Monday, November 21, 2016

Homemade Dinner Rolls

by Jan Drexler (The Mid-Westerner)

Happy Thanksgiving week! Are you ready? Is your turkey thawing in the fridge? Have you rounded up extra tables and chairs for the extended family gathering? Have you planned your menu and done your grocery shopping?

The "experts" will tell you to take advantage of convenience foods for this yearly feast. After all, if you're the hostess of a big gathering, you don't want to be stressed about desserts!

But this expert is telling you to do something a bit different: to reduce the stress, let your guests cook and bring what they like, and reserve your favorite parts of the meal for your own preparation.

After all, for some of us cooking is our "love language." We love to cook and bake and shower the goodies on our loved ones. So when Thanksgiving comes, our house is open and I cook my favorites!

One of those is dinner rolls.

I had planned to share my favorite dinner roll recipe today, but then realized I already had! But we can all use a refresher, right?

I've revised a few things and added a couple pictures, but here's the recipe, just in time for Thanksgiving:

Dinner Rolls for Holidays...or any time!

Yes, yes, I know this is homemade bread. But really - can it be that hard? After all, our grandmothers for generations back made bread every week, or maybe even every day if their family was large enough.

This is the recipe I cut my bread-making teeth on.

It started like this: Once upon a time (okay, it was the mid-70's) our family was visiting some friends, and our hostess served homemade dinner rolls. My dad took one bite, looked at me and said, "If you learn to make rolls like these, I'll double your allowance."

This is the mid-70's me. Yes, Gunne Sax dress and all :)

(By the way, I'm the only one who remembers him saying that...but I'm sure he did!)

I took him up on the challenge. I got the recipe from our hostess, followed the directions in Mom's old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, and made rolls. Batch after batch. They turned out tasty and delicious. From there I branched out to using different flours, different methods, different recipes...but this one is still my favorite. :)

Jan's Dinner Rolls


2 packages instant dry yeast (or 2 Tablespoons)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-6 cups all-purpose or bread flour

You can make this recipe completely by hand (like I did for years), or use a large capacity mixer (like I do now.)

First, heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt together. You can cheat and use the microwave, but I like to heat it up in a pan on the stove. But you don't want it to get too hot! Just warm enough to soften the butter.

Now, this is important! Before you do anything else, make sure your milk mixture isn't too hot. You want it to be lukewarm. You can stick a (clean!!!) pinky finger in to test it, or you can use a thermometer. If you do the finger test, it should feel slightly warm. If you use a thermometer, it should be between 110° and 115°.

(Does anyone know what happens if your liquid is too hot? It will kill the yeast. We don't like dead yeast. It makes hard, flat bread :(  )

Pour this into a large bowl (or your mixer).

Freshly ground wheat flour! Mmm-mm!

Add the two cups whole wheat flour, two eggs and 2 packages yeast. Whisk these ingredients together until smooth.

Let the batter rest for about twenty minutes.

Yes, I said rest. You want to wake up the yeast and let some of those flavors mingle.

After twenty minutes or so, add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, mixing each cup in completely before adding the next. If you're doing this by hand, use a large spoon, and stir it in until you can't stir the dough anymore. If you're using a mixer, use your kneading hook and add flour just until sides of your bowl no longer have dough sticking to them and the dough forms a ball.

This dough is just right - the sides of the bowl are coming clean,
and the dough is elastic.

BUT - be careful not to add too much flour. Too much will make your bread heavy and stiff. Too little will make it hard to handle. This is where practice comes in....

Now it's time to knead the dough.

If you're using a mixer, set your timer for seven minutes, and let the mixer work.

If you're kneading the dough by hand, sprinkle your clean counter or bread board with about a cup of flour, and then knead. Fold one side of the lump of dough over onto the other, and push down. Turn the lump a quarter turn and repeat. Do this until the dough is smooth and elastic - about five minutes or so.

After kneading, you need to let the dough rise. In a mixer, just cover the bowl and let it sit. If you're making it by hand, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel.

Wait for about forty-five minutes, or until the dough is doubled.

Now comes the fun part! Divide the dough into forty-eight balls - they'll each be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter - and put two balls in each part of a muffin tin. Be sure to grease your tins!

If you don't have two muffin tins, you can make thirty-six balls and space them out on a greased cookie sheet (with sides).

Cover the rolls, and let the dough rise another forty-five minutes or so.

Bake in a 350° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. As soon as you remove them from the oven, brush melted butter onto the top of each roll (optional, but makes the crust softer).


Of course, dinner rolls are only part of our Thanksgiving menu. I'm also making the turkey and dressing, and others are bringing potatoes, vegetables, salads, desserts... I'm getting hungry already!

We're expanding our table (and borrowing one from church) to fit our 15 to 20 family/extended family members. If this year is like other years, there will be some eating and a lot of visiting. And a lot of just sitting back and drinking in the love. :)

What are your Thanksgiving plans? Are you hosting, or are you going to someone else's house? Or are you spending your day volunteering to help others have a wonderful holiday?

Let us know!

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:


  1. YUM! There's nothing better than fresh-baked rolls. Except maybe fresh-baked homemade rolls. Jan, I always think I'll make mine from scratch, but then I get so busy making everything else from scratch, that I end up using frozen dough balls, like Rhodes (which are very good, btw). Still, there's just something about making them just the way you like them that makes them so much better.

    1. The Rhodes rolls are good! So it makes a good short-cut for busy meals.

      My secret? I make my rolls a week or two ahead of time and freeze them. They're almost as good as fresh out of the oven if you heat them up for 10 minutes or so. I stick them in the oven when I take the turkey out, and that works well.

  2. I haven't tried this recipe and I have that cookbook.... so now I'm crazy excited! Jan, I love homemade dinner rolls, there's something delightfully comforting in pulling fresh bread out of the oven. Mmmm......... the smell. :) We don't have Rhodes rolls here that I've seen... And I've been known to grab a monster pack of Hawaiian Rolls and we eat them like candy. WE ARE RIDICULOUS.

    But I digress.... We are having official Thanksgiving on Saturday .... that gives the married kids time with the other sides of their families without pulling and tugging and eating too much in one day.

    But Beth and Jon will be with us for Thanksgiving here... and we may go non-traditional for the day. Just because we can! And then very traditional for Saturday.

    Right now this blizzard force storm is taking down power lines and poles and trees around me. We just got internet back and lost power for several hours in the deep dark of night... but it came back on before the baby chicks froze! YES!!!

    Crazy windy now, but the heaviest snow is south of us... This time!

    1. Wow! That same storm came through here on Friday, I think. And yes, crazy wind and blowing snow! No powerlines or trees down, though, and now the snow is almost gone.

      Our Thanksgiving will be super traditional, with our church family. Since we live so far from our parents and siblings, we invite families we know will be alone for the holiday over. We have a great time, and every year the house expands to take in the crowd. We love it!

  3. Okay -- I totally missed the clever baking them in muffin tins first time round so I'm glad you shared again. Brilliant. I'm going to do that! Not for Thanksgiving though 'cause up here that's 11 months away. LOL So no big feasting plans this week. I'm just trying to cope with the...gasp...snow!!!! 25 cm first time round is no fun. :-( And I'm supposed to go to a potluck tonight but my street hasn't been plowed and my landlord hasn't done the driveway or even brought over the shovels so I can't even clear a wee little path to the street wide enough for my walker. :-( And I don't have winter boots. Does it sound like I'm whining? Oops. But on the bright side, the dessert I made is ready to go and if I don't get out then there's more helpings for me. Bwahahahaha!

    1. That's the big perk - if you can't go, you still have something yummy to eat!

      From October to March, we always plan things with the added phrase, "weather permitting." Our son's wedding is in February, and from day one there has been a plan B if the weather is bad and Katie's family can't get here from the east side of the state.

      Plan B? Katie and Jacob drive to our pastor's house in Jacob's Subaru (4-wheel drive) with my husband and I along to be the witnesses. Wedding done, reception postponed, and everyone is happy. :)

    2. Now that's true pioneer spirit, Jan!!!!!!!!!

    3. :) One thing the two of them said from the very beginning - there is no way they're postponing the wedding!

  4. Oh, yummy!! For a number of years, my mom homemade rolls for Thanksgiving! I would love these! And I love that you use some wheat flour.

    1. I usually use a variety of flours - wheat, rye, spelt, corn, oat...they all lend their own flavor and texture! No two batches of rolls are the same :)

  5. Jan are these the ones Jacob talks about all the time saying I have to learn to make them? Also yes bad weather or good weather we are getting married on the 11th of February ;) even if we have to pile into the 4 wheel drive.

  6. Oh these look delicious, Jan.

    My husband and I ate out at a restaurant in New Hampshire 2 weekends ago. I was really looking forward to the rolls (usually my favorite part of the meal :) ) because the reviews of this place raved about them.

    Sadly they were doughy, undercooked. On bite and I was done. I guess I needed this recipe.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Kav, I hope you get out to the potluck (though I do envy the snow).

    Ruthy, we got the wind with rain. CRAZY!!!!!

    1. Someone in the kitchen of that restaurant wasn't doing their job! Too bad you missed out on the rolls.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Wow Jan, I'm impressed. That is a lot of work. smile I'm sure your family will enjoy those homemade rolls. They really do taste better than bought rolls. I think the smell of the yeast cooking makes the difference. yum

    1. It doesn't feel like a lot of work, because I enjoy doing it so much!

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Sandra!