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How to Make Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Why this recipe works When it’s time to prepare for a dinner party or holiday meal, the rolls typically get the last thought. That’s too bad, because soft homemade dinner rolls beat plasticwrapped store-bought versions any day. We wanted to develop a roll anyone could feel comfortable making—one with a fluffy crumb and a rich flavor. Before getting started, we assumed using all butter in the dough would give us the texture and flavor we desired. We were wrong. Instead, we found it best to use a duo of fats. Butter alone yielded flavorful rolls, but they were heavy (and greasy). Substituting vegetable shortening for a portion of the butter delivered a soft crumb. Why? It turns out that shortening coats the gluten strands in the flour more effectively than butter, creating tenderness. It also prevents the rolls from drying out. Whole milk provided our rolls with just the right level of moisture and richness, and one egg contributed structure and flavor. For a hint of sweetness, tasters preferred honey to sugar. When it came time to shape the rolls, we didn’t need professional skills; forming the dough into balls and then cupping each ball and dragging it across the counter were all it took to form tight rounds. We lined the baking dish with a foil sling before adding the shaped dough so that it was easy to get the baked rolls out of the pan without flipping the pan over and damaging the tops. Finally, brushing the dough with an egg wash before baking gave the rolls a deep goldenbrown color. As a bonus, this dough can be refrigerated overnight after shaping into rolls, making it not only easy to serve rolls for a special meal but convenient too.

  • makes 15 rolls
  • rising time 2½ to 3½ hours
  • baking time 25 minutes
  • total time 4½ to 5 hours
  • key equipment 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pastry brush

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  • 5 cups (25 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (4 ounces) honey
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (1⅔ ounces) vegetable shortening, melted
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

1). Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, honey, egg, melted shortening, and melted butter in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until honey has dissolved.

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2). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.

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3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.

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4). Make foil sling for 13 by 9-inch baking dish by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in dish perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of dish. Push foil into corners and up sides of dish, smoothing foil flush to dish, then spray foil with vegetable oil spray.

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5). Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and stretch into even 15-inch log. Cut log into 15 equal pieces (about 3 ounces each) and cover loosely with greased plastic.

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6). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round.

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7). Arrange dough balls seam side down into 5 rows of 3 in prepared dish, cover loosely with greased plastic, and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1½ hours. (Unrisen rolls can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let rolls sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)

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8). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush rolls with egg mixture and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking. Let rolls cool in dish for 15 minutes. Using foil overhang, transfer rolls to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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problem The dough pieces are tough and hard to handle.

solution Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap.

If you work slowly after cutting the dough log into pieces, the individual portions of dough can form a skin and dry out as they wait on the counter for shaping. You can prevent this by covering the cut pieces of dough with plastic wrap so that air cannot get to them. Take them out from under the wrap one piece at a time when you form them into balls. This will keep the dough workable and make it easier to form into perfectly round, taut rolls.

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