If you’ve been taking care of a sourdough starter for a while, you may be looking for new ways to use it other than your favorite no-knead bread. Or, if you're lucky enough to have a friend lend you some of their starter, here’s a way to showcase it at your next dinner party. These pull-apart sourdough dinner rolls have a chewy top crust and that tangy sourdough flavor we love so much. They're sweet and buttery, soft and fluffy. Sourdough dinner rolls are equally at home with pulled pork and pickles at a summer barbecue or soaking up gravy on your Thanksgiving plate.
The best part is that they're easy to prepare and most of the time spent is hands-off, waiting for the dough to rise. Simply knead the dough in a stand mixer, let the dough rise, shape, rise again, and they're ready to bake.
Sourdough Starter Versus Yeast
While commercial yeast is one isolated strain of yeast for bread baking, sourdough is a culture of wild yeasts and good bacteria present in the environment and your flour. Compared to yeast from the store, sourdough adds extra flavor to breads and rolls, including that characteristic tangy flavor. It also adds strength to the dough and improves the texture for a chewier crust and a fluffy interior.
Baking Tips for Successful Sourdough Dinner Rolls
Sourdough baking has a reputation for being overly difficult and advanced. But that doesn't have to be the case. In addition to making this recipe easy to mix, here are some baking tips to give you some confidence.
- Make sure to use softened butter. Melted butter will make the dough too greasy and cold butter will not incorporate into the dough.
- Use warm milk; cold milk will slow down fermentation. Heat the milk in the microwave to lukewarm. If you have an instant-read thermometer, aim for between 100°F and 110°F. It should feel warm to the touch but not scalding hot. If it's a tolerable temperature for you, it's tolerable for the starter.
- If you have one, I recommend a glass bowl for bulk fermentation (a.k.a. the first rise). It’s easy to pick up the bowl and check the progression of fermentation by looking at the underside of the dough to see how aerated it is.
How To Tell When the Dough Is Ready
With sourdough, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when bulk fermentation is finished and ready for shaping, and when it's done proofing (a.k.a. the second rise) and ready for the oven. Fermentation time also depends on how warm your kitchen is. Seeing how much the dough has risen gives a good clue, but sourdough doesn't necessarily double in size like other yeasted doughs do. The dough will have noticeably risen, look light and airy, and the surface of the dough will be smooth and feel soft to the touch. If it still looks shaggy or feels dense, it needs more time to rise. Give it another 30 minutes and check again. The shaped rolls are fully proofed when they’ve doubled in size and look very puffy. They will have spread enough to touch each other.
How to Plan Ahead
There are a few options for making these rolls ahead of time or breaking the recipe down into smaller steps over more time. You could mix the dough the day before you plan to serve, let it go through its first rise for 2 hours, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight. The next day, continue with shaping and proofing. Rolls that rise in the refrigerator overnight will have a stronger, tangier sourdough flavor.
You can also make the rolls ahead of time and freeze them. I prefer to freeze baked rolls, as I find it takes a long time for the dough to thaw and proof for baking.
Homemade Dinner Roll Recipes We Love
- Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks
- Milk Bread Rolls
- Challah Rolls
- Homemade Crescent Rolls
- Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Rolls
Sourdough Dinner Rolls
Your sourdough starter is mature and ready to use when it is actively bubbling, has risen to its peak, and there are no streaks left on the container when deflated. I feed mine twice a day, and it tends to be at its peak just before feeding.
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (113g) mature sourdough starter (see recipe note)
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
For optional wash
1 large egg or 3 tablespoons whole milk or melted butter
Warm the milk:
Heat the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. It should feel warm to the touch, but not hot. If it's not warm enough, pop in the microwave again and heat in 15-second intervals.
Mix the dough:
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the warm milk, mature starter, softened butter, sugar, salt, and flour.
Mix on low speed until everything comes together and forms a rough ball, about 1 minute. Increase to medium speed and continue kneading for 7 to 10 minutes until the dough clings to the dough hook. It should be smooth and elastic and pull away from the sides of the bowl—it may still stick to the bottom of the bowl. There’s a magic moment when the sticky goop of wet flour suddenly transforms into a cohesive mass that sticks to itself more than other surfaces. Then, the dough is developed enough for bulk fermentation.
Transfer the dough to a clean large bowl and cover. Allow it to rise at room temperature for about 4 hours until it has noticeably risen, but not necessarily doubled in size. It should be light and airy. If it still looks dense, let it rise for another 30 minutes.
Prepare the pan:
Liberally grease a 9x13-inch cake pan with butter.
Shape the rolls:
Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to divide the dough into 15 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, pinching the seam at the bottom to ensure the top surface is taught. Place the shaped rolls into the greased pan evenly spaced in 3 rows of 5.
If the dough feels too sticky while shaping, instead of sprinkling flour over it, put the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. You'll find that it's easier to shape cold dough.
Proof the rolls:
Cover the pan and set it in a warm spot to rise for about 2 1/2 hours until the rolls have doubled in size and look very puffy. If they haven’t quite risen enough, check back after another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Do this about 30 minutes before the rolls are ready to be baked. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.
Bake the rolls:
Lightly brush the tops of the rolls with a wash, either a beaten egg, whole milk, or melted butter.
Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. An instant thermometer inserted into the center of a roll in the middle of the pan should read 190°F or above.
Cool and serve the rolls:
Let the rolls cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve them warm.
Store any leftover rolls tightly wrapped on the counter for up to 5 days.
Baked rolls can be frozen, wrapped in a layer of plastic, then a layer of aluminum foil, for up to 2 months. Let the rolls thaw at room temperature, still wrapped, for about 1 hour. To serve them warm, reheat them for about 15 minutes in a 325°F oven.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 36g||46%|
|Saturated Fat 22g||110%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|