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.

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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

      Hi Jan! You sure could use two, 9″ round pans to bake your rolls in or a glass 9″ x 13″ pan. If you use the pan, you’ll want to lower to oven temperature to 325°F and check on them after 20 minutes in the oven. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  1. Bill

    Looking at several roll recipes here, they divide the dough into a number of pieces – can you suggest a weight for us scale users to divvy up our dough…..? thanks !

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Bill! It really depends on how big your want the rolls to be. Going off of this recipe which makes roughly 3 lbs of dough, if you make 16 they’ll be about 3 oz each. If you make 24, about 2 oz. Annabelle@KAF

  2. Valerie Hill

    Silly Question Alert!

    The recipe calls for mashed potato no seasoning. Does that mean literally just cooked potato mashed up??

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Valerie! It certainly does mean just plain old mashed potato. You can just boil one medium-to-large baking potato that has been diced up and when it’s done, mash it up and use it in your recipe. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello DKM! The recipe for Amish Dinner Rolls calls for a 90-minute bulk rise before shaping, then a final rise for another 60 to 90 minutes, though the times could vary depending on the temperature of your home. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. barbara

    how long do you knead this dough? how do you know when it is ready to put in the bowl to rise? do you knead 5 minutes or longer? I kneaded a long time, no change in dough?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Barbara. If kneading by hand, most breads take 10-12 minutes. If kneading in a mixer, we recommend speed 2 for 5-7 minutes. There are always exceptions and some doughs need a good 15-20 minutes of kneading to really come together. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  4. barbara

    how much flour do you start with? 6 or 7 cups of flour is different depending on if you scoop or spoon into your measuring cup, is there a weight amount we could just scale?

    Reply
  5. Jesus Cagigal

    I tried these rolls last night and although they came out very good, . the dough was so sticky I could not work with it. I solved the problem by flowering my hands heavily, forming a ball any way I could and dropping it into a pan. Although I am new at baking I believe there is a better way. Can you help. What was wrong with my dough? Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re wondering if you perhaps used another brand of flour other than King Arthur Flour. Our flour is known for being higher in protein than other kinds, which means it absorbs liquid more readily. With other brands, typically more flour needs to be added in order to get the same results. Try using King Arthur All-Purpose Flour if you’re not already doing so, and be prepared to add additional flour as necessary to make a smooth, slightly tacky dough. Kye@KAF

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gayle. The rolls don’t need to be touching, but they can be close. As they rise, they’ll come together. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  6. 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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