I can say with extreme confidence that any kid in any school cafeteria in America ate these rolls growing up. At my school, they were ubiquitous with a tray full of mushy spaghetti that, no matter how gross, everyone still seemed to love.
Here’s something strange that maybe you witnessed during lunch — kids would hollow out the dinner roll and shove the spaghetti inside it, then devour the whole thing. Somehow, this was a thing. Even kids who went to school in other states knew of this! How did this strange method of spaghetti-eating become widespread knowledge? The world may never know.
What I do know, is that these rolls are fantastic. Very soft and fluffy, with a light crust and brushed with lots of melted butter, they are the only dinner roll you could ever want to have, and they’re pretty easy, too.
All month long, I’ll be bringing you some childhood nostalgia in the form of re-vamped — and dare I say delicious? — recipes from those days of eating from plastic lunch trays with your friends by your side.
classic soft dinner rolls
makes 12 rolls
recipe modified from NFSMI.org
4 tsp (16 g) active dry yeast
6 Tbs (96 g) warm water
3 1/3 c (410 g) all purpose flour
1/3 c (36 g) instant non-fat dry milk powder
3 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp (47 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp (3 g) salt
3 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp (46 g) vegetable oil
10 Tbs (143 g) water
2 Tbs melted butter, for brushing rolls
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the yeast with the warm water until no longer lumpy. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes until the yeast becomes very foamy.
In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, dry milk powder, sugar, and salt. Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on speed 2-3 until the dough is crumbly and the oil is incorporated.
Add the water to the bowl and mix on speed 3 for about 1 minute. Next, add the dissolved yeast and mix for one minute on speed 3.
Knead the dough on speed 5-6 for 3 to 4 minutes, until the dough is very shiny and smooth. Put the bowl of dough in a warm place and let it rise for 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough to deflate it fully, and weigh out a dozen 2.2 ounce portions of the dough. Roll into balls and place on a greased quarter-size sheet pan (or a 9×13 inch baking dish, though there will be more room) lining them up in 3 rows of 4 rolls each, with a bit of space in between each roll.
Let the pan of rolls sit in a warm place for 45 minutes more, until the rolls have risen and are touching each other in the pan. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 11 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and continue to bake for another 11 minutes, checking on them periodically and covering the rolls with a piece of foil if they’re browning too quickly.
Once the rolls come out of the oven, brush them with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
This next step is vitally important: Tear off a still-warm roll from the rest of the rolls in the pan. Take a bite. Isn’t it glorious? Fresh, hot dinner rolls for the taking! Just make sure you have some spaghetti to eat with them (shoving the spaghetti into the roll is totally optional, but totally your call).
If you don’t plan on eating all the rolls immediately, let them cool fully, and put into a zip top freezer bag. They’ll keep very well frozen for several weeks! Just pull out the desired number of rolls you wish to eat and wrap them in a piece of foil, heating them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the rolls are warm in the center. Super easy, and super good!