Shaping perfect dinner rolls: does the pan make a difference?

There’s nothing like a bread-basket full of gorgeous, golden dinner rolls, right? And with Easter coming, a batch of nice white rolls to go with the ham are probably on your baking agenda.

Their buttery, yeasty aroma alone is enough to send any bread lover into paroxysms of joy. But when they LOOK good, too?

You’ve hit a home-baker homerun.

What’s the best way to make sure your rolls are as nicely shaped as they are tasty?

First, make sure the dough is divided evenly; a scale is invaluable here.

Second, pay attention to your shaping; a roll that starts out less than round isn’t going to get any prettier.

And finally, select the right pan.

Wait a minute – what does the pan have to do with whether or not a round roll stays round as it rises and bakes?

As it turns out – plenty. Let me show you, with this recipe for Amish Dinner Rolls.

I start by dividing the dough into 24 pieces. Usually I’d put all 2 dozen in a 9″ x 13″ pan.

rolls1

But today, I put nine rolls into a 9″ round pan, and let them rise.

rolls2

Nine rolls go into an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ square pan. Which is the same volume as a 9″x 2″ round pan – did you know that?

rolls3And nine rolls go onto a baking sheet.

Clearly, the rolls in the two tall-sided pans will turn out to be pull-apart rolls, since I’ve placed them close together. Those on the pan will be free-standing. If you like soft-sided rolls with less crust, make pull-aparts; crisper rolls with more crust, a baking sheet.

Let’s bake them and see what happens.

rolls4

Well, they’re all nice-looking rolls, aren’t they? But look at the difference in finished shape.

IMG_9808

The rolls in the round pan bake up elongated or even triangular. Those in the square pan end up square. Well, square-ish; they could pass as round. And the free-form rolls retain their initial round shape entirely.

So, what have we learned?

For most uniformly shaped pull-apart rolls, bake them in a round or rectangular pan. For non-pull-apart perfect spheres, bake rolls free-form.

IMG_9802

Though in the end, how much difference does it really make – so long as there are hot rolls, brushed with butter, on the table when dinner is ready?

P.S. One more tip: what’s with those spots scattered across the rolls? I shaped the dough and then refrigerated the rolls overnight, since I didn’t plan on baking them until the next day. When I took them out of the fridge to warm up, I left their plastic covering on. Moisture condensed on the plastic, and dripped down onto the unbaked rolls. Then, when I put them into the oven, those droplets formed small blisters – spots. Lesson learned: if unbaked rolls have been chilled overnight, take the plastic off once you take them out of the fridge.

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. The Baker's Hotline

      We are a bit challenged when it comes to illustrating high-altitude baking issues because we’re not at altitude here in Vermont. We do have this helpful guide to high-altitude baking, Jan. Be sure to click on the last tab to see suggested adjustments for yeast breads. Barb@KAF

    2. Penni Schwinkendorf

      I live at an altitude of 5000+ feet. I use KA products (including yeast and mixes) and a Zojirushi bread maker. I use 1/4 t of yeast per 1C of flour, and 1/4t to 1t salt per 1C of flour.
      Most of the KA yeast bread mixes measure 4 cups, so I only use 1t of the yeast in the tiny packet, and add a little extra salt. Bake according to regular directions.
      Hope this helps.
      There is a wonderful book by Susan G. Purdy called “Pie in the Sky” regarding high altitude baking, published in 2005.
      Good Luck.

    3. Donna Currie

      I live at about a mile high (5280ish feet) and when other people are looking for a warm place to let their dough rise, I find a cool spot. That’s pretty simple in the winter when the house is much cooler. In summer, it’s trickier because if it’s 85 degrees in the house, the dough is going to rise as soon as I turn my back on it. So, either I have really fast bread, or I bake at night when it’s cool, or I shove the dough in the refrigerator to slow it down.

      The really important thing when working with yeast is that you should go by look and feel rather than paying attention to the clock. If it’s supposed to double in about an hour and yours has doubled in 30 minutes, you shouldn’t wait that extra 30 minutes.

    4. PJ Hamel , post author

      You’re so right, Donna. Thanks for sharing the wisdom of your experience – obviously you’re a seasoned baker! PJH

  1. Therese

    PJ, i love these rolls. Which KAF recipe is this? When did you put them in the frig? Before or after the secind rise? Love your blog.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The rolls are our Amish Dinner Rolls, Therese. PJ shaped the rolls after the first rise and then refrigerated them directly after shaping. The rolls will continue to rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Here’s a link to another blog that really details the roll shaping: bit.ly/qYwD9
      Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, can you imagine anyone complaining about delicious homemade rolls not looking pretty enough, Margie? Friends like that you probably don’t need. Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s one of the great things about baking, Pamela, there are always new things to learn! Barb@KAF

  2. Jane

    Interesting. Also how many rolls to what size pan was helpful. Water droplets! of course, but who would of predicted that?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Baking is always an adventure, Jane! Isn’t it nice that we can still make discoveries no matter how long we’ve been baking? Barb@KAF

  3. SpeltBaker

    Thank you so much for this excellent article. Such a simple premise, but it has never crossed my mind to change the pan. My rolls are going to be prettier now!

    Reply
  4. Martha

    My grandmother would shape dinner rolls by holding her index finger & thumb in a circle, like an “ok” sign, then push the dough up through the circle with her other hand. After a quick roll to smooth out the bottom, she would have perfectly shaped rolls each time. She never used a recipe for her bread, never weighed the dough and her rolls were perfect every time.

    Reply
  5. Livingwell

    I’m confused. The intro in the e-mail this blog was sent says ” the best pan for making round rolls is NOT a round pan”, yet the above blog says “for most uniformly shaped pull-apart rolls, bake them in a round or rectangular pan.” It sounds like you’re saying to not use a round pan, but use a round or rectangular pan. Huh???

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The best pan for round rolls is one that allows the rolls to stand freely alone. However, using a rectangular pan will make all the buns similarly sized but with soft sides. A round pan will keep the buns together. You’re free to use whatever pan you like, and they’ll all be appreciated. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  6. Ruth

    Love your comparisons. If you make big rolls or just use an 8″ round pan, with just one ball in the middle, it comes out looking like a flower – pretty, I think. They’re all good, no matter how they’re baked up. I think the “spots” look fine, like those on hearty rustic loaves. Lets you know they’re homemade!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I’ve always liked that flower design in a round pan too, Ruth! Thanks for your kind comments. Barb@KAF

  7. Yvonne

    Although the the article was interesting, by its title I thought it would explain the rolling technique to get a perfectly round roll.

    Reply
  8. Louise

    Thank you PJ for writing that article. Looking at those rolls made my mouth water! I often wondered whether or not I could shape my rolls and then refrigerate them until the next day. How long does the rolls need to sit on the counter to warm them before they are put in the oven? Sometimes my rolls get a gas bubble on top of them, can you tell me how to avoid that? That ruins the pretty look of the tops of the rolls.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      You can definitely refrigerate until the next day, Louise. How long you need to let them sit once you take them out of the fridge prior to baking depends on how risen they are – all the way? Partway? Not so much? That will be your guide. Assume it takes at least an hour for the dough to come to room temp. before it starts rising again. I usually let the rolls rise halfway; refrigerate; then let them sit about 2 hours at room temp. before baking. Try this, and see if it works for you; if not, simply amend the next time. As for the gas bubble – I believe this may be due to the surface of the dough being dry when the rolls are put into the oven. The crust sets quickly, and doesn’t let moisture (taking the form of a gas bubble) escape. Make sure your rolls are covered with plastic or something that will keep their surface soft. It doesn’t hurt to brush them with butter as they start to rise. Hopefully this will help – good luck! PJH

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Barbara,
      Frank in our test kitchen used to do something similar. I think he called it “Seven Sisters”. ~ MJ

  9. Kathy M Anderson

    The solution to high altitude baking would be to have a Rocky Mountain store and baking school here in Colorado Springs, Colorado!!!! Please!!!!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Thanks for the love, Kathy. That’s some sweet praise from the Columbine State. ~ MJ

  10. mumpy

    duh!…..really, duh!….never occurred to me to put the rolls in a rectangular or square pan……i’ve always done them in a round pan but i really like the more uniform look of the’square’ rolls….going to have the grandsons on friday, and the youngest has been begging to learn how to make rolls, so we’ll try it…thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      1 1/2-2 ounces works well for a dinner rolls- there’s usually so many other goodies to choose from! Laurie@KAF

  11. Gail

    Hmmmmm – 9 rolls in each – square and round – and 9 on the baking sheet? I see 6. I’ll be making mine in the square pan this year.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Gail, you’re right, I only did six on the baking sheet – ran out of dough! I usually make 2 dozen rolls in my 9 x 13″ pan, using this recipe – so, 9 + 9 + 6 = 24. Good luck with your square-pan rolls! PJH

  12. Nancy Alexander

    I appreciate all the baking help that you offer. I always wanted to bake yeast breads and your help has made me comfortable with it. Thanks so much!!!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      You;’re very welcome, Nancy. So glad we could help – good luck with your bread! PJH

  13. Angela

    What if you put all your rolls on a sheet pan so that they touch each other as they rise? You could do all the rolls at once. Would that change the baking time at all? Would they be round with lovely soft sides? I am going to try this for Easter! Thanks for a great blog and a great company!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, Angela, that would work perfectly. A 9″ x 13″ pan is also a good solution. Happy Easter – and thanks for your kind words. PJH

  14. Kathy

    It is my personal goal to make wonderful rolls that my family raves about, but that hasn’t happened yet, because my dough never raises. For some reason the yeast does not proof, and from there on I am doomed. Please tell me what to do?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      This is the perfect opportunity to call our Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253). We’re here to guide you through the process of making yeast dough and shaping those rolls. You’ll find us here from 8 AM to 9 PM weekdays and from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekends. Looking forward to working with you to get the dinner rolls of our dreams – happy baking! Irene@KAF

  15. Sue Starre

    Thank you for sharing this! It was nice the way you broke it down and showed the pictures too. I would think it will be very helpful for all bakers, especially new ones.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      It would depend on the final weight of your dough, Pat. So, weigh the dough and divide evenly by the number of rolls you’re making. ~ MJ

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Carol, dinner rolls usually range from 1-2 ounces (about 30 to 60 grams), depending on how large you want the rolls to be. For a standard (yet still generous roll), start with 50 grams of dough. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  16. "John & Linda"

    I’m relatively new to the baking skills, so I always have lots of questions. I made these rolls on a cookie sheet and wound up with great tasting but flat rolls(1″ high), and seem to have the same problem with Italian bread and other free form rolls. My dough is usually somewhat sticky and the breads spread out while I’m waiting for them to rise, very much unlike those pictured in this article…..nicely composed, I might add! The Amish Dinner Roll dough is very soft! I must be making the same error across the board.
    J&L

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Try using a scale to weigh your flour consistently. Bread goes sideways sometimes when it isn’t shaped tightly. We have some very helpful videos on our Learn page. Please give our Hotline a call for some more advice! Laurie@KAF

  17. alice

    another trick for preventing condensation and the “spots” is to cover the rolls with a lightweight towel and then replace the plastic wrap. The towel will absorb the water droplets so they don’t drip on the dough. Learned that from ATK with a different recipe. Try it . You might like it.

    Reply
  18. Ann Wexler

    Sorry if I missed, but about how much do each of these rolls weigh? My rolls turned out teeny tiny last year. I’m using a challah recipe since I need non-dairy. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Rhonda, it depends a bit on what size roll you make. The full amount of dough (24 smaller or 16 larger dinner rolls) will fit nicely in a 9″x13″ pan. If you’re making 24 smaller rolls, a dozen should fit nicely in half the pan; while if you’re making 16 larger ones, a dozen will take up roughly 3/4 of the pan. We’ve also heard from other bakers that 16 larger rolls fit nicely into a 10″ square pan. You can also always bake either size on a cookie sheet, with the rolls spaced 1″-2″ apart (depending again on the size of the roll) for softer sided pull apart rolls or further apart for crustier rolls. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  19. debra

    My rolls brown on top but are white on bottom! How do I get bottom to brown what am I doing wrong? I set oven 375 degree! HELP me please! I want my family to love my rolls! Thankyou so much!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Debra, if you’re baking your rolls in a glass or stoneware pan, try switching to metal – darker aluminum (rather than shiny stainless steel), if possible. Try baking on a lower oven rack, rather than an upper oven rack. Both of those should solve your non-browned bottoms issue in no time! Good luck — PJH

  20. Mimi

    I think you meant to say that the area of an 8×8 inch square pan is the same as a 9 inch round pan, not the volume. The volume is irrelevant to the article and would vary based on pan heights. But I never did know that 8×8 inch square and 9 inch round is the same area! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mimi, I assumed both pans were 2″ deep, but you’re right — without spelling out that assumption, it’s area, not volume. I’ve gone back in and clarified. Thanks! PJH

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