Thanksgiving Rolls Part 1

Recipe by P Valentine Haggerty 

Hello! I’m happy to share my first collaboration (a double post – read part two here!) with the New England Travel Journal. I’m Valentine from the Fifty Shades of Grains Blog. I may live in the Midwest, but I’m originally from New England (notice the maple syrup in all of the recipes). Whenever you’re traveling, especially around holidays, you always need good recipes to share and that’s where I come in! I am primarily a bread baker, but I may share some other types of recipes, too! Let us know if these were helpful!

These posts also appeared as the single post Thanksgiving Rolls on Fifty Shades of Grains.

Have you ever been to a Thanksgiving dinner where there were poor quality rolls? There are so many great flavors at the table – roasted turkey, buttery potatoes, cranberry relish, vegetable casseroles – and they deserve a dinner roll of the same quality. Whether you make small sandwiches or just use them to mop up excess gravy, you shouldn’t use something that tastes like cardboard or doesn’t spring back when you press on it. So here are a few recipes if you’re looking to step up your roll game this Thanksgiving or anytime the need arises! I find that larger varieties of these rolls make excellent hamburger buns.

This post contains recipes for Basic Wheat Rolls and a slight variation, Garlic Snakes (Knots). Part two contains recipes for Sourdough Rolls and Bourbon Maple Bacon Rolls.

Basic Wheat Rolls

Let’s start light and easy. These rolls are a perfect combination of stretchy pull-apart pain de mie rolls and the heartiness of a 100% whole wheat roll. I’ve used 50/50 bread flour/whole wheat flour. I find this is enough bread flour to provide lightness and elasticity and enough whole wheat to still be hearty but not dense. For extra flavor I milled red fife, a heritage variety of wheat, but if you can’t source that, regular whole wheat works just fine.

Total Weight: 750g (about 2 dozen small rolls, 1 dozen medium rolls, 8 large rolls) Timing: 5 min prep, 20 min oven time, ~3 hours total


206g Red fife flour (1½ c + 2 Tbsp)
206g Bread flour (1½ c + 2 Tbsp)
144g Water (½c + 2 Tbsp)
82g Whole Milk (⅓ c)
8g Salt (1½ tsp)
62g Butter (melted) (4½ Tbsp)
33g Maple Syrup (or honey) (2 Tbsp)
8g Yeast (2%) (1 Tbsp)

Warm the milk to room temperature and melt the butter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Activate the yeast in warm water and combine the milk, butter, and maple syrup, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix by hand until a cohesive dough forms.

Let rise in a covered bowl for 90 minutes, deflating and folding the dough after 15/30/60 minutes. After 90 minutes, divide into individual pieces and shape into roll. For small/medium/large rolls, I use 30/60/90 grams of dough per roll.

Place the rolls in a greased cast-iron pan, cover, and let proof for 50-60 minutes. During this proof, preheat your oven to 425F. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops brown. Brush with melted butter after they finish baking.

Garlic Snakes (Knots)

Next up is a slight variation on the previous recipe that ends up having a fairly different character. I’ve removed the whole wheat for maximum fluff and added garlic directly to the dough. After baking, I recommend brushing with garlic butter for maximal deliciousness. Warning: these are profanity-inducingly good.

Total Yield: ~18 knots.
Timing: 10 min prep, 20 min oven time, ~3 hours total

Same as Basic Wheat, except substitute bread flour for the whole wheat flour, and add 6 cloves of garlic, lightly sautéed.

Follow the instructions above for the wheat rolls, folding the garlic into the dough after you’ve assembled it, until the divide and shape step. Divide your dough into pieces of about 40 grams in weight. To make a snake, take a piece of dough and roll it out into a long tapered tube. Knot with a simple over-under knot and place on parchment paper to rise for 50-60 minutes.

I like to steam this version of the rolls. I use a combo cooker, but any dutch oven will work. The steam develops a crust while leaving the insides moist. Remove the lid at around 15 minutes to ensure that rolls brown.

Up for something more involved? Check out part 2!

General Baking Tips

  • Weigh your ingredients. A kitchen scale is a great investment and leads to consistency in baking, something which I struggled to achieve in my early days of baking. Look for one that has settings for grams and ounces as well as mL and fluid ounces of both water and milk and you’ll find yourself using it often. I’ve provided volume approximations, but you’ll get better results with a scale.
  • Use fresh and high quality ingredients. I freshly mill as much of the flour as I can but turn to King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill when I can’t (I’m not associated with either of these companies)
  • Want to make it completely whole wheat? I’ve made the whole wheat rolls with 100% whole wheat. It’s very tasty but the rolls are very dense. Adjust the ratio to your liking!
  • The temperature of the liquids is important. The water should be warm enough to activate the yeast if you use active dry (100-110F). The milk should be room temperature, or the melted butter might solidify and give the dough a wonky, uneven texture.

-If you liked these recipes stay tuned for part 2 of Thanksgiving Rolls in a few days

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