the risen dough and divide it into 12 equal-sized pieces (about 70 g. each). Shape each piece into smooth round balls and place them in the prepared baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap or clean dish towel and let rise for 1 hour, until puffed.

  • 30 minutes before baking, adjust an oven rack to a lower position and preheat oven to 350°. Bake, rotating halfway through, until tops are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. If rolls are browning too quickly, tent them loosely with aluminum foil. Remove from oven, brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.

Toasted Sage Compound Butter

Makes 8 tablespoons. Can easily be doubled.


1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon minced sage

¼ teaspoon kosher salt


  • Melt the butter in a small skillet set over medium heat. (Using a skillet with a light interior allows you to easily see the milk solids change color.) Cook the butter, stirring occasionally and scraping off the bottom and sides of the pan as needed, until the milk solids turn golden brown and smell toasty, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the butter to a small bowl and refrigerate until it’s slightly firm and creamy looking but not totally hardened, about 30 to 60 minutes. (It should be the texture of a softened stick of butter.)

  • Stir in the sage and salt. At this point you can simply scrape this into a pretty jar for storage. Or if you prefer the look of a log, spoon the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, form into a log and wrap well. Chill either for at least 3 hours before using and up to 5 days.

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