Baking Homemade Rolls for the Holidays

Reader Contribution by Holli Henslee
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I love this time of year, with the holidays coming up and the cooler, OK colder, weather starting. This is the time of year when I love to bake. The wonderful smells that fill my house and the warmth from the stove evokes memories of my childhood. I have fond memories of making candy, pies and other goodies with my mom and grandma. I was so fortunate that they both saw the importance of passing on cooking skills as well as family recipes to me and my sisters. This is a tradition that I am continuing with my children.

As long as I can remember, my mom has always made homemade rolls for our family gatherings. This wasn’t just for holidays, but anytime the family got together for one of our big meals. I love her homemade rolls, and as soon as I was old enough, I wanted her to teach me how to make them. At first all she would let me do was roll the dough into balls. As I got older, she let me mix the ingredients, and then finally she entrusted me with the full recipe. Now, I am the maker of the homemade rolls for our family gatherings, and I want to share our recipe with you.

I used to be intimidated by baking yeast bread. I was so scared that I would kill the yeast, or maybe it wouldn’t activate at all. There is a science to the process, but once I relaxed and stopped worrying about it, it became easy. Now I can say that yeast bread is my favorite thing to make. I make white bread, wheat bread, hamburger buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. But the easiest of these are the dinner rolls. I think it is because I make the dough the night before and put it in the fridge for the first rising. It makes the rest of the process go by quickly. The full recipe is repeated below.

To begin dissolve 2 packages yeast, or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast, in 2 cups warm water (105-115 F). After the yeast has dissolved, add 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix well.

Add 3 cups flour, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup melted shortening. (Note: My mother always used butter-flavored shortening when she makes them. I have done this, but I have also tried using butter, lard and coconut oil. My favorite is the butter.)

Beat well then add 3 more cups flour, mix well and let stand at least 2 hours, or overnight in the fridge.

What the dough looks like before first rising in the fridge.

Remove dough from fridge. You can see how much the dough has risen.

Here is the dough after leaving it in the fridge overnight.

From here, you can divide the dough up into same size balls, or you can just pinch off the amount of dough you need. If I am making them myself, I just pinch off the amount of dough I need and make a roll. If the children are helping, which they usually do, I divide the dough up between them. My children love rolling the dough into balls. I make my rolls about the size of a golf ball.

This is the size of the rolls that I make.

As I am making them into rolls, I dip them in melted butter. My mother always did this, and I love the golden brown that they become and the buttery taste because of it. Or you could just wait until right before you put them in the oven and brush the tops with butter. However, I love tradition, so I stick to what my mom did.

Put the rolls into a greased pan and let rise. With this recipe it makes around two 9-by-13-inch pans.

You can see the size of the rolls in relation to the pan before the second rising.

Now you need to let the rolls rise again. My favorite trick is to put my oven on warm just until it is preheated. Then I turn it off. I set the pans of rolls in the warm oven and let them rise that way. My kitchen tends to be a bit drafty so this is a perfect way to let them rise in a warm place. Once they have doubled in size, about 1 hour or a little longer, take them out of the warm oven.

This is the size of the rolls after they have risen a second time.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. After taking them out of oven, try and let them cool, but not too long. They taste the best when nice and warm.

Golden brown and ready to eat.

And there you have it. My mom’s homemade roll recipe. The photos you see above are from the rolls I made for Thanksgiving. They were devoured in no time.

Mom’s Homemade Roll Recipe

2 packages yeast (or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast)
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups flour, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup melted shortening (or butter or coconut oil)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. After the yeast has dissolved, add sugar and salt. Mix well.

Add 3 cups flour, egg, and shortening. Beat well, then add remaining flour, mix well and let stand at least 2 hours (or overnight) in fridge.

Make into rolls. Let rise in a greased, 9-by-12-inch pan.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

After they have risen, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.