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A Step-By-Step Guide to Perfect Dinner Rolls

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

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A two-step baking process guarantees the perfect crust and a light, airy crumb.

Turning flour, water, and yeast into crusty, airy rolls is one of the trickiest bits of kitchen wizardry around. But there are few things more delicious than homemade dinner rolls, especially when you wrap them in a towel, place them in a pretty basket, and serve them with a hearty homecooked meal.

To get a flavorful dinner roll recipe with a crisp crust and chewy crumb without a steam-injected oven, we replaced a few tablespoons of bread flour with whole-wheat flour and added honey. For an airy crumb, we determined exactly how much water and yeast would produce bubbly yet shapely rolls. A two-step baking process—baking the rolls in a cake pan to set their shape before pulling them apart to crisp up—gave our rustic dinner roll recipe the crust we were looking for.


1. Whisk 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon room temperature water, 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, and 2 teaspoons honey in bowl of stand mixer until well combined.

2. Add 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour and 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour and mix on low speed with dough hook until cohesive dough is formed, about 3 minutes.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Remove plastic wrap and evenly sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt over dough. Knead until dough is smooth and slightly tacky, about 1 minute. (If dough is very sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour; mix for 1 minute.)

5. Lightly spray 2-quart bowl with vegetable oil spray; transfer dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour, then fold over itself several times and let rise for 30 more minutes. Then fold again and let rise for another 30 minutes.

6. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray and set aside.

7. Transfer dough to floured work surface, sprinkle top with more flour. Using bench scraper, cut dough in half and gently stretch each half into 16-inch cylinder.

8. Divide each loaf into fourths, then each one in half, so you have a total of 16 pieces.

9. With floured hands, gently pick up each piece and roll in palms to coat with flour, shaking off excess, and place in prepared cake pan. Arrange 8 dough pieces, cut-side up, in each cake pan, placing one piece in middle and others around it, with long side of each piece running from center of pan to edge.

10. Loosely cover cake pans with plastic wrap and let rolls rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. (Dough is ready when it springs back slowly when pressed lightly with finger.) Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from cake pans and spray rolls lightly with water.

11. Place cake pans in the oven and bake until the tops of the rolls are brown.

12. Remove pans from oven, reduce temperature to 400 degrees, and using kitchen towels or oven mitts, invert rolls from both cake pans onto rimmed baking sheet.

13. When rolls are cool enough to handle, turn right-side up, pull apart, and space evenly on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven.

14. Continue to bake until rolls develop deep golden brown crust and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time.

15. Transfer rolls to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. They’ll come out of the oven with a perfect, crisp crust and a light, airy, super soft interior.

RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Rustic Dinner Rolls

Even though they’ve got “dinner” in their name, you’ll probably want them for breakfast, too. A two-step baking process—baking the rolls in a cake pan to set their shape before pulling them apart to crisp up—gave our rustic dinner roll recipe the crust we were looking for.

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