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Nothing makes a dinner special quite like dinner rolls.  You can make dinner rolls from your favorite bread mix or recipe though rolls are usually a bit sweeter and richer with more butter and milk products.

There is probably no bread product that allows you to be more creative than dinner rolls.  You can make them plain or fancy, and if fancy, into a multitude of shapes.  You can wash them to give them an attractive glaze or you can top them with seeds or grains.  Today we’ll show you how to make several of these shapes.

We’ll use our Sour Cream Potato Roll Mix though you can use any mix or recipe of your choosing.  Let’s begin with a simple round shape.

After the dough has risen, use a sharp knife (rather than tearing) to divide the dough into the chosen number of pieces.  A piece the size of a golf ball or small egg will make a nice-sized roll.  If you are using a scale, about 1.5 ounces works well.

To form round rolls, some people simply roll the dough pieces between their palms.  We prefer to pull the skin around the center and pinch the seams together on the bottom to form a taut skin.

Place the rolls about 1 1/2 inches apart on a greased pan, cover, and let them rise again until doubled.  When the dough has risen fully, a finger pressed softly into dough should leave an indentation.

split top rolls

Other Types of Rolls

Cloverleaf rolls, and often Parker House Rolls, are made by rolling three equally-sized rolls in butter and then placing them in a muffin tin.

Parker House Rolls are also made in a folded shape as follows:

  1. Roll balls of dough as in round rolls.
  2. Press them flat into 1/4-inch thick disks then brush the tops with butter.  Fold them in half and let them rise until doubled.

Kaiser Rolls are rolls in a rosette shape.  Kaiser rolls are a New York favorite, typically made larger than dinner rolls and used for sandwiches, but you can use the rosette shape to make fancy dinner rolls.

The directions for Kaiser rolls follows.

In addition to these shapes, you can make fantails twists, overhand knots, or any other shape that you desire.

Often, you will want to glaze the tops of your rolls for a glossy finish.  For a bronze glaze, use an egg yolk.  For a clear glaze, use only the white.  For something in between, use the entire egg.  To make the glaze, whisk up to one tablespoon of water with the egg.  Brush the tops of the rolls with the glaze just before baking.  If you would like, you can sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or rolled oats after glazing.  Tip the pan from side to side to sprinkle seeds on the sides.  The egg will hold the seeds in place.

If you do not glaze your rolls, consider brushing them with melted butter just after they come from the oven.  The result will be a soft, buttery crust.

Soft dinner rolls freeze well.  Simply put the extras in a plastic bag and freeze for up to two months.

Our choice?  We must confess: we usually make round rolls—though for guests, we often make fancy rolls.  We also make a lot of hamburger buns.  We much prefer hamburgers on homemade buns and we use the extras for sandwich rolls.

One final note—dinner rolls make a great project with the kids.  They love to get their hands in the dough and make their very own shapes.

kaiser rolls

How to Make Kaiser Rolls

Want to impress your family and friends at the next gathering? Serve sandwiches on Kaiser Rolls. They’ll look so professional–like they came from the bakery. You don’t have to tell them how easy they were. If you can make dinner rolls, you can make Kaiser Rolls.

You can make Kaiser Rolls out of any lean bread dough but if you would like to make your rolls from a mix, we suggest using our Sunday Dinner Rolls. Simply leave the butter out and add another half-tablespoon of water.

A Kaiser Roll is merely a lean roll, specially shaped, and baked in a steamy oven to make it crusty. Choose a recipe or mix for a lean bread dough—or leave the butter or oil out of the recipe. Make per the directions for rolls including letting the dough rise the first time.

Here’s how to shape the rolls:

Step 1: 
Cut a piece of dough off about twice what you would use for a dinner roll. (We scale the dough at 3.5)

make kaiser rolls step 1

Step 2: 
Form a simple over-hand knot in the center of the dough. Leave the knot loose; do not try to draw it tight. You will have two protruding ends a couple inches long.

make kaiser rolls step 2

Step 3: 
Take one of the ends and continue it around the rope and push it down through the center hole. It should look like the picture to the right.

make kaiser rolls step 3

Step 4:
Take the other end of the dough, go around the rope, and push the end up through the center hole. The finished roll should look like the one to the right.

make kaiser rolls step 4

It’s more complicated to try to describe the forming process than it is to form the rolls. After the first few, you’ll breeze right through without even thinking.

Now let the formed rolls rise covered on a baking sheet. When they are ready to bake, brush them with a whisked egg and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds. You can bake them as you would dinner rolls but if you would like a crusty roll like true Kaiser Rolls, follow the directions for baking breads in a steamy oven.

To form the thick, chewy crust that is typical of artisan breads, follow these instructions: Place a large, shallow, metal pan in the oven on the lowest shelf. You will pour hot water in this pan to create steam in the oven. High heat is hard on pans so don’t use one of your better pans. An old sheet pan is ideal. Fill a spray bottle with water. You will use this to spray water into the oven to create more steam.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot and the bread is fully risen and is soft and puffy–being very careful not to burn yourself with the rising steam and with a mitted hand–pour about two cups of very hot water in the pan in the oven. Quickly close the oven door to capture the steam. With spray bottle in hand, open the door and quickly spray the oven walls and close the door.

Immediately put the bread in the steamy oven. After a few moments, open the door and spray the walls again to recharge the steam. Do this twice more during the first ten minutes of baking. This steamy environment will create the chewy crust prized in artisan breads.

You can use this baking procedure for crusty hearth breads also. For rolls, bake for ten minutes at 450 degrees then lower the temperature to 350 degrees until done. How long you will bake them will depend on how quickly your oven loses heat but it will probably be about ten additional minutes (a total of 20 minutes). As for all hearth breads, the internal temperature of your crusty rolls should be about 210 degrees. (If crusty rolls are not well-baked, the internal moisture will migrate to the crust and make it soft.)

You can make Kaiser Rolls out of any lean bread dough but if you would like to make your rolls from a mix, we suggest using our Sunday Dinner Rolls. Simply leave the butter out and add another half-tablespoon of water. To make it even easier, try our Sunday Dinner Rolls.