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Question about rolls… hydration, kneading, flour types…

martino's picture

Question about rolls… hydration, kneading, flour types…


I’ve lately been using the same recipe for dinner rolls. It’s my wife’s grandmother’s, and it’s a pretty straightforward yeast roll; it’s enriched with butter, milk, egg, and sugar. I’ve been using 60% (I think it was) hydration as a rule for the flour amount; yes, I included the water weight of the eggs, butter, milk, and water when I was calculating.

Here’s the formula:

1 c scalded milk

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 egg

1/2 c warm water

519 g flour

bake at 350.

The recipe makes good rolls, always, but sometimes they’re better than others. It’s a parker house roll recipe, so it specifically instructs you to roll out, then cut, fold, and add butter in between the folds.

One other oddity: the recipe specifically says to mix the flour in to make a “soft dough.” Then you proof it, and then you knead it, shape the rolls, and let them rise.

I had been using an Ank to make it, kneading as the flour went in and then for a while after. Last time, I mixed together by hand, let rise overnight in the fridge—without kneading first—and then kneaded the next day, only then adding the last 50g of flour. (Before that it was almost too sticky to handle, but I’d let it come back to room temp.) My reasoning was less kneading = less gluten development = softer, lighter bread. They were good, but not the kind of ethereally light bread I’ve made with the same recipe before.

All that is preamble to my actual question, which is: sometimes these rolls come out gloriously soft and light, and sometimes they’re much more “bready.”

I’m trying to reliably get the former, not the latter.

I’ve used different flour: all White Lily AP, all King Arthur AP, and half of each. I haven’t tried KA bread flour yet.

Since I’m weighing the flour (amount unspecified in the original recipe), variances should all come down to kneading technique, shaping technique, and/or type of flour, correct?

Does this roll recipe need more enrichment/less hydration? Or am I working it too much—or not enough? Should I actually try the bread flour?

I’m using this dough for cinnamon rolls, too… wife’s grandmother did. The wife keeps saying, “you’re close, but hers were less like bread than this. Softer, lighter.” That’s what I’m after, with the rolls AND the cinnamon rolls, but I don’t know how to get there.

tpassin's picture

You said the hydration is about 60% but when I add up all the water I get 532g (treating the egg weight as all water, so it's slightly high but not much).  That's more than 100% hydration.  No wonder the dough felt sticky and hard to work with.

Here is a recipe for Parker House rolls from King Arthur .  You could compare to yours.  It's similar but has less flour and uses some potato, which helps hold water.

I doubt that anyone's grandmother used or could even get bread flour, so I don't think that will do it for you.  She certainly would have used bleached flour, and that would have been more extensible than unbleached.  White Lily is bleached, KA is unbleached.  More extensibility could lead to more rise and so a lighter end product.  Did you consistently get lighter results with one particular flour?

I couldn't tell if you ever get the ethereal crumb you are after. Do you get the best crumb mostly with the mixer or by hand?  A "soft" dough would be one that isn't sticky, or only a little, that has some body and life but isn't springy and also doesn't slump and droop on its own accord.  It would be easy and pleasant to handle. Your hands would not need to be floured or wet to handle it.  A dough with 100% hydration wouldn't come close to that.

So it sounds to me that somehow in the retelling and translation of the recipe amounts that the amount of flour got changed.  After you read the KA recipe, you may want to experiment with less flour.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out.




Moe C's picture
Moe C

I don't get 100%, but I don't get 60% hydration either. Depending on how much water is allowed for the egg, butter & milk, I get between 81 & 88% hydration. Still high for rolls, though.

Milk 245g

Water 118g

Butter 42g

Egg 50g

Total 455g

Flour 519g

tpassin's picture

I misread and used equal amounts of water and milk in calculating the hydration.  Fie on me!

martino's picture


So first let me go check my math.


fredsbread's picture

It may seem counterintuitive, but less gluten development won't make your rolls softer. The goal for soft rolls is to have lots of evenly small air cells, and the best way to accomplish that would be to mix to windowpane in your Ank, then roll out all the air when you shape, and let them proof as long as they need to achieve the ideal volume.

I would use a medium protein all purpose flour. I agree that bleached is probably more like what you wife's grandmother would have used, so I'd recommend Gold Medal All Purpose (with the blue ribbon on the bag).