There is something about the months of November through about February that make me want some form of warm carbohydrate to accompany every meal I consume. My problem with most yeast breads is that I don’t realize I want to eat them until I’m pulling everything out an hour or so before dinner to start prepping. Homemade dough can be a big, long process and recipes that involve multiple risings and 2-3 hour windows, require some planning- which is why I usually only make them on special occasions. So this recipe is what I use on those easy weeknights when I just want to throw something together quickly and have it done in an hour ready to dunk into a warm bowl of soup. If you’re not a bread-maker, this recipe is totally for you. You don’t have to proof yeast, you don’t have to let the dough rise more than once, and you don’t even need to worry about shaping it nicely. This is as easy as it gets, and they’re done in about an hour (I always allow just a little longer).
I actually based this quick rolls recipe off of our Everyday Cinnamon Rolls, and it remains very, very similar. One of the reasons that cinnamon roll recipe is so popular is because it’s quick! Many One-Hour Roll recipes you’ll find involve very limited ingredients, namely flour, water, salt, and yeast. That’s because things with fats and proteins, like milk, eggs, and butter, slow down the yeast activity. However, I played around with things and found I could use milk (I purposely use non-fat), a little butter, and a single egg, and still get quick results, with way more flavor than the basic recipes. So if you’re craving fresh bread, no fear. It’s only about an hour away.
First place some milk, butter, and sugar in a microwavable container. If you’re out of milk, water will work fine, too. You want the temperature to be between 120-130; in my microwave that’s just about exactly 2 minutes.
While that’s warming up, mix the dry ingredients. One of the tricks of quick rolls is to use “rapid rise” or “quick rise” yeast. “Bread machine yeast” is usually the same thing as well. There’s no proofing involved here, (that’s when you mix the yeast with warm water until it’s foamy) you can just put the yeast directly into the flour and stir it up. I usually keep a jar of yeast on hand, so I’m calling for a tablespoon here, but know that if you don’t make bread very often and you have little packets of yeast and don’t want to open more than one, this will work just fine with a packet.
You need the milk mixture to be between 120-130 degrees. It needs to be at least 120, and anything over 140 will damage the yeast, so I usually shoot for right around 125. If you have a digital thermometer you can pop in there quickly, it will save you lots of guess work.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. If you’re using a stand mixer (I could sing the praises of my KitchenAid all day long), just turn the beater on and slowly pour it in. I also like to add an egg, but you can leave out the egg if you want and replace it with 1/4 water. I find the egg gives the rolls a bit more structure. Without the egg, the rolls are just as delicious, it’s just a little bit different texture. It is important to note, however, that you’ll want to let your egg sit in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to bring it to room temperature. Otherwise, when you put the chilled egg into your dough with that warm milk, it will bring the temperature down.
Then add a little more flour. This dough will be very soft and sticky, so don’t start thinking it needs way more flour and go dumping it in. Or if you do, don’t come back and leave me comments saying your rolls were dense and gross. It should just barely come away from the bowl when you’re beating it, but still be sticky to the touch. I add just a little less than 4 1/2 cups, usually more like 4 1/4, and then I put the last 1/4 cup on the surface where I’m rolling out my dough.
The trick here is to get that nice flour-covered surface, and then gently scrape the dough onto it using a spatula. Once it’s all plopped on out, use the flour on your board to sprinkle all over the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Don’t knead the flour in, just use it to coat the outside of the dough. Use light hands and form the dough into a smooth-ish shape.
I like to then score my dough with a pizza cutter, it helps to get even sized rolls. For dinner rolls, I do 24.
Then just grab the portions and lightly form into balls. And I use the term “ball” loosely here. As you can see, you don’t need to spend very much time perfecting little dough spheres. Just lightly round them and plop them in there.
You’ll need to set them aside to rise now, and I have a few more tricks for you. One of my favorite features of my Thermador ovens is that they have a “proof” setting, which warms up the oven to a cozy 100 degrees.
But I have a couple of other ways to create the best environment for rising dough. If you’ve got double ovens, you’ll want to preheat one of them to actually bake the rolls, but with the other, you can turn it on to the very lowest temperature setting (that’s usually 170-200) when you start prepping the dough. Leave it on for about 5 minutes and then turn it off and that should warm things up nicely.
Another favorite trick, which I actually still use, even with that proof setting on my oven, is to create a little steam room. Place your pan of rolls in the oven (the oven is turned off) and place a pan underneath it. Pour boiling water into the extra pan and then immediately shut the oven door. The steam will not only warm up the space, but it also creates moisture that will help the dough stay elastic and not dry out on top.
If you have a single oven, and need to preheat it for baking, I used to do that steam trick in my microwave. If you have a rack, you can place rolls on top and steam on bottom, and if you don’t have a rack, chances are you can fit a drinking glass or mug in the corner (or two) of the microwave and achieve the same thing. After 20-30 minutes, the dough should be nice and plumped up; about double in size (or just a bit less). I usually let them rise closer to 30 minutes. Most one-hour recipes will tell you 20, but that’s almost never long enough for me.
If you want to make these into bread sticks, you could roll dough in butter and our Garlic Bread Seasoning, or if you’re like me, you’ll save at least a little to bake a tiny pan of cinnamon rolls. As you can see by this photo, these didn’t even last long enough for me to snap a picture.
And definitely, definitely, make a batch of our Maple Cinnamon butter to go with these, no matter how you make them!
- 1 1/2 cups non-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
- 1 tablespoon rapid rise/quick rise yeast (or if you have packets, one packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) will work just fine))
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 egg at room temp (place in a bowl of warm water for at least 5 minutes)
- additional melted butter (a few tablespoons) for brushing on at end
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place milk, butter, and sugar in a microwavable container and heat for about 2 minutes. You want this mixture to be between 120-130 degrees, for best results use a digital instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature.
- While the mixture is heating, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl. When milk mixture is heated to about 125 degrees, add to the flour mixture and start to beat. Add egg and continue to beat until everything is combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and then add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time. I almost always add 4 1/4 cups total. The dough will be very soft and sticky.
- Place remaining flour on a cutting board or silicone mat (or additional flour, if you used all of yours in the dough) and very gently scrape out the dough using a spatula. Dust the top of your dough with flour and then using your hands, lightly pat the dough into a rectangle.
- Score the dough into sections (24 for dinner roll size) and gently form portions into balls. Place in a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with non stick spray. Let dough rest for 20-30 minutes until puffed and almost double in size.
- Bake rolls in preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted butter.
- To accelerate rising, place dough in an oven or microwave that has been turned off, and place a pan of steaming water underneath.