Classic Dinner Rolls

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

By Cat, Oct 2009 (Photo, right, from Better Homes & Gardens, Nov 2009 Issue)

Includes: 1. Classic Dinner Rolls: 1a. With Pre-Ferment (Sponge); 1b. Without Pre-Ferment

See also: 1. Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads); 2. Dinner Roll Variations: Shaping & Baking3. Bread & Rolls Menu

There’s just nothing that smells and tastes of home, like freshly baked dinner rolls with fresh butter.

While it is possible to make rolls from any bread recipe, some recipes just for rolls are worth mention, especially those that use a special shape. Most people are familiar with plain white dinner rolls, really just tiny loaves of bread, or the cloverleaf rolls pictured above. Another favorite are the buttery and flakey Parkerhouse rolls.

This recipe can be used for any of these shapes, but is illustrated as cloverleaf. Most recipes use all-purpose white flour or bread flour, but you can get excellent results using half whole grain and half white flour, as in my adaptation of the original recipe.

Classic Dinner Rolls

My Mom called this shape “Three leaf clover rolls.” See photo, above.

This no-knead recipe is adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Classic Dinner Rolls recipe (November 2009 issue). Key to the success of this recipe is to work the light, spongy dough by stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, before setting it to rise. This activity is what I call “beat for 100 strokes,” and helps the gluten to develop structure in the dough for a good rise and delicate texture. Another key is NOT adding too much flour. The dough should be soft and only slightly sticky when shaped into rolls.

Adding an overnight rest after adding half the flour (pre-ferment or sponge) improves the nutritional value of whole grain bread, and also helps to make for a lighter texture.

The original recipe uses all all-purpose white flour, but I prefer the taste and healthfulness of whole grains. I recommend hard white whole wheat flour for its lighter color and texture. I suggest using whole grain flour for the first 2 cups. The remaining flour can be unbleached white, or a mix of white and whole wheat.  If using whole spelt, you will likely need more flour (or less milk). [See Bread Basics: Yeast-Leavened Breads (section on Using Spelt) for more on this].

Directly covering the surface of the dough promotes slow rising, and slowly risen dough is more flavorful. The original recipe uses plastic wrap to cover the dough, but because toxins in the plastic will be absorbed into the dough, I prefer to use Organic waxed paper or oiled bakers’ parchment (oiled with olive oil).  However, you can use plastic wrap to cover the bowl (after covering dough surface with waxed paper), or put the covered bowl in a plastic bag.

When choosing the large mixing bowl, you want it to be big enough that the dough can double in bulk without rising above the top of the bowl.

If you want a wheat-free version, use whole and white spelt. Or a mix of whole spelt and whole barley, plus white spelt. [Wheat-free does not necessarily mean gluten-free; both spelt and barley are gluten grains].

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 Tbsp real butter at room temperature
  • 1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water (105° – 115°F)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp Rapadura sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 2 – 2 ¼ cups unbleached white flour or mix of whole and white
  • 1 Tbsp Unrefined sea salt
  • melted butter
  • softened butter
  • small saucepan
  • large mixing bowl
  • muffin pans



  1. Warm milk to no more than 120°F (if using raw milk, scald it first, about 185°F, then let cool to 120°F). Add butter and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixing bowl. Add warm milk. If using a pre-ferment (sponge), add only ½ cup warm milk.
  3. Stir in 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 Tbsp salt with wooden spoon, until smooth, about 100 strokes. If using a pre-ferment (sponge), skip the salt until the next step, cover bowl with damp cloth, and place covered bowl in a plastic bag. Let rest in cool part of kitchen 6 – 8 hours, or overnight.
  4. If using a pre-ferment: Sprinkle dough with salt and add the other ½ cup warm milk. Either method: add lightly beaten eggs, and sugar. Stir to blend.
  5. Add 2 cups unbleached white flour (or mix of white and whole), 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously for 3 – 5 minutes.  Dough should be smooth and elastic, and only slightly sticky. If, after 3 minutes of stirring, dough is overly wet, stir in more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH FLOUR. If you cannot stir in all the flour, let dough rest 5 – 10 minutes to hydrate, then try again.
  6. Cover surface of dough with lightly oiled parchment, being careful to press it against entire exposed surface of the dough so that it doesn’t dry out. Then cover top of the bowl with plastic wrap, or a cloth. Let rise until doubled in bulk (1 – 2 hours). If you want extra-light rolls, press down (don’t punch) and let rise a second time, covered as before.

Shape & Bake; this shaping method makes the cloverleaf rolls pictured above

  1. Lightly butter 24 muffin cups. Gently press the dough to deflate. Then with lightly buttered hands, pinch off generous 1-inch pieces of dough. Fold each piece of dough over, turning and tucking the edges to form a ball. Pinch seam together to seal. Dip in melted butter and arrange 3 dough balls in each muffin cup. Let rise until fully doubled (about 1 hour).
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake rolls for 20 – 25 minutes, or until well-browned. If needed to prevent over-browning, cover rolls with foil during last few minutes of baking. Remove from oven; brush with softened butter. Return to oven for 1 – 2 minutes, for butter to soak into rolls.
  3. Remove rolls immediately from cups to a wire cooling rack. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.


  1. BHG, Nov 2009 Issue, Classic Dinner Rolls (

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