Pillowy soft yeast rolls

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When I got my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer, who I’ve named Dorothy, for Christmas back in 2012, I was excited. Once I really got into using her, I realized that I could now attempt something I hadn’t tried much of before: yeast breads. Of course you can make yeast breads without a stand mixer. I just had been intimidated by yeast and had never done so. I decided to give it a try.

It went pretty well from the beginning, but as I kept at it, I got better and learned more of what to do. I learned that extra mixing with the dough hook is always better for yeast bread. I learned that a bit of kneading pretty much never hurts a yeast recipe. And I learned that yeast doesn’t like cold ingredients, but it does like sugar.

My all-time favorite yeast bread item is rolls. After trying at least 10 recipes that were OK, I turned to my friend Kayla, who is a baking genius. She works as a professional baker and makes things that put my efforts to shame. I know when she gives me a recipe it’s going to be a good one. She passed along this roll recipe to me, and it is sooooo good. The rolls are pillowy soft, airy and quite delectable. I could make a whole meal out of them. Seriously. So. Good! She uses the same dough to make cinnamon rolls, which I have yet to try but really need to. I double the recipe for family dinners and usually only have a couple of rolls left, if that!

Just look at this pillowy goodness!

Like most yeast recipes, you start with proofing the yeast. You combine the yeast, sugar and water. I used quick rise yeast, which says the best temperature is between 110- and 115-degrees. I really do get out my thermometer and check the temperature of the water before adding it into the yeast. Once you have the yeast, sugar and water in your mixing bowl, let it set until it is all bubbly and poofy, usually 6-9 minutes. (Mine took 8.) My doubled-recipe looked like this:

Once the yeast is proofed, add the egg, milk and butter. I heated my milk a bit to 88-degrees so I wasn’t putting it in cold. I also softened my butter to the point of being almost melted and tried to make sure my egg was pretty near room temperature.

Slowly add in the flour and mix on low so it won’t fly up and make a mess. For my doubled recipe, I ended up using 6 cups of flour. Depending on where you live and the humidity and all that jazz, you may not need as much. For a single recipe, use 2-1/2 to 3 cups. For doubled, used 5 to 6. After I got to 5 cups, I added in a 1/4 cup, a 1/2 cup and then another 1/4 cup, mixing well after each time to make sure that I wasn’t getting the dough too stiff or dry. You want it to be nice and soft but not liquid-y. This dough is a little sticky.

Once you have in all the ingredients, it’s time to mix with the dough hook on your mixer. Mix for about 5 minutes on speed 8 (basically medium-high speed). Add in the salt. Mix for another 2 minutes. (If you add in the salt sooner, it will kill the yeast.) Once the dough starts gathering around the hook and pulling away from the bowl, then it is finished. It looks like this:

Now it’s time to rise. Cover your bowl and let it sit somewhere warm. I use Glad Press ‘N Seal to cover mine. It works well for me. 

The dough in the bowl before being covered and rising.
The Glad Press ‘N Seal covers the bowl snugly to help it rise.

I let mine sit in my kitchen for about 40 minutes to rise. Here is what it looked like when I removed the cover:

I then spread out a sheet of wax paper on my kitchen counter and doused it with some flour. I dumped the dough out onto wax paper and covered sprinkled some flour on top as well, because this dough is a bit sticky. I kneaded it lightly for a couple of minutes. Next, cut and roll the dough into balls and place them in 9×13 pans sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Kayla says you can also use muffin tins by placing two small balls in the bottom of each muffin cup, but I haven’t done that.

Once the rolls are made, they need to rise again. You can do this on the counter, but I did it this time in the oven, because I was running low on time. I turned my oven on to 200-degrees. Once it was preheated, I turned it off. Then I put the rolls in for about 10-15 minutes. They had risen again and were ready to be baked when they looked like this:

I totally love this Rachael Ray 9×13 pan. It’s as awesome and non-stick as all of her other cookware. 

Bake the rolls for 12 to 18 minutes at 400-degrees. When the rolls were almost finished, I prepped butter to brush over their tops when they came out. For the doubled recipe, I used an entire stick, but for a single batch, a half a stick of butter or margarine would work fine. I like to mix some honey and cinnamon into mine for a touch of sweetness. I use about a tablespoon of honey and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon for a whole stick of butter. Here is what mine looked like before I melted it on low power in the microwave:

When the rolls were golden on top, I pulled them out, brushed them with the honey and cinnamon butter then removed them from the pan. They travel well and reheat well. And they taste oh-so-delicious!

Yields 16 rolls

Pillowy Soft Yeast Rolls
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Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened (almost melted)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (heat to temp according to yeast packet or jar)
  • 1/2 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 egg
  • OPTIONAL
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Put the yeast, sugar and warm water in your mixing bowl. (Make sure water is heated to the correct temperature for your yeast. For example, my quick-rise yeast says 110- to 115-degrees is best. Use a thermometer to be sure it's not too hot to kill the yeast but it hot enough to activate it.)
  2. Let the yeast mixture set until it is all bubbly and poofy (usually around 6-9 minutes).
  3. Add in the egg, warmed milk and softened butter.
  4. Slowly add in the flour. If the dough is still wet or very sticky after adding 2-1/2 cups, then add in 1/4-cup at a time to equal 1/2-cup more total until the dough is soft and only a bit sticky but not wet.
  5. Mix using a dough hook on your mixer at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. (I used speed 8 on my stand mixer.)
  6. Add in the salt and mix for about 2 minutes more until the dough is gathering around the hook and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  7. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. (I usually cover mine with Glad Press n Seal.)
  8. Once the dough is risen, dump it onto a floured surface and gently knead it for about 2 minutes. Cut it into pieces and roll it into balls. Place the dough balls in a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. (If you prefer, you can use a greased muffin tin and place two small dough balls in each muffin cup.)
  9. Let the shaped dough rise again. You can leave it somewhere warm or use your oven by turning it to 200-degrees. Once it is preheated, then turn it off and put in the dough. In the oven, it takes 10-15 minutes to rise. On the counter, it takes a bit longer depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
  10. Bake the rolls at 400-degrees for 12-18 minutes until light golden on top.
  11. Optionally, just before the rolls are due out of the oven, put the 1/2 stick butter or margarine in a bowl. Add the honey and cinnamon on top. Melt in the microwave for 1 minute on 40 percent power. Brush over the top of the rolls when they come out of the oven.
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