Bread Illustrated
Which Dinner Rolls Belong on Your Thanksgiving Table?
From the classic fluffy dinner roll to an old-school Boston hotel favorite, you've got options.
11-11-2016
America's Test Kitchen

There’s a lot to love about Thanksgiving dinner: plump, juicy turkey legs; tart cranberry sauce; crusty stuffing; creamy mashed potatoes; marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole; and, of course there’s the salty, velvety gravy that gets poured over the top of it all. (If you’re not pouring gravy on top of everything on your Thanksgiving dinner plate, you’re doing it wrong.)

Though no one component is better than the sum of the meal’s parts, the humble dinner roll—especially once it’s been dragged across the plate to gather little bits of all of those delicious parts—might be the most important bite on your holiday spread.

But picking the right roll is tough! Should you go with the classic fluffy dinner roll or something more rustic? Maybe it’s time to shake things up and serve a honey-wheat dinner roll or something made with a potato based dough. The guide below will (hopefully) help make this tough—and crucial—decision a bit easier.

The Classic: Fluffy Dinner Rolls

It’s hard to compete with a soft, tender, homemade dinner roll. This buttery (but not too buttery), slightly sweet dinner roll has a rich flavor and a fluffy crumb—perfect for scooping up those salty, gravy-soaked remnants of stuffing left on your plate.

The Crispy Contender: Rustic Dinner Rolls

These European-style dinner rolls are different than their rich, tender American cousins. The dough for these rustic rolls is lean and the crumb is open, with a yeasty, savory flavor. But the best part is their crust—so crisp it essentially shatters as you bite into it, yet chewy enough to offer satisfying resistance. Think a miniature baguette. These are perfect for making turkey sliders—either as the main course, or a few hours later when you’re craving seconds.

The Sweeter Side: Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls

A good honey-wheat dinner roll combines the softness of white dinner rolls with satisfying heft and a nutty whole-wheat flavor and notes of floral sweetness. A brush of honey butter on top of the rolls after baking means these can easily be enjoyed on their own—but by all means, dip them in a mound of gravy-smothered mashed potatoes if you please.

The Leaner Option: Potato Dinner Rolls

While the decadently buttery white dinner rolls associated with holiday dinners are great, sometimes we crave something similarly soft and tender but a little leaner. Old-fashioned potato rolls, with their light, moist crumb, fit the bill. Their shiny, golden domes will look gorgeous piled high in a basket next to your turkey and all the fixings.

The Bostonian: Parker House Rolls

Parker House rolls are the Cadillac of dinner rolls. These thin-crusted, fluffy-crumbed, glossy American rolls are pillowy-soft, slightly sweet, and packed with butter. They owe their name to Boston’s famed Parker House, a hotel that’s been a bastion of Brahmin hospitality since the middle of the 19th century. Celebrate this year with a roll born in the state where the first Thanksgiving feast was held.

What dinner roll do you think will best suit your Thanksgiving feast? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out our Thanksgiving Guide for more holiday entertaining ideas. 

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Bread Illustrated—our first cookbook devoted solely to bread baking—is a fully illustrated handbook with more than 100 meticulously tested recipes that will enable you to bake artisan bakery–quality bread at home. Each recipe is a hands-on tutorial with a timeline and photos that break down the recipe step by step, because seeing the process from start to finish helps make any recipe more approachable.

 

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