Pillow Soft Dinner Rolls

There are so many amazingly rich, beautiful things in this world.  Nothing can match the to-die-for smell of sautéing onions, the indulgence of a rich, chocolate brownie (an absolutely killer one, here), or the first, sinful bite of a piece of decadent cheesecake.
Some things in life are worth stopping to savor.
These dinner rolls are worth stopping for.
The original recipe that I used to start this is called “Japanese Milk Bread” from King Arthur Flour.  Here is their original recipe and instructions.  Mainly I have kept the recipe the same, but I wanted to show you how to make it and add a few tips and tricks that might smooth the path for you.
What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!
Perfect Dinner Rolls Recipe:
Starter Ingredients:
3 tbsp. whole milk
3 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
Roll Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. instant RED SAF yeast (get this here)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 egg
4 tbsp. softened butter
First, make your starter.  Heat the water, milk, and flour in a small saucepan, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes thick– about 4-5 minutes.  Sit the mixture aside and allow it to cool before using it.
After the starter has cooled to room temperature, combine it, your sugar, instant yeast, whole milk, egg, and softened butter until well mixed.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of flour, and then whisk in salt.  Add the rest of the flour, as needed, until you have a soft dough.  Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, adding flour as needed until your have a soft, pliable dough. Allow dough to rise in a greased bowl (grease top and cover with a towel) until doubled in size.  Divide into 8 equal pieces and form into rolls.  Place dough balls in a greased 9″ round pan and allow to rise, again, until puffy– about 25 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.  Turn onto a cooling rack and brush with melted butter.  Eat one.  Savor it, and count your blessings.
Now, in pictures!
The first thing that sets this recipe apart from most bread recipes is the use of a starter. Technically, I’m not sure why this is called a “starter,” because there is no leavener in it.  But . . . I’m not one to mess with a good thing, and these rolls are a VERRRRRYYYY good thing, so I just roll with it.
Mix your water, milk, and flour together in a small saucepan.  Whisk the lumps out and continue to stir, constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken.  This is very similar to making gravy– just keep stirring it and scraping the bottom so that nothing sticks.
After about 4-5 minutes, your mixture should look like this.  See how you leave lines on the bottom of the pan when you scrape with the spoon?  That’s what you want.  When it gets to this point, turn off the heat and move the pan to a cool burner.  Let it cool to room temperature before you use it.
Once the starter has cooled (make sure that it is cool, throughout), add in your sugar, yeast, milk, egg, and softened butter.  You can mix this by machine, but I prefer to make bread by hand– it is very therapeutic to mix the ingredients, yourself, and you also get to control how well everything is mixed.
My Great Grandma used to bake bread whenever she was upset or frustrated. Somehow, muscling the dough really takes the frustration out of life. 😉
After you have combined the above ingredients, add in 1/2 cup of flour and your salt.  Whisk these ingredients together.  Slowly add flour until you get a soft dough– it may take a touch more or less than the recipe calls for, depending on the weather and humidity of your kitchen, that day.  Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, until it is soft and pliable, similar to an earlobe.
Place your finished dough in a greased bowl, covering the top with cooking spray.  Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise until puffy and doubled in size– about 1.5 hours.
When the dough has doubled, gently deflate it and divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (continually dividing in halves is a great way to get equal pieces) and roll them into balls.  Place the dough balls into a greased 9″ round pan and cover, again.  Allow to rise until the dough is doubled and puffy– about 25-30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350 during this time so that it will be hot and ready when your dough is ready.  Most ovens don’t actually reach the temperature that they say they have reached when they “beep” to signal that they have reached the desired temperature.  Buying an oven thermometer is a way to tell if your oven is lying to you or not.  And you thought you only needed that skill to find the broccoli scattered around the underside of your toddler’s plate.  😉
Bake your rolls at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.  They should be a deep, golden brown.  I like using a glass pie plate to bake them so that I can tell when the sides and bottom are brown, also.  If the top is getting too brown while the bottom is white and raw, cover the top with foil to prevent overbrowning.
While this bread is baking, your house will smell absolutely incredible.  Bake this bread if you’re trying to sell your house.  No one will want to leave.
When the rolls are done, invert them onto a cooling rack and brush with melted butter.  Ooooohhhh yeah.  Really lather it up– the bread will drink that butter in like a cactus seeing its first rainstorm.
Pull one of these off while they’re still warm and slather it with butter.  Before you take a bite, just put the roll close to your nose and take a big, deep whiff.  Close your eyes and imagine whatever makes you happiest.
And then take a bite.  And another.  Savor every single one.
Life is made of these tiny, beautiful moments.  And if you want to have a second roll, I won’t judge 😉
Because you did it.  And I’m just so proud of you.


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