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 😉
Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls
Buttery pull-apart dinner rolls are the perfect addition to any special meal.
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
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.