6 Mistakes That Ruin Dinner Rolls (and How to Fix Them) (2024)

Trying your hand at homemade dinner rolls for a holiday meal like Thanksgiving dinner? Good for you! You won't be disappointed. We think they're easy (and delicious), but if working with bread dough while juggling the rest of your meal sounds tricky, don't worry—we've got you covered. We've highlighted a few common pitfalls and ways to avoid them so you can look forward to sopping up the last bits of gravy and mashed potatoes from your plate with your own homemade dinner rolls!

Mistake to Avoid #1: Dough That Doesn't Rise

You've been waiting hours and your dough hasn't changed. What gives? A few things could be going wrong. Let's start with the yeast. Yeast has a "use by" date. As it moves beyond that time, it loses its oomph. Check the date printed on the package to make sure it's within its usable life. Starting with dead yeast will yield flat rolls, so if that packet has been in your fridge for a while (especially if it is past its expiration date), test it before mixing up your dough. Check its vitality by adding some yeast to lukewarm (not hot!) water combined with a little bit of sugar in a small bowl. If the yeast is still active, it will begin to foam near the top of the bowl after it dissolves. If not, you have reason to be suspicious that your yeast needs to be retired.

Another reason for your dough not rising? Too much salt. While sugar activates yeast, salt has the opposite effect. Some salt is OK, but if you accidentally added too much, it may be slowing down the rise. There's not much you can do short of starting over if you run into either of these issues, but if your yeast is OK, and the dough isn't oversalted, it could be as simple as moving your dough to a warmer location. Yeast works best when it's good and muggy. Near (but not in) a warm oven is a good spot—and be sure to keep the dough covered with a kitchen towel to lock in moisture.

Mistake to Avoid #2: Tough Dinner Rolls

Do your dinner rolls resemble shoe leather? Too much flour, or not the right kind, could be to blame. Dough made only from flour with a high or even average amount of protein (like bread flour or all-purpose flour) can become tough from overmixing. Protein gives bread structure in the form of gluten—the more you mix and move the dough, the more gluten you get. You need some structure, but not so much that you can't bite through your bread. Adding a lower-protein flour (like pastry flour or cake flour) can act as a safety net against overmixing. If your dough feels firm and unpliable, let it rest. Stopping the mechanical action of kneading and mixing will relax the dough, giving you a better shot at a more tender result.

Mistake to Avoid #3: Dough That's Hard to Shape

Perfectly round dinner rolls start with a workable dough. What makes a workable dough? One that's not too sticky, not too dry and not too springy. Sometimes dough can surprise you—it looks perfect in the bowl, only to be a mess to work with while you're rolling it out. But not to worry, there are easy fixes. When you're dividing your dough into pieces, make sure the pieces are the same size. You can do this by rolling your dough out into a rectangle shape and cutting it once through the middle the long way and once through the middle the short way. From there, cut each quarter into even sections. Cover the pieces of dough you aren't working with right away to prevent them from drying out. If you're shaping your dough and it's sticking to your hands, give your hands a light coating of flour. If your dough isn't sticky but is slipping around your work surface, a small spritz of water on the table can help keep it in place. Remember when adding both flour and water: less is more! If your dough feels tight and springy, it needs a timeout. Place the pieces on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a clean kitchen towel and walk away. Try again in 10 minutes.

Mistake to Avoid #4: Pale, Dry Rolls

6 Mistakes That Ruin Dinner Rolls (and How to Fix Them) (1)

Did everything right but your rolls look dull? You may have forgotten the egg wash. Egg wash gives baked goods a golden shine and can also help toppings to adhere. Dinner rolls get toppings?! They can! A sprinkle of wheat bran, cornmeal or chopped nuts is a nice addition to a dinner roll. If they're already baked and they look pale and dry, a drizzle of melted butter or a bit of olive oil can help shine them up right before serving.

Mistake to Avoid #5: Rolls Are Burnt

6 Mistakes That Ruin Dinner Rolls (and How to Fix Them) (2)

We get it, cooking on Thanksgiving can be chaotic, especially when it comes to remembering all of the different oven temperatures and times. Avoid burning the dinner rolls and instead use a slow cooker. Yes, you can make dinner rolls in your slow-cooker with these Slow-Cooker Honey Whole-Wheat Rolls (pictured above). Using the slow cooker makes it virtually impossible to burn the rolls, plus it doesn't take up valuable oven space. On top of that, the slow-cooker method means you can skip the step of proofing—just mix the dough, portion it and put it straight in.

Mistake to Avoid #6: Not Making Rolls Ahead

Pulling together a holiday dinner is enough work as it is. If the thought of tinkering around with homemade dinner rolls on top of everything else is sending you over the edge, trust us, we get it. Luckily, dinner rolls can (and should!) be made ahead. You can cook them to completion and then gently reheat them in a warm oven. Or make the dough, refrigerate it to slow down the rising process, then bake them when you have free oven space. If you're way on top of your game, dinner rolls—both raw dough and fully cooked rolls—freeze beautifully (freezing doesn't kill the yeast!). If you're freezing raw dough, portion it out into balls, but freeze it before it begins to rise. If you're freezing cooked rolls, make sure they're cooled completely before they hit your freezer to prevent freezer burn.

Learn about more Thanksgiving mistakes you can fix.

6 Mistakes That Ruin Dinner Rolls (and How to Fix Them) (2024)

FAQs

What went wrong with my rolls? ›

Too much flour, or not the right kind, could be to blame. Dough made only from flour with a high or even average amount of protein (like bread flour or all-purpose flour) can become tough from overmixing. Protein gives bread structure in the form of gluten—the more you mix and move the dough, the more gluten you get.

How do you revive dinner rolls? ›

The best method for reheating dinner rolls is in the oven. To reheat dinner rolls in the oven, preheat it to 350°F. Place the rolls in a baking dish or on a baking sheet, brush with melted butter. Bake until warm, 7 to 10 minutes.

What makes dinner rolls tough? ›

Avoid adding too much extra flour to the dough.

These ingredients slow down gluten development and can make the dough a little sticky. Your instinct might be to add extra flour; however, any extra flour will create a denser, tougher roll instead of the light, fluffy, soft dinner roll we want.

Why are my rolls dense and hard? ›

There may be several reasons for a dense, cake like texture in bread. It may indicate the kneading wasn't enough for the gluten to develop properly, or the dough was proved for too short a time or the dough may have been too dry. It is also worth checking the flour you used.

Why are my homemade dinner rolls dry? ›

Either, you added too much flour or you possibly used all bread flour. Alternately, not giving your dinner rolls enough time to proof and get puffy before baking could yield dense rolls.

Why did my dinner rolls turn out dense? ›

Make sure the shaped bread doesn't rise too long before baking – it should only double in size. If it rises too much, the dough will collapse on itself during baking and the bread will have a dense, coarse or dry texture.

What is the secret of soft buns? ›

The secret to soft, light rolls, if you're looking for something like a dinner roll, is an enriched dough that contains butter or other dairy, eggs, or both. If you want something more bread-like, you want a high hydration dough that's been properly kneaded and given at least two bulk fermentations before shaping.

What ingredient makes bread light and fluffy? ›

Sugar: When yeast is mixed with sugar it consumes the sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas, which causes the bread dough to rise and become light and airy. Instant Yeast: Instant dry yeast can be added directly to the flour mixture without needing to be activated first.

How can I make my bread fluffier instead of dense? ›

Potato Flakes or Potato Water

Starch helps the dough by trapping the gas from the yeast in the dough and makes the bubbles stronger. This helps the bread to rise and be lighter and fluffier. If you are boiling potatoes, you can use the unsalted water in place of the water in your bread recipe to help out the yeast.

How to make dinner rolls soft again? ›

As well as running it under the tap, you could also put a damp tea towel over your roll for a bit before popping it in the oven, or simply just wet your hands and rub them over the roll. You just need the moisture and the warmth to come together to bring your bread roll back to life. It's science or something.

How do you make store bought dinner rolls taste better? ›

3 steps to making supermarket dinner rolls taste like homemade
  1. Step 1: Warm the rolls. The most important thing to remember is that warm rolls will almost always taste better than cold rolls. ...
  2. Step 2: Use a brush to coat the rolls in butter. ...
  3. Step 3: Garnish.

How do you save dinner rolls? ›

If you're only a day or two away from your party, you can also just refrigerate either the dough or the shaped rolls — they'll keep just fine without even needing to go to the freezer. Whichever method you end up using, three days in the fridge or a month in the freezer is about the maximum that I recommend.

How do you soften hard hamburger rolls? ›

Try steaming your burger buns on the stove.

Steaming store-bought buns can make them more tender and plump up stale buns by adding moisture. "Hot-dog stands steam their buns because it makes them taste good. You can do the same at home in just a few minutes," Alto said.

How to soften up hard bread? ›

In the oven: Preheat oven to 200° or Warm setting. Wrap the bread in a damp (not soaking) towel, place on a baking sheet, and pop it in the oven for 5-10 minutes. In the microwave: Wrap the bread in a damp (not soaking) towel, place it on a microwave-safe dish, and microwave on high for 10 seconds.

How to soften dinner rolls? ›

As well as running it under the tap, you could also put a damp tea towel over your roll for a bit before popping it in the oven, or simply just wet your hands and rub them over the roll. You just need the moisture and the warmth to come together to bring your bread roll back to life.

What to do with hard bread? ›

What to Do With Stale Bread
  1. Bread Stuffing. Whether you call this “stuffing” or “dressing,” no Thanksgiving menu feels quite complete without it, if you ask us. ...
  2. Bread Pudding. Fresh bread is just fine for bread pudding, true. ...
  3. Strata. ...
  4. Panzanella. ...
  5. Breadcrumbs. ...
  6. Croutons. ...
  7. Meatballs and Meatloaves. ...
  8. Bread Soup.
Mar 15, 2024

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