Dinner Rolls Three Ways – Overthinking Classics

Dinner Rolls Three Ways
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Today is Canadian Thanksgiving Monday, so you might be wondering why I’m posting a piece about dinner rolls now. Well, I like to think of Canadian Thanksgiving as the kick-off to the holiday season. While it’s true Canada’s Thanksgiving is more or less in the rearview mirror, American Thanksgiving is a little more than a month away. And a mere week after that is Hannukah. And after that, well, I don’t think I have to tell what comes after that. Basically, we have a marathon of feasting ahead, so it’s in your best interest to know your way around a dinner roll. So today, I bring you the latest installment of my ongoing YouTube series Overthinking Classics where we will explore three ways of approaching the classic dinner roll.

So let’s start off by talking about the three types of dinner rolls we will be exploring. First up is the Parker House Roll – an American Classic if there ever was one. The parker house roll is named for the hotel in which it originated – the Parker House Hotel in Boston. The Parker House Hotel is also where the Boston Cream Pie was created. This roll is characterized by its folded shape. It’s actually a lot like a lotus leaf bun, but obviously not as smooth and also not steamed. But I thought that was an interesting parallel and I wonder if it isn’t a bit of cultural theft. So many secrets within the food history world. I like Parker House Rolls because they are fun to split and easy to slather butter on, which really is all you should ask of a dinner roll.

The second roll we explore in the video below is the Cloverleaf roll. I would say this is the prettiest dinner roll, but that is a matter of opinion. The cloverleaf roll gets its name because the top resembles, well, a three-leaf clover. This roll is probably the most labor-intensive in terms of shaping. But it’s not difficult, just a little time-consuming. This shape bakes in a standard muffin tin, so make sure you have one handy before attempting. I love these rolls for their appearance and that way they break into three evenly-sized pieces, each of which requires its own pat of butter.

Dinner Rolls Three Ways

And finally, we have the least labor-intensive and potentially most familiar pull-apart rolls. You simply form the dough into orbs and place them in a casserole dish or cast-iron skillet. You then leave them to rise and fill the vessel before baking and pull the individual rolls apart to serve. Easy peasy! I like these rolls for their simplicity and general fluffiness. The other versions are more prone to crustiness but the rolls you pull from the center of this batch will be airy and full of nooks and crannies. And if you prefer a bit of crustiness, you can always pull your roll from the edges.

So that’s Dinner Rolls Three Ways. There’s even more information about potential glazes and serving options in the video below. Hopefully, this will come in handy in the feast-heavy months ahead. And if you enjoyed this video, please consider subscribing to my channel. I post a new recipe every week and a ton of bits and bobs along the way.


Dinner Rolls Three Ways

Dinner Rolls Three Ways

This recipe details three different ways you can serve a single dinner roll recipe. Below you will find info on how to form Parker House rolls, cloverleaf rolls, and pull-apart rolls
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Proofing Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Side Dish, starter
Servings 18 rolls


  • Standard Muffin Tin
  • Large Baking Sheets
  • 11×7" casserole dish or cast-iron skillet
  • Stand mixer with a hook attachment


  • 307 ml (10.5 fl oz.) 2% milk
  • 15g (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • 30g (1 oz) honey
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter softened, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup salted butter melted


  • Start by pouring the milk into a small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and heat until lukewarm. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the surface of the milk and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.  
    307 ml (10.5 fl oz.) 2% milk, 15g (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • Give the mixture a quick stir before pouring into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, salt, and roughly 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Set the mixer to low and wait for a loose dough to form. Once it comes together, add another cup of the flour and mix once again.
    30g (1 oz) honey, 2 tsp kosher salt, 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • From here you’ll have to assess how your dough is looking, if it’s cleaning the sides of the bowl and is only slightly tacky, you’ve added enough flour. If it’s still quite sticky keep adding flour but only in 1/4 cup increments until your dough is in a good place. 
  • With the mixer set to low, start adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time, waiting for each to be fully integrated before adding more. Once the butter is fully integrated, it’s time to knead. Transfer your dough to a floured surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour and knead for 7-10 minutes or until your dough feels elastic and silky to the touch. 
    ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large oiled bowl. Cover the dough with a little plastic wrap or a tea towel and set aside to rise for 1 and a half hours or until doubled in size. Once your dough has risen, return it to the counter and remove the plastic wrap. Punch the dough down and grab your handy dandy kitchen scale. Now it's time to form the rolls, choose a shape, and process your dough according to the steps detailed below.

For the Parker House Roll

  • To make the Parker House Roll divide your dough into little balls, each weighing in around 30g. Cover the dough with plastic wrap as you work to prevent it from drying out. Using a rolling pin or dowel, roll each ball out into an oval. Brush the dough with the melted butter and fold it over itself to form a seal. 
    ¼ cup salted butter
  • Transfer the buns to a large baking sheet lined with either a silicon mat or parchment paper. Make sure you give the buns 2 inches of space on all sides. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • When there are about 20 minutes left in their rising time, start preheating your oven to 350F. Brush the tops of the rolls with additional melted butter or an egg wash and transfer to the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating once halfway through the cook time. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cool rack. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside soften salted butter and honey.

For the Cloverleaf Rolls

  • Start by greasing a standard muffin tin with melted butter. Divide your dough into balls, weighing about 50 grams each. Divide each ball into three roughly even smaller balls, roughly 17g each.
  • Place the balls inside of a muffin cup and repeat with the remaining dough. Once all the cups are filled, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour. Start preheating the oven to 350°F in the last 20 minutes of the rolls' rising time.
  • Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter or an egg wash and transfer to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cook time to ensure even browning. Let the rolls cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature alongside soften salted butter and honey.

For the Pull-Apart Rolls

  • For these, we’re going to grease an 11×7” casserole dish with melted butter. Divide your dough into 50g balls and place them in the casserole dish.*
  • Once again cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for 45 minutes to an hour. When the rolls are in their last 20 minutes of rising time, start preheating your oven to 350°F.
  • Brush the tops with melted butter or an egg wash and transfer to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. Let cool in the dish for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling wrack. Serve warm or room temperature with salted butter and honey.


** The success of this recipe relies on the buns filling the space they will be baking in, so if you’re making more than a dozen buns, you may have to upgrade to a 9x 13 dish. You can also make these guys in a cast-iron skillet.
Keyword bread, dinner roll, milk bread, pain au lait

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