This is my ultimate yeast rolls recipe. The rolls come out exceptionally flavorful, very soft, moist and flaky. They are pure perfection. They melt in your mouth and have a tendency to vanish in the blink of an eye, just like those good old Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies, remember them? I call these rolls the Vanishing Yeast Rolls. Make sure to make the full batch. They just go.
The challenge with the yeast rolls
My favorite recipe for dinner rolls has been the recipe for Soft Garlic Buns I posted about some time ago. It’s a great recipe but lately I’ve been noticing that I have not been very happy with the results. The rolls would often lack that moist, airy crumb and flakiness I was looking for. Or they would be fine inside but pale and unattractive on the top. I’ve been experimenting with different flours and dough hydration, but with mixed results. They do taste much better with the garlic sauce, but not as well on their own.
Then, I had to make a double batch for a larger party and used a 10 x 14 inch rectangular cake pan for baking. I divided the dough into 15 pieces and arranged the dough balls into 5 rows of 3. The rolls came out bigger and tasted almost how I wanted. It suddenly struck me: smaller yeast rolls dry out faster during baking and lose their softness and moisture. It’s common sense, but somehow it was eluding me. I think the reason was that I was trying to get them perfect on the inside as well as those beautifully browned tops. Striking the balance between the two is what I think led to mixed results.
Some additional experimentation suggested that I should drop hydration a little as it interfered with getting perfectly browned tops. But this did not interfere with getting the crumb soft and moist as the size of the rolls was twice as big now.
Baking pan placement was another contributing factor to getting optimum results. I can never get perfectly browned tops in my oven if I bake on the middle rack, as many recipes advise. When I bake on the top rack I get exactly what I am looking for. If you are having issues with your bread baking that you need to troubleshoot, check out the great Tips & Techniques resource that King Arthur Flour created. I find it very helpful as it opened my eyes to nuances I’d never thought of before.
These yeast rolls are best served fresh, but they will stay moist and soft for 2-3 days. Just make sure you keep them in a tightly closed container.
Update on October 5, 2015:
I removed cup/Tbsp/tsp measures for flour, water, sugar, yeast and salt from the recipe as several readers have reported having challenges with them and getting inferior results. These measures are indeed imprecise and, based on my experience, even small variances in this particular recipe may cause noticeable effect on the final product. For optimal results the recommended approach is to weigh your ingredients on a kitchen scale (like the Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale or my personal favorite, OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale, or similar) and use King Arthur all-purpose flour with which this recipe was developed and tested.
Vanishing Yeast Rolls
For the dough:
- 900 g all-purpose flour King Arthur All-Purpose flour recommended
- 520 g water (see note 1)
- 50 g sugar
- 10 g kosher salt
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 18 g instant yeast (see note 2)
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg and 1 tsp water or milk for egg wash
Mix all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, cover and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Knead the dough by hand right in the bowl for about 2-3 minutes. The dough should be soft slightly tacky, but not not sticky. If the dough is sticky, let it rest for another 10 minutes and then knead again for 1-2 minutes. As the flour in the dough absorbs more water the stickiness will go away. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or saran wrap and place in warm place for 1.5 hours to rise. The dough needs to double in size. If not, let it continue to rise until it does.
- Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Some flour can be added in this step if the dough is too sticky, but normally this is not needed. Grease your palms with soft butter and butter each dough ball. This will allow better separation of the yeast rolls after they are baked and help with browning.
- Place the dough balls in a well-greased 10 x 14 inch cake pan, arranging them into 5 rows of 3. Cover the pan with a damp towel or saran wrap and proof for 40 minutes in warm place
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Whisk one whole egg with a teaspoon of cold water or milk until well blended. Brush the tops of the dough balls with a light, even coat of egg wash.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-27 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve and enjoy!
Note 1 - you can use warm (about 80F - 90F) water which will result in a quicker rise; however, longer rise will result in better flavor development. There is a bit of a trade off there. If you are too worried about the dough not rising in time and such, it makes sense to use warm water.
Note 2 - this recipe is designed for instant (bread machine) yeast. Active dry yeast has a larger granule and needs to be dissolved in water before using, while instant yeast has a more fine texture and can be mixed right into dry ingredients.
You can use active dry yeast, but it needs to be first dissolved in warm water (about 100F - 110F) with a little bit of sugar. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes until you see foam formed on top. At this point the yeast is ready to be used.