Dinner Rolls

In my first cookbook, I dedicated a whole chapter to homemade breads, from traditional challah to sweet cinnamon swirl bread. When my editor suggested I include a simple dinner roll recipe in the mix, I set to work testing dozens of recipes. While many were quick and easy with short rising times—a plus, for sure—they were also disappointingly bland and dense. I finally came up with this recipe, which uses instant potato flakes and nonfat dried milk to tenderize the bread and add flavor. These dinner rolls are soft and fluffy, with an open crumb and rich, buttery flavor. While they may not the fastest dinner rolls out there, I firmly believe they are the very best.


Potato flakes and nonfat dried milk may seem like unusual ingredients for rolls, but they actually serve an important purpose in the baking process. Potatoes have a lot of starch, which is able to absorb and retain a lot of moisture. Adding potato flakes to the bread dough results in soft, fluffy rolls with an extended shelf-life. Additionally, dried milk — which is milk in its most concentrated form — adds protein, fat, and flavor to baked goods without impacting the liquid-to-dry ratios. This translates to bread and rolls that are especially tender and flavorful.

While the recipe calls for instant, quick, or rapid-rise yeast, it’s fine to use active dry yeast if that’s what you have on hand. In the past, active dry yeast needed to be dissolved in liquid before incorporating it into a recipe, but it has now been reformulated into a smaller particle size, making it easier to use without dissolving it first. The dough will just take a little longer to rise.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Dough

In a small microwave-safe bowl combine the milk and ¼ cup water. Heat until lukewarm, 20 to 30 seconds on high heat. (This can also be done in a small saucepan on the stove.)

milk and water in bowl

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the egg, flour, potato flakes, dried milk, sugar, yeast, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the butter.

Egg, flour, potato flakes, dried milk, sugar, yeast, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the butter in a mixing bowl

Add the warm milk/water mixture.

Adding the warm milk and water mixture

Knead on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, soft dough. (Don’t worry if the dough sticks a bit to the bottom of the bowl.)

kneaded dough in mixing bowl

To remove the dough from the bowl, dust your hands with flour and scrape it out. Using your hands (dust them with more flour if necessary), shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.

Step 2: Allow the Dough to Rise

Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it’s doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.
dough after rising

Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface (it will deflate).

dough on floured work surface

Step 3: Form Buns and Let Rise Again

Divide it into 12 even pieces (each piece should weigh 1¾ to 2 ounces). Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball by tucking and pinching the edges underneath to form a plump little bun.
dough divided into 12 pieces and shaped into buns
Grease a 9-inch round baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the rolls in the pan, arranging 8 evenly around the perimeter and 4 in the center. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let the rolls rise until they’re almost doubled in bulk, puffy, and touching, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.

buns rising in cake pan

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Brush the rolls with the melted butter.

brushing dinner rolls with melted butter before baking

Step 4: Bake

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a wire rack.

baked dinner rollsServe warm or at room temperature with butter. Store the rolls in a sealable plastic bag for several days at room temperature, or freeze for longer storage.

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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