From our kitchen to yours: favorite Thanksgiving dinner rolls

When you think Christmas baking, you think cookies, right?

And when you think Thanksgiving, the first thing that springs to mind is probably pie.

Or not. If you’re a bread “apprecianado” like me, the very first Thanksgiving baking decision you need to make is, “Which dinner rolls will I make this year?”

Maybe you have your favorite, the rolls you make year in and year out. You know, the ones you have to bring to the table, lest everyone give you the sad eyes and fading smile. “You didn’t make your rolls this year? Oh, I was SO looking forward to them…”

For me, those rolls had always been Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns – until last year, when I pulled a fast one on the crowd and substituted Amish Dinner Rolls: a slightly heavier, slightly moister, just-as-delicious roll.

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And guess what? No one knew the difference. The whole family, from 3-year-old Elizabeth to 90-something Gram, was uniformly happy with my “squishy white rolls.”

And that’s the goal after all, right? Happiness. Thankfulness. For pumpkin pie, the love of family, shelter from the storm, and the freedom to gather together. For safe travel (sorry for your troubles, Buffalo!); and for a day spent relaxing (you have our sympathy, all of you who have to work).

And last but certainly not least – for dinner rolls.

What rolls will you be baking this year? Our King Arthur Flour Bakery churns out thousands of dinner rolls these last few days before Thanksgiving. Their recipe: Walter Sands Basic White Bread, an entirely fitting tribute to the Sands family, whose energies built and nurtured King Arthur Flour for over two centuries.

Pictured at the top of this post, with some of those thousands of Walter Sands rolls, are Lidia, Lucas, Angie, and Rob, four members of our crazy-busy Bakery crew.

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MaryJane Robbins (MJ, as you’ll often see her referred to here) is one of our long-time bloggers and a member of our customer service baker’s team. She’s someone you may have connected with on our baker’s hotline, or via live chat or email. A talented cookie decorator (and Easter-egg artist), as well as a cake fiend, MJ says flat-out, hands-down, no-question: Big Batch Quick Dinner Rolls are a given on her Thanksgiving table.

Says MJ, “Our family loves making sandwiches with Thanksgiving leftovers. Having plenty of these rolls on hand means sammies for everyone!”

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Sue Gray, a long-time King Arthur Flour employee-owner, started in our Baker’s Store, then moved to the test kitchen and eventually became head of product development, a post she’s held for many years. If you enjoy any of our many delicious mixes or wildly successful gluten-free products – thank Sue.

These rolls – aptly named Sue’s Favorite Potato Rolls – are a Thanksgiving must-have in the Gray house. “Butter in the dough plus extra butter brushed over their crust while they’re warm from the oven really take these over the top,” says Sue.

PJ_Rolls-8 Susan Miller, director of our Baking Education Center, is a seasoned, devoted – one would even say passionate – bread baker. When asked if she has a favorite Thanksgiving roll, she’s quick to offer these light, crusty rolls made with an overnight starter: Susan’s Crusty Thanksgiving Rolls.

Says, Susan, “The idea for these came to me in a dream one night, and I was so excited I woke up and wrote the recipe down.”

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Dream rolls, indeed!

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OK, here I am, in my usual pre-Thanksgiving stance: hauling rolls out to the car. I haven’t spent Thanksgiving at home for 38 years, so “Let’s roll” has a double meaning when Turkey Day comes around.

You’ve already read about my sly roll substitution from last year: this year, I’m making sure everyone’s happy with those Amish Dinner Rolls, but adding two more types as well:

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Golden Pumpkin Dinner Rolls, and Sour Cream & Chive Potato Rolls.

The former are light-textured, elusively sweet, and bright gold. The latter, extra-flavorful from their sour cream and fresh chives (surprisingly, still green and growing in my frost-browned garden). Both are solidly in the “squishy white roll” camp – so I have every hope my family, despite their new devotion to Amish Dinner Rolls, will give them a try.

So, that’s the roll roundup from King Arthur Flour, here in cold (but thankfully not yet snowbound) Vermont. What rolls are you baking this year? Please share with us and your fellow readers in “comments,” below.

And whatever you bake, wherever you go, just remember: give thanks for the food in your larder, the roof over your head, and the loving companions around your table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Couldn’t resist one more favorite: Honey Wheat Rolls, for those who enjoy throwing whole grains into the mix.

 My special thanks to colleague Julia Reed, who took most of the pictures in this post.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Ann Marie

    I did two types of rolls early in November. I made your pumpkin bread recipe into rolls and used a recipe for a butter roll from a Sunset cookbook on bread that I have been making for more than 35 years. Always a family favorite. They’ve been dubbed “Re Rolls”. Sent several dozen to family in Tennessee.

    Reply
  2. GinPetty

    Pie? No. Like you, PJ, I’m one of those bread “apprecianado” folks. Soft, moist puffs of buttered heaven. Sometimes at the dinner table I forego the pie in favor of a second (or third) roll. This year I’m going with an ancient recipe, cornmeal icebox rolls. (“Icebox” should give you some hint about how old this recipe is.) May you and all the other good folks at King Arthur have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Okay Gin, I’m totally stealing this line: “Soft, moist puffs of buttered heaven”. What poetry! We hope you have a lovely day surrounded by family, friends and of course, bread. ~ MJ

  3. Jim

    Well, these aren’t for everybody but it’s what I grew up on, a richer roll called “Rusks.” Not sure of the origin but my Pennsylvania German grandmother made them for special occasions and the tradition continues in our family. Full of eggs, butter, and milk, they’re a bit like Challah.
    Rusks
    2 cups milk
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 cakes yeast
    1 teaspoon salt
    4 tablespoon melted butter
    7 cups sifted flour
    5 egg yolks, beaten
    1 tablespoon water
    Scald milk, add sugar and cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in milk, add 3 cups flour and beat until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Add 4 beaten yolks, salt, melted butter, and remaining flour or enough to make easily handled dough. Knead quickly and lightly until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl and set in warm place, free from draft. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. When light, roll out 3/4 inch thick, cut into 1 1/2 inch rounds and place close together in 2 greased 8″ square pans. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush tops with remaining egg yolk beaten with the water. Bake at 400° about 25 minutes until well browned. Makes about 40.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds like a tasty recipe to me, Jim! I bet they’re really great with slathering of butter. Jon@KAF

  4. Jamie

    My most requested dinner roll recipe is “60 Minutes ” dinner roll from a King Arthur handout at one of your traveling bread baking seminars I attended years ago. I usually make some pecan rolls or cinnamon buns from that recipe also to savor at breakfast on holidays. I get those sad eyes looks from everyone if I try to change anything! Thank you KAF for being such a great source of wonderful recipes!

    Reply
  5. Sara

    You mention that Sue Gray has helped with many “wildly successful gluten-free products”, but don’t give a recipe for a gluten-free roll? Do you have one?

    Reply
    1. Anya

      Same thing happened to me when I searched the recipe on my iPhone. Sadly, we lost power thanksgiving morning and I couldn’t use my computer. I did find the amish dinner rolls on another site though but of course they didn’t have weight measurements still came out good though! I just checked and the recipe still won’t show up on my phone.

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Anya, I’m sorry you’ve had trouble accessing our site from your iphone. We have noticed that our site does not always play well with iphones and ipads, but we are working on this. Barb@KAF

  6. Dawn

    This is the first Thanksgiving in many years that I will be celebrating with my husband’s family. When my sister found out I’d be away this year, the first thing she said was, “what about the rolls?!” Luckily for her, Big Batch Dinner Rolls can be prepped ahead and frozen. I won’t even be missed, lol!

    Reply
  7. Laurie

    I make Cooks Illustrated Rich and Tender Dinner Rolls, published in the Nov. 1999 issue. They repeated it in Nov. 2007, as a “make ahead” recipe. The rolls are easy (two hours start to finish) and delicious–one of my first successes with using yeast. For my family, they are the star of the show.

    Reply
  8. martibeth

    Writing this on Thanksgiving morning. About to start on the dinner rolls. For years I’ve made King Arthur’s soft white dinner rolls, but a few months ago, discovered the ridiculously easy to make no-knead cheeseburger buns which I shape into 12 rolls. These are now my husband’s favorite, and he insisted that I make these for today’s feast. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great idea, Martibeth! The cheeseburger buns/rolls are a great addition to the Thanksgiving table! Barb@KAF

  9. lorettapinkvelvet

    I made your wonderful recipe for crescent rolls this Thanksgiving. The dough was made two weeks ago and then frozen. Thanksgiving morning I rolled, shaped and baked them. They smelled and looked so good when they came out of the oven, it made me really happy. Needless to say everyone loved them. A BIG HIT!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Loretta, thanks so much for sharing your success here! We love to help people bake their very best. PJH

  10. Carolyn

    We lost power in the NH snowstorm the night before Thanksgiving, so my ovens were not functional on the holiday. My family looks forward to the KA butter buns every year, so it was time to get creative! I made the dough by hand and baked them on the grill, by indirect heat. They were wonderful! In fact, the whole dinner was made that way. A new family tradition 🙂

    Reply
  11. "Mrs Cindy"

    I have been making MrsM’s Best Ever Yeast Rolls from the OBC for several years. They are a deep mahogany brown, squishy, white roll. This year I made two large pans, a total of forty rolls. There was only a partial pan left after the meal and the hostess was lamenting she wouldn’t have enough for leftover sandwiches. Could I make more at Christmas? Please? Of all the different breads I make, these are the most requested.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      HI Sallie,
      For one cake of yeast, you can safely use one packet of yeast, or 2 1/4″ teaspoons. Cake yeast is much harder to find these days, but some larger grocery stores still do carry it in the refrigerated section. ~ MJ

  12. Julie In The Berkshires

    For the last 15 years or so, Thanksgiving has been at my brother’s home because it was closer for my folks who didn’t have to drive so far to one of our homes. Steve always made the stuffing from scratch and I couldn’t get enough of it. We each brought a part of it and the meal was traditional and completely delicious from start to finish. This year, Dad passed away in April…Mom left us in 2002…and my sister immediately said she’d like to have us all at her home in New York this year. She was cooking turkey but nothing else on the menu was traditional…EXCEPT that she asked if I would please bring my pumpkin pie AND the dinner rolls! I was thrilled…and sorry we’d miss Steve’s stuffing…but everything on her menu was a surprise and absolutely scrumptious. I’ve been making your BIG BATCH QUICK DINNER ROLLS for a while now and everyone loves them, especially ME! And I love that I can make 2-3 dozen in one quick session so everyone has plenty. Each of my siblings and my nephew took home the extra rolls but I was good…I only had one at dinner. I’ll only be happy about that when I step on the scale at my next WW meeting! 😉

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing your Thanksgiving story with us, Julie! It’s nice to have some new dishes as well as the traditional elements, isn’t it? Barb@KAF

  13. jencoym

    I made the Amish Dinner Rolls after Thanksgiving- they were very popular! I used up my leftover mashed potatoes too, and the peels we leave on when we mash the potatoes created no problem for the rolls.

    Thank you KA! You all are always a go-to source for me on baking recipes. 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Glad the Amish Dinner Rolls were a post Thanksgiving hit! And what a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes–with or without skins! Barb@KAF

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