Buttermilk Dinner Rolls, photo by donna

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls, photo by donna

I almost never tear recipes out of magazines, but leafing through Saveur on the 8 a.m.  Houston to Cleveland flight, this recipe caught me because I’d been wanting a soft, comfort-food, James-friendly dinner roll, the kind of Parker House roll that’s slightly sweet and yeasty and soft as a pillow.

Turns out this recipe comes from thefreshloaf.com, which says that the recipe is adapted from Great Country Breads of the World.

There really are no new recipes, only adaptations of adaptations.

What I don’t like about any of these recipes is the enormous volume of flour measured in cups.  I did the Saveur recipe exactly and the dough was very stiff—how could I know if this was the way it was supposed to be since flour by volume is so variable.  But the flavor was good and I love cooking the dough in a springform pan, which is brilliant.

So I revised my version, with flour weights and a little extra honey, scales only please (if you must, measure 5 1/2 cups AP flour).  I found a nest of fricking grain moths in my sesame seeds so I had to throw those out and use poppy seeds instead.  Both work well.

This is killer comfort bread if ever there was.

Buttermilk Cluster Rolls

28 ounces/800 grams AP flour (5 1/2 cups if your scale is broken but no guarantees!)

20 ounces/570 grams buttermilk, room temp or microwaved for 40 to 60 seconds to take the chill off it

1/4 ounce/7 grams (1 package) active dry yeast

1/2 ounce/14 grams kosher salt (1 tablespoon)

1.5 ounces/40 grams honey (2 tablespoons)

vegetable spray or butter for greasing a springform pan (can use 9-inch cake pan but may be hard to remove rolls)

1 egg

1 teaspoon poppy seeds (or as desired)

1 tablespoon melted butter, optional (good for photos!)

Combine the flour, buttermilk, yeast, salt and honey in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Mix on medium till the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  (See this post on Bread Baking Basics for more info on mixing and rising.)

Cover and let rise till doubled in volume (dough shouldn’t bounce back when you press a finger into it).  This will take at least two hours, maybe three or more depending on the temperature of your dough and the temperature of your kitchen.

Turn the dough out onto your counter and give it a good knead.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (about 4 ounces each).  Form each into a tight boule by rolling it on the counter.  Spray or butter a springform pan.  Fit the boules into it, cover it with a towel and let the dough rise for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F./190 degres C.  Whisk the egg till it’s uniformly yellow.

When the rolls have risen again, brush them with the egg wash, sprinkle them with poppy seeds and bake them for 40 minutes (to an internal temperature of 195-200 degrees F./90-93 degrees C.  Let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 12 adults or 4 hungry children.  Serve with soft, soft butter.  Mmmmm.

I did this recipe but once!  Want to test it and take a photo?  Email it to me and I’ll post it here or will post a link to your site if you write about it.

Update 2/6/10:

Carol Peterman is the first to post her test at her tablefare.com/blog.  (Carol has created a cool new type of interlocking spice container worth looking into if your spices are a mess.)  Carol, you got some serious rise on those.  Judging from the looks of your pan, and the fact that I rushed mine a little and under proofed them (Dad, when are we going to eeeeeat?!), next time I make these, I’m going to scale back the dough to 25 ounces and 18 ounces buttermilk, and make 3.5 ounce rolls.  They look gorgeous, Carol, thanks for posting!

I like the way Jan improvised with yogurt and used a cake pan.

And here are Dragana’s rolls.  I think we can reduce quantity to 25 ounces of flour.

Here’s an excellent post and recipe test, with boule shaping video, from Darcie, of Bakin & Bacon.  She recommends larger pan.  There’s been enough comment about the rise that I’m going to scale back the dough to 25 ounces and 18 ounces buttermilk.

Here are Camille’s gorgeous results at Croque Camille, kneaded by hand, and I love the rise in the glass bowl so you can see how active the dough is. Her verdict: “this very American recipe can easily be reproduced with French ingredients in a less-than-ideally equipped kitchen.”  Thanks, Camille.

And Michelle at Le Potage, also had gorgeous results, but she was disappointed by the crumb to crust ratio.  She wanted more crust.  I think these rolls are all about the crumb, not the crust, but agree that the amount can be reduced.

Steve, from My Favorite Flavors, didn’t use a scale but wishes he had! He made the recipe after seeing it on the Saveur site and he also had a stiff dry dough.

And Whine & Dine didn’t let her second rise go long enough, and she learned what happens.  Second rise is critical for texture.

And just saw this in comments, Bitch & Bake.

And this late entry from Angi at Rice and Wheat.  Angi had to leave before the first rise was done so she simply put dough in fridge.  This is great.  You could make this dough a day ahead and refrgierate till ready to proceed, allowing an hour and a half second rise.

And a note about shaping.  I’ve been wondering why some rolls in pictures look smooth and delicious and others look kind of wrinkly and haggard.  This is most likely due to shaping.  You can’t just cut off a portion of dough, shape it into a ball like a snow ball and bake it.  You need to make the interior tight.  Watch the vidoe at Bakin & Bacon linked above which is a good demonstration of shaping.


50 Wonderful responses to “Buttermilk Dinner Rolls”

  • mr blur

    I’ll try it.
    I made parker house dinner rolls yesterday and while flavorful, I’d like the texture to be lighter. seemed kind of dense to me. at least moreso than I’d like.

  • Dragana

    You were in Houston and I missed you! I love your blog and all the helpful information you share with us.
    I’m making the rolls today and I’m very curious about measuring the buttermilk. I usually measure liquids in millilitres or liquid ounces and have never seen it measured in grams. I can see why – a more exact measurement.
    I’ll send a picture soon with my test comments. I’m going to be using instant yeast so I won’t be proofing it.

  • Nicole

    Brisket in the oven, feet of snow predicted, buttermilk that needs to be used – perfect!!


    I am soooo glad you did this post as I made the rolls a few weeks back and while they were good, I felt they were a bit heavy and dry – I only had the original recipe which as you’ve indicated, doesn’t give weights. I am going to try this recipe again today (since I’m in the middle of a snow storm right now!) and will send pictures w/comments and will also do a post on my blog. Thanks so much for giving us the re-worked recipe! Love your blog, btw, – you are brilliant! Such great information!

  • SallyBR

    If I was not doing the Bread Bakers Apprentice challenge, I would definitely be up for trying this recipe. But I already have two breads planned for this weekend….

    But I might be able to make it mid-week. Would it be ok if I changed the kneading method and folded the dough instead? Or do you want it made EXACTLY as you described?

  • michael

    sally, do it as you wish!

    dragana, ok to measure buttermilk by volume, 2 1/4 cups.

  • Camille

    Those look and sound delicious! I can’t tell you the last time I had a nice, soft dinner roll. I just so happen to have bought some buttermilk this afternoon for pancakes tomorrow morning, but there will definitely be some left over. Hooray!

  • Gary G

    “fricking”? Who are you, Roy Williams?

    Great looking recipe, Mike. I have made the Parker House Rolls many times but never 1) using weighed flour, and 2) in a spring form pan. Dying to try as I just know they’ll be easier and better.

  • Sandy Netherton

    Baking is not my forte but it doesn’t stop me from trying. Not to mention, no one else here is going to be doing it so it’s left to me. In culinary school I learned to execute some decent products, but when your instructor is Chris Northmore he’s not letting you out until you’re pretty efficient. Doughs have always been my nemisis. *ugh* But I’m sooo in the mood for some yeasty rolls. I will indeed make these, weighing as I was taught, and hope for the best. Wish me luck!

  • Garrett

    Oh good, I needed another recipe to use on that new scale. 😉 This is a great recipe, or I made an adaptation of it. We used to do it back in college all the time and I haven’t done it since. However, it always came out a little different because we were very “whatever” with the measuring. Never used poppy seeds, but rather garlic powder. Ah, memories. I’ll have to make this again, but scaled.

  • Michelle

    Perfect timing. It’s supposed to be a rainy, snowy weekend, and I just got home from grocery shopping with a new tub of fresh, local butter and local honey. Can’t wait to try with the rolls.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Yeesh, I hate a challenge, especially because I am not a good baker. That, and I would eat the whole pan with butter all by myself…looking forward to seeing a lot of pictures.

  • Darren

    Sweet, heavenly bread. This is a must-make for my time off. This has probably been mentioned on this site before, but does anyone else let their bread rise in the oven? I turn on the oven light and it keeps my oven at about 80 degrees. Helpful on cold, snowy days when every corner of the house seems drafty.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Well, those posting so far with their rolls are doing a bang-up job…I have been perusing…and you are all inspiring me, truly…to try these rolls.

  • Susan

    I use the scale when the weight is given..so this is nice, but… I still handle bread dough by feel. I always hold out the last 3/4 cup of flour and knead it in until the dough feels soft and a tacky. It turns out soft and light that way (at least when I want soft light bread!) FYI..Pioneer Woman has a baking method for dinner rolls that she makes in a 9″ cast iron skillet that she bastes with butter, salt and rosemary. Looks like a homey way to bake and serve, though she adapted the method from rolls served in a restaurant while on her book tour. Cute idea, huh?

  • Susan

    Sorry, poorly explained…I only knead in ENOUGH of the (3/4 cup withheld) flour until the dough feels soft and tacky. Better?

  • Dan

    I made this rolls tonight and they came out superbly – I’m doubly pleased as it was my first time making bread, with the exception of the naans I made last week. I sprinkled some fennel seeds on top of mine, as I was serving them with some Indian lentil soup. I’ll try and take a picture tomorrow, when the light is better.

  • John Bailey


    Two things. First, congratulations on Ratio being mentioned by Alton Brown in the WSJ Weekend Opinion Journal’s ‘Five Best’ column for his five Best Cookbooks. Here is the link: ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204575039311414125360.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_TOPRightCarousel )

    Next and more particularily about weights and baking, I picked up yesterday a wonderful new baking book. it is Artisan Breads from the atHome series of the Culinary Institute of America and written by Eric W. Kastel with contributing credit by Cathy Charles. This book has excellent (at one would expect from the CIA) advice, techniques, but also a wide variety of recipes for breads, rolls and flatbreads. Best of all each recipe is given in ounces, grams, volume and bakers %. All reading about your rolls will certainly enjoy finding this new book for their collections.

  • luis

    Rolls turned out great. Used Avocado Honey from Fairchild Gardens out in the Redlands…something about the bee’s polinating the avocados and picking up the essence of the flavor in the process…

    Great recipe. Not buttery or anything… straight forward great dinner rolls. My cup of flour came to three oz and change and so..I ended up winging it like I always do. Would have taken me your five cups of flour just to half the recipe. Then again it took something like 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk. Which is less than you would expect as well.

    Not complaining, The rolls will be welcomed at the tail gate party we are having. Now if the Saints were to stand up to the Colts the day would be complete.

  • ericn1300

    Perfect timing, I just bought a tin of dehydrated butter milk for baking. No one here drinks butter milk, so I’m going to try this.

  • Rum

    Feel your pain on the moths. I’ve switched to storing everything in mason jars for bulk dry goods (pint, quart or half gallon depending on what it is) and 1″ (test tubes with cork stoppers for ready to-use spices (no other way I can get 70+ spices in 10×10″ on the countertop). The mason jars have an excellent (hermetic) seal, which pretty much put paid to the little buggers and completely eliminates cross infection if something does sneak into one jar.

  • bob delgrosso

    Weighing the flour assures a better outcome than relying on volumetric measurement. Even better is to know how much water is in the flour before you decide how much of the other ingredients to add in.

  • Debbie

    I used the revised amounts of 25 ounces of flour and 18 ounces of buttermilk. Dividing the total amount of dough by 12 resulted in approximately 3.7 ounce rolls (I actually used grams for weighing out the rolls though). After 35 minutes in the oven, the internal temperature in the center was still under 150° F. Since the tops were fairly brown at that point, I tented them with foil as suggested by another reader. They baked another 20 minutes before achieving the desired temperature. The rolls rose like crazy! I’m not too experienced with yeast so it’s always a surprise. They have kind of a sourdough smell, which is appealing. The texture was probably a bit doughy for my taste. I’m not sure if the flour should be reduced a bit further. Here are photos of all steps of the process (what can I say, it gave me something to do besides football): http://gallery.me.com/rockiepie258#100175

  • Murasaki Shikibu

    I’m trying out your recipe now as we speak and the dough is rising. I don’t have a thermometer so I’ll have to use my baking instincts. Hoping this will all work out!

  • rockandroller

    Gah, why must you tempt me with buttermilk and beautiful rolls now that I am on a dairy and soy free diet (courtesy of my baby’s food intolerances). Curses!

  • SallyBR

    On the moth problem – sometimes simply switching everything to Mason type jars is not enough, because the little critters are already in the packaged flour… if you have space in the freezer, freezing your flours, grains, for a couple of weeks (I know, I know, it’s a major pain) kills everything in it, then you can safely transfer to tightly closed jars to prevent contamination from the outside. I’ve had a serious problem 3 years ago in my house, learned all these tricks the hardest possible way… 😉

    another thing that seemed to help – dried bay leaves stored inside the flour and also a few spread over the shelves and inside drawers. Apparently moths are anti-bay. Go figure.

  • SallyBR

    I will have to watch everyone baking these, and join you some other time. It turns out that the bread I made this weekend to follow the Bread Bakers Apprentice challenge (White Bread, number 40 out of 43) – is very similar, and I already had to freeze these rolls because we have way too much bread in the house…

    I was tempted to shape them in a pan, but ended up with hamburger rolls instead.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    I’ve made this many times. This is one of those great multi-purpose doughs. You can do the rolls in the spring-form pan or you can do it as a braid in a loaf pan. I’d even use this for cinnamon rolls. I can tell you all that this dough, when baked up, makes GREAT toast.

  • Mimi

    Great looking rolls. Do you still have your starter? You should adapt them yet again to sourdough.

  • Brian

    I was a bit confused that the recipe did not call for proofing the active yeast, so I substituted a slightly smaller amount of instant yeast. As a result, the first rise took about 90 minutes. 25 oz flour + 18 oz buttermilk gave a good amount for our springform pan.

  • Carole Buschmann

    I have just discovered you and your book. How do the ratios work at different altitudes? I live at 5280 feet and soon will be traveling to 7000 feet and would like to use ratios in that environment. Thanks

  • Sylvia

    Thank you! I saw this recipe and bought buttermilk on my way home. They were PERFECT. With my terrible oven, I had to adjust the baking time and tent them at 20 minutes in, but I am totally in love with the result.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I am blown away with all these fantastic blogs and scrumptious looking rolls…it is really humbling…

  • ali

    They look comforting! It’s a really lovely shot…
    I’d really like to try and make them, and wanted to ask if instant yeast can substitute for ADY, and if so should I reduce the amount to about 5 grams?
    I was also wondering at what point the optional, good-for-photos melted butter should be applied?
    Thank you for posting the recipe, and your helpful follow-up, too!


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