Introduction: Super Fluffy Bread Rolls 3 Ways: Plain, Garlic & Pretzel!

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“Why don’t you make the rolls yourself tomorrow?” said my bread loving husband as I prepared for my annual Thanksgiving extravaganza. Rolls? Bake on a day where I have six dishes to prepare and roast a perfect turkey? AND try baking something I’ve never made before?? That would be way too risky! But, never one to turn down an exciting, new kitchen project, I scoured my cook books and took on the challenge. With 2 bags of back up hawaiian rolls from the store of course ;)

They were THE best rolls I, and apparently everyone at the Thanksgiving table, had ever had.

Of course, I was panicked the whole time, but I as soon as I saw them puff up into perfect roll shape after the second rising and smelled the incredible yeasty scent that filled the house as they baked, I knew that they were a success.

But nothing prepared me for what a homemade, freshly baked roll tasted like right out of the oven, with a little butter rubbed over the top. Magic. Heaven. Pure comfort and joy. I think I saw my man shed a tear.

And as I bit into the fluffiest, softest and most flavorful roll ever, I wondered…why had I been buying store bought all that time and why had I been so afraid to try baking rolls before? Because, like most folks, I thought only professional bakers knew how to perfectly mix and knead dough just the right way. Because (even though I’m a great cook and bake things like pies and cookies) I thought baking rolls was different. It involved precision, a long process and special knowledge. But it turns out, it’s just about having the right recipe, following directions, and as always, a little practice.

That first time, the rolls were great. The second time, they were softer. And the third time, they were fantastic! The secret to super soft fluffiness is to add as LITTLE FLOUR AS POSSIBLE. Initially, it will feel like the dough is too wet and sticky, but you have to trust me on this. I took close up photos of EXACTLY how the dough should look and stick to the bowl to help you guys. Basically, you need to add just enough to be able to barely pull it off your fingers and from the sides of the bowl.

That Thanksgiving was ten years ago. And since then, I have made these rolls into garlic rolls for Italian feasts and I even figured out how to pretzel them for incredible sliders. For this Instructable, I decided to make a batch of plain, garlic and pretzel, to show you how to easily make all three using one master recipe.

So, if your mouth is watering at the thought of biting into one of these fluffy little delights, grab some flour, eggs, milk, yeast and butter and get baking! Make them plain, garlic, pretzel, or all three and you’ll never go back to store bought rolls again. And, you will become the most popular dinner guest in any household :)

Happy baking!

Step 1: Gather the Ingredients

For the Rolls:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2.5 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar + 1 tbs to activate yeast
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 package "bread machine" active dry yeast (can use regular active dry yeast, but bread machine is better)
  • 1/3 cup luke warm water (preferably 110 to 115 degrees, but 105 to 115 is the standard)
  • 3 to 3.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Flaky salt for sprinkling (Maldon or Kosher)

For Garlic Topping:

  • 2 tbs butter, melted
  • 3/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tbs minced fresh parsley

For Pretzel Coating:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp of water

Step 2: Combine Milk and Butter

In a medium saucepan combine the milk, butter, salt and sugar. Heat over medium heat until the butter has melter, stirring with a whisk or spoon to combine. Turn off heat and remove pan from stove to allow to cool.

Step 3: Activate the Yeast

While the milk and butter mixture cools, prepare the yeast: Heat the 1/3 cup of water until it is in the range of 105 to 115 degrees (I tend to get better results when it is closer to 115), add the sugar and mix. Then add the yeast by sprinkling it on top and gradually stirring it in with a spoon. Let it sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is activated, or very bubbly / foamy. If yeast did not bubble, it is either bad yeast or the water temperature is not correct and you'll have to do this step over or your rolls will not rise.

Note: it can take a long time for the milk / butter mixture to cool in the pan, so I like to transfer it to the mixer bowl or any other bowl that is already chilled. Keep watch, you want the milk mixture to be at 110 to 115 when you mix in the yeast because it will further activate it. But it can't be warmer than 115, because it will stop growth.

Step 4: Mix Flour Into Milk and Butter

Place the milk and butter mixture into a mixing bowl (either part of a mixer or a regular freestanding bowl) and add 1.5 cups of the flour. Mix first with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined (otherwise it can get messy) and then turn mixer on low and mix for about 30 seconds. Half way through, turn off mixer or handheld mixer and using a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl back into the center and then continue mixing. It is very important to scrape the bowl occasionally when mixing so everything is combined evenly.

Step 5: Add Yeast and Eggs

Add the bubbly yeast to the bowl, mix on medium high for 3 minutes. In the meantime, crack eggs open and beat with a fork. Then add the eggs to the bowl and mix for 30 seconds, scrape bowl again and mix another 20 seconds or so. Don't over mix! You want the eggs to be well mixed in and the batter to be dripping from the mixer attachment as in the picture.

Step 6: Add the Flour

Add 1 cup of flour and mix on low for 10 seconds just to blend. Now comes the hard part: adding just the right amount of flour. Add another 1/2 cup and mix another 10 seconds or so. The dough should be getting sticky and heavy. If it is sticking so much that you can't pull it away from the bowl, add another 1/4 cup and mix about 5 seconds, just to incorporate. Again, if you are able to pull it off the bowl and if it looks like in the photo, you added enough flour. If it is just too sticky, add another 1/4 cup, but that should do it. The dough should really be sticky and BARELY pulling away from bowl when probed with the spatula.

Step 7: Let Dough Rise

Scrape dough off of the mixer hook into bowl and pull it off of the bowl and gather into center. Cover with a slightly damp towel or napkin. Let it rise in a warm area (basically room temp, just not where there is a draft) for 1 hour.

Step 8: Punch Down and Roll Out Dough

Look at how much that dough rose! So cool to watch the yeast in action!

Now, you need to form a fist with your hand and give it 1 and ONLY 1 punch right down the middle. Then remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 10 inches wide. You'll be surprised how easy it is to work with the dough... it's like play-do!

Step 9: Cut and Shape Dough

Now for the fun part! Time to shape your hard work into a roll!

Cut the dough lengthwise in half. Then cut into thirds and then cut all the pieces in half once more, yielding a total of 12 pieces. Try to make them as equal in mass was possible, but it's ok if they are not perfect... someone will get lucky at the dinner table with a bigger roll ;)

Now pick up each pice of dough and fold it onto itself creating a ball and pinching everything together. This part is hard to explain and takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you'll crave doing it! Just make sure the dough is pinched tightly so no air can escape.

Step 10: Arrange Rolls in Pan and Let Rise

Spray a 9 by 13 pyrex pan with oil spray ( I think Canola is the best!). After you shape each roll, arrange them one by one in the pan as in the picture. Cover again with the damp towel and let them rise another half hour to 45 minutes max. I'm serious! DON'T forget about them or they will get HUGE!Unless... you want huge rolls, then do it ;)

Step 11: Garlic and Pretzel Them Up!

You did it! You are ready to bake the rolls! Preheat your oven to 375.


Do you want them plain, garlic, pretzel or ALL three??

To Garlic them, just mix:

2 tbs melter butter, 3/4 tsp granulated garlic and 1/2 tbs chopped fresh parsley in a small bowl.

To Pretzel:

Boil the 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and add the 1.5 tsp baking soda. Stir with whisk or spoon until combined, it will bubble vigorously which is what you want.

Beat 1 egg in a small bowl with 1 tsp of water.

Step 12: Brush on the Toppings

To Pretzel:

Brush on the baking soda mixture in a light layer, try not to get too much of the mixture to drip in pan or rolls will be slightly soggy (not a huge deal). Just coat the top lightly. Then brush the beaten egg over. Sprinkle with some Maldon (the BEST flaky salt on earth!) or kosher salt. It HAS to be thicker than regular tale salt. Also, make slits on top of rolls with a sharp knife in an X pattern. Not necessary, but makes them look like pretzel rolls.

To Garlic:

Just brush the garlic mixture over the tops of the rolls.

For the Plain Ones:

Either just leave them as is and add a little sprinkle of flaky salt, or brush them with egg and add salt. It's up to you... I like the egg wash, my hubby like them better without.

Step 13: Bake the Rolls

Bake the rolls in pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. It usually takes mine about 19 minutes, but stars checking them after 15, because all ovens are different. You want the tops to be a perfectly even golden brown, like in the pictures.

Step 14: Taste the Best Roll Ever!

Wait...I went to take the final beautiful photo and...what the heck?? Why is there a roll missing?!? The husband blames the dog and the dog blames the cat. Hmmm...

Enjoy these beautiful, incredible little fluffy delights that you have created. And get ready to be invited to gatherings / dinners / anything ALL the time ;)

Bread Challenge 2017

Runner Up in the
Bread Challenge 2017