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Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

We’re friends, right? That means I can tell you my deepest, darkest secrets.

This one may not come as a surprise to you, but when I think about planning a holiday meal, the main course is the furthest thing from my mind. I typically find turkey, ham, lamb, or any other main meat course to be nothing more than an obstacle to consuming as many carbs as humanely possible in one meal. I’ll take the teeny, tiniest little piece of meat and then load up on all of the side dishes and rolls. Yes, rolls. Plural. I find it impossible to eat only one during a holiday meal. I usually eat one with my meal, and then use a second one to soak up any remnants of creamy cheese sauce from scalloped potatoes or stuffing left on my plate.

Given my unusual and slightly neurotic obsession with bread, I usually offer to bake the rolls for holiday dinners. I tend to bounce around between recipes, sometimes using my sweet dinner roll recipe, other times using my white bread recipe for cloverleaf rolls on the fly, or maybe trying a new recipe I’ve recently come across. I’m a big fan of the cloverleaf roll for one primary reason – you can easily pull it apart into three pieces and butter each piece. The more roll surface area covered in butter is always better in my book!

Since I’ve only made impromptu cloverleaf rolls using standard bread recipes in the past, I was thrilled to see a specific recipe for them in a special holiday edition of Cook’s Illustrated while at Sam’s Club recently. It didn’t take me long to make the recipe, because really, when is fresh bread ever a bad idea? I was so happy with how these rolls turned out – the dough is buttery and rich, thanks to both butter and eggs, and the baked rolls have a wonderful texture. They are soft, but also sturdy enough to withstand a slathering of butter. (Having a too-fluffy roll crumble apart when you’re trying to butter it is the worst, right?!) The best part is that you can make the dough and assemble the rolls the day before you need them, pop the pan in the refrigerator, and then bake them off the next day. Anything that makes holiday meal time easier is a plus in my book!

Whether you eat one roll or four with your dinner, there’s no doubt that these easy dinner rolls would be a welcome addition to any special family meal you have planned in the coming months. If your family is as nuts about carbs as mine is, you may find yourself making a triple batch! Running out of rolls is a cardinal sin at our holiday dinners ;-)

One year ago: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Two years ago: How To Make Perfect Pie Crust
Three years ago: Soft Cheese and Pepperoni Bread

Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

Yield: 12 rolls

Prep Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Buttery pull-apart dinner rolls are the perfect addition to any special meal.

Ingredients:

¾ cup (6 ounces) skim milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
3½ cups (17½ ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and softened
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted, divided

Directions:

1. Whisk together the milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the egg and egg yolk to combine.

2. In a stand mixer using a dough hook, mix the flour and salt briefly until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture in a steady stream and knead until a dough begins to form, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the softened butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to knead the dough until it is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can mix and knead by hand if you do not have a stand mixer with a dough hook.)

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a smooth ball. The dough might appear slightly sticky, but resist adding more flour while you are kneading. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it so that the ball of dough is evenly coated in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

4. Brush a 12-cup muffin tin with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Punch down the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 36 equal pieces. (The easiest way to do this is by weighing them out on a kitchen scale, but you could also divide the dough into thirds, then roll each one out into an 18-inch rope and then cut each rope into 12 equal pieces). On a clean surface, roll each piece into a smooth ball. Place 3 balls, seam side down, in each muffin cup.

(Make-Ahead Note! The assembled muffin tin can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)

Cover the muffin tin loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

6. Remove the plastic wrap from the rolls. Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Brush the rolls with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Note: Do not substitute 1%, 2% or whole milk for the skim milk in the recipe.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking 2012)

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68 Responses to “Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls”

  1. Anita at Hungry Couple on November 8, 2012 at 12:05 am

    HA! I’m the same way. Teensy piece of turkey, lots of carbs. :)

    Reply

    • Sheila on November 26th, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      I tried these for Thanksgiving but unfortunately I couldn’t get them to rise; I used skim milk and followed the directions for other ingredients. Any idea what I may have done wrong? Mixed too much, not enough? I was so looking forward to them!

      Reply

      • Michelle on November 26th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

        Hi Sheila, If they didn’t rise the yeast you used may have been expired… the water could have been too hot or not warm enough… the dough may have been overmixed (but that’s not very likely)… or the room where the dough was rising may have had a draft/wasn’t warm enough. There are so many variables that go into baking yeast breads, that it really could have been any number of them. I’m sorry the rolls didn’t turn out!

        Reply

  2. Pepper Culpepper on November 8, 2012 at 12:24 am

    How do you stay so thin? I am envious!

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      Haha! Some days I’m not sure ;-) Generally, though, I don’t really say “no” to anything, but I eat pretty small portions.

      Reply

  3. Kathy - Panini Happy on November 8, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I’m sold! Just flagged these for this year’s thanksgiving – they look just perfect.

    Reply

  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks on November 8, 2012 at 3:43 am

    I love homemade dinner rolls and next week have a few recipes for them I’m posting! I have also seen this, and other, C.I. recipes and I always trust their recipes immensely! And now seeing your pics – yes, a must make. They’re gorgeous, Michelle!

    Reply

  5. Nicky @ Pink Recipe Box on November 8, 2012 at 4:00 am

    These rolls look fabulous, Michelle. Pinning and will definitely be trying for the upcoming holidays. :)

    Reply

  6. Holly on November 8, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Okay, I’m curious. Knowing it came from Cook’s Illustrated I know there’s a reason, so why the skim milk?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Holly, In the article they mentioned that due to the higher fat content in 2% and whole milk, they created heavier, denser rolls than the skim milk.

      Reply

      • Leslie Holsey on November 11th, 2012 at 9:17 am

        I make a roll receipe which calls for regular milk but I use buttermilk which makes a very light dinner roll. They are not heavy at all

        Reply

  7. little kitchie on November 8, 2012 at 6:10 am

    growing up, it always cracked my family up how i would take just a teeny bit of turkey and, like 4 dinner rolls (on the first round alone). as an adult, not much has changed! these look absolutely fabulous! i’ll be trying them soon and plan on making them for thanksgiving!

    Reply

  8. Lori on November 8, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Wow these rolls look amazing. The added bonus is the make ahead feature. Thanks for sharing another great recipe. You are the best.

    Reply

  9. Joy from Yesterfood on November 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

    These are Just. Beautiful. :) I love that you can assemble them the day before! 1.Beautiful? (check!) 2. Delicious? (check!) 3. Time-saver? (check!) Thank you! :)

    Reply

  10. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on November 8, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Warm, fresh dinner rolls are my achilles heel. I LOVE them and will do pretty much anything for them. So excited to try this recipe, thanks!

    Reply

  11. Susan on November 8, 2012 at 8:51 am

    They look delish! I’ll be trying them for sure! Would 1% milk make that much of a difference? We never use skim… seems a shame to have to go out and buy a whole container of skim for less than a cup. I’ll just have to make 3 or 4 batches, I guess! lol

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Hi Susan, I think you could squeak by with 1%, but would stay away from 2% or whole, as the higher fat content will cause the rolls to become heavier and denser.

      Reply

      • Susan on November 9th, 2012 at 7:52 am

        Thank you, Michelle. I’ll give it a try and see what happens. If I don’t think they’re light enough I’ll go for the skim. ♥

        Reply

        • Susan on November 10th, 2012 at 7:55 am

          Hi Michelle, Tried the rolls and they were super easy to make and came out wonderful! I’ve never had them before but I love them with the 1% milk. Someday I’ll give them a try with skim but for now we’ll stick with the 1%. They were delish!

          Reply

  12. Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) on November 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Ooooh I love soft, fluffy dinner rolls like this! I’m always so intimidated when it comes to making homemade bread but this doesn’t sound so hard =)

    Reply

  13. Annamaria @ bakewelljunction.wordpress.com on November 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

    The rolls look delish. I don’t bake bread too often but I’ll give these a try.

    Reply

  14. Jodi Pavlik on November 8, 2012 at 10:23 am

    These look amazing! My mouth is watering! I will be making these soon!!

    Reply

  15. Jessica@AKitchenAddiction on November 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’m with you on consumption of homemade rolls! They are the best!

    Reply

  16. Joan on November 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I have been cooking for over 50 years. The very first thing I made – still at my parents home – was Cloverleaf Rolls. I like the skim milk in these. I am going to try them, and if they work half as well as yours did, I have a new recipe for Cloverleaf Rolls. Thanks.

    Reply

  17. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen on November 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I looove this kind of dinner roll. I’m with you – I’ll take a teeny piece of turkey, and the rest of my plate is covered in sweet potato casserole and stuffing with gravy! Leftover turkey on the other hand, is a different story. I’m all about turkey sandwiches :) My family is going out for Thanksgiving dinner this year, but I’m going to have to come up with another excuse to make these rolls!

    Reply

  18. morri on November 8, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Hey, Michelle. Speaking about the love of carbs: I remember you once mentioned your complete aversion to cauliflower. I was wondering – have you tried Jamie Oliver’s mac ‘n’ cheese cauliflower bake? My folks love it – but then we love cauliflower, so maybe we’re not the best people to consult on the subject. But apart from cauliflower it’s choke-full of all your favorite things, like cheddar, Parmesan, macaroni and Italian herbs, so maybe that could be a good way to tame that vegetable? :) The recipe is here:
    http://www.culinate.com/books/collections/all_books/jamies_food_revolution/macaroni_and_cauliflower_cheese_bake

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Morri, I’ve never tried this recipe, but thank you for sharing, I will definitely give it a go!

      Reply

  19. Amanda on November 8, 2012 at 11:07 am

    You said not to sub the milk, but do you think almond milk (the plain, sweetened variety) would work? Just curious….

    Reply

    • Amanda on November 8th, 2012 at 11:08 am

      I meant UNsweetened…oops!

      Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Amanda, I’m not very familiar with almond milk, but the reason for the lowest fat milk possible is that the higher fat content in 2% and whole creates heavier, denser rolls. I’m not sure what the fat content is like in almond milk, but I’d use that as a guide.

      Reply

  20. Mandie @ Oh So Decadent on November 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Rolls are my favorite part of Thanksgiving as well, though I have to admit, only eating 2 would probably be a low record for me. I prefer to stuff as many as I can into my mouth, pockets, and on my plate. I’m the one that usually tops off the batch. These look wonderful though, definitely want to give them a try. And I completely agree, the more bread surface area you can butter, the better the roll!

    Reply

  21. Stephanie on November 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Where do you put your bread to rise in a “warm” place? My apartment is always cold and I’ve never made bread before… but I’d like to give it a shot!

    Reply

    • cassie on November 8th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Heat your oven to 170° and then turn it off before beginning the rolls. Place your pan I there to rise.

      Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      Hi Stephanie, My microwave is located right above my oven (both wall units). I usually put the oven to “warm” (unless I’m already preheating it for something), and place the bowl or pan with dough in the microwave with the door closed. It’s draft-free and gets ambient heat from the oven below.

      Reply

  22. Correna on November 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

    If you love bread and rolls that much, then this recipe has to be a winner. I will try these this year with my holiday meal. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day!

    Reply

  23. buttercream bakehouse on November 8, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Trying these this year. Thanks for posting

    Reply

  24. Ileana Keltz on November 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Michelle, we are cut out of the same cloth. Carbs, carbs, and more carbs, is my motto. I too only put a little bit of meat on my plate, and then load on the stuffing and potatoes. I will be making these for sure this holiday season. Thanks!!

    Reply

  25. Tracy on November 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Soft dinner rolls continue to elude me…I’ve tried about 5 completely different recipes now, and each one has resulted in hard, dense rolls. I’m trying these this year!

    Reply

  26. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts on November 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    I could take or leave the meat at holidays, but the rolls and the sides are a must! These rolls look perfect!

    Reply

  27. kat on November 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I’m the same way. My plate is full of mashed potatoes and stuffing with maybe a sliver of turkey. Do you think this recipe would work in a bread machine for the dough?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 9th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Hi Kat, I have never used a bread machine, so I’m afraid I couldn’t say whether or not this would work with a bread machine. You definitely don’t need one, though. Even if you don’t have a mixer, you can make this by hand.

      Reply

  28. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on November 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I can make a meal just outta the warm dinner rolls and butter…mmmmmm ;)

    Reply

  29. Katie @ Blonde Ambition on November 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    These rolls are the STAR of Thanksgiving every year at my family’s celebration! How excited would all of my cousins be if I showed up with homemade ones? :P

    Reply

  30. Sarah on November 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Those look delicious. I am a huge fan of all the yummy sides. Turkey is my least favorite thing!

    Reply

  31. Ali on November 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Michelle- if you are making a day ahead, do you still let the rolls rise for 20 minutes before refrigerating? These look great, can’t wait to try them!

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Hi Ali, No you don’t need to let them rise first. I’ll edit the instructions so that’s more clear!

      Reply

  32. Paula on November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    We are great consumers of fresh dinner rolls at almost every meal and if not rolls it will be some other form of bread. Your clover leaf rolls are perfect! I’ve never thought to make my rolls in a cloverleaf but it makes so much sense. As you say, just pull apart and butter!

    Reply

  33. Sally - only gluten free baking on November 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Oh delicious bread.. I wonder if I can make a gluten free version. This looks so fresh and soft.

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Sally, I have not made gluten free rolls, but if you create a gluten-free version of these, definitely come back and share!

      Reply

  34. Lola on November 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    What will happen if you change to 2% milk?

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 8th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Lola, The increased fat content in 2% and whole milk will result in rolls that are heavier and denser than ones made with skim milk.

      Reply

  35. Laura Dembowski on November 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I’ve never heard of Cloverleaf rolls before but they are very pretty and cute. They’d make a great addition to any holiday table!

    Reply

  36. Julie @ Table for Two on November 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    the main course is the furthest from mine too :) i love side dishes more than the main course most of the time!! these rolls looks so PERFECT!! I would love this on my dinner table.

    Reply

  37. Lucyinaz on November 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Hi Michelle, I haven’t been able to get these out of my mind since you posted the recipe! Do you recall what the weight was when dividing the dough into 36 balls? Thank you so much!!

    Reply

  38. Traci McLaughlin on November 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Can it this easily be doubled? Thanks.

    Reply

  39. Event Lighting Schaumburg Il on November 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    The sides are definitely the most important part of the meal!!!

    Reply

  40. Leanna R on November 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    This is soooo weird but I swear I can smell these. Yummmy! I make extra rolls cause then you can slide a piece of turkey inside and call it a sandwich.

    Reply

  41. Cat Davis on November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Out of curiosity (I was going to make these for Thanksgiving) what happens if you use whole milk?

    Reply

    • Cat Davis on November 21st, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Oh nevermind, I see you answered this in the comments above. I’ll just go buy some skim milk. :)

      Reply

  42. Shannon F on November 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I amde these tonight and they are great. I am having a hard time limiting myself to one. Maybe I will have one as dessert! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply

  43. debbie v on November 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

    these rolls are good but you should try fannie farmer baking book dinner rolls they are even better!

    Reply

  44. Laura on November 27, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I made these for my family on Thanksgiving – they were a hit! These babies are definitely buttery and delicious, not to mention beautiful with the cloverleaf. My only concern was that despite making sure to use skim milk, my rolls were a bit on the denser side. (I used my KitchenAid with dough-hook to knead, and made the dough the day before to chill in muffin tins in the fridge overnight, taking them out about 35 minutes before baking). I was wondering if anyone else had this issue. I thought perhaps I should have kneaded the dough even more, prior to adding the butter, so as to better develop gluten so that the dough could hold all of the fat. Alternatively, maybe I just should have let them rise more? I don’t think it was the yeast since I made another recipe using that same batch of yeast with good results. Anyone else run into this or have suggestions?

    Reply

  45. Allissia on November 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Mine turned out good, but didn’t look as flaky as picture. Will make again!

    Reply

  46. Heather on November 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Thank you for this recipe. I made them for our Thanksgiving table (a double batch!). They were excellent. I have to admit that before all the butter was worked in I was a bit concerned. But as my Bosch slowly got the butter incorporated a beautiful dough emerged. After the first rise I assembled the rolls and put them in the refrigerator overnight. They baked beautifully. I can hardly wait for another excuse to make these again. Oh look, it’s Thursday. I guess any Thursday would be a good excuse for yummy dinner rolls!

    Reply

  47. KK on January 22, 2013 at 12:17 am

    You mention the part about the rolls crumbling when you butter them because they are too “light”. What changes need to be made in an already used recipie? More flour, less flour, less kneeding? Less rising?

    Your cloverleaf rolls recipie sounds wonderful. Thanks!

    Reply

  48. Carol on June 29, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Can I make these with whole wheat flour and get the same consistency?

    Reply

    • Michelle on July 1st, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Hi Carol, You won’t be able to maintain the same consistency if you use whole wheat flour; they will be dense/heavier.

      Reply

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