Make Ahead Dinner Rolls


Today it occurred to me that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. At first, when I realized that the BIG Turkey Dinner was quickly approaching I got a little lot anxious. You know the feeling: your mind starts whirling, and you think of a million things that need to get done, and you start to take short, little breaths and feel the need to sit down… I know the feeling well! My solution is to grab my computer and open up a document I created back in 2008 titled, “Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, Shopping List, Recipes and Game Plan”. Ahhhhh… I can breathe a little easier now.

There it is. Everything I need to get organized for the week. Of course, I make small adjustments to the plan each year. This year, I’ve made a BIG change. I’m not insisting on doing it all myself. Yep – I sent out an e-mail inviting our friends and family to the dinner next week and, for the first time ever, I made assignments. John is bringing the wine, and my nieces are in charge of making the Gratitude Jar and place cards. Laurell and George are bringing pie and beer. Rob and Cathy are bringing Mary’s Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (in a crock pot to save oven space) and Green Beans (that can be warmed on the stove top – again, reserving oven space!). Libby is bringing a pie, too. So, I can cross all of that off my list – yay! – and start planning my grocery list and make-ahead items.

Several years ago, I started making this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for Make-Ahead Rich and Tender American Dinner Rolls and they are PERFECT! Once again, the folks there have perfected this recipe and I can’t think of a way to improve upon it. The only tricky part is the forming of the rolls, so I’ve taken pictures to go along with the instructions.

Make Ahead Dinner Rolls before proofing

The beauty of this recipe is that I make them (blend, knead, proof, shape, cut and freeze) a week ahead of time. Then, on Thanksgiving, I’ll pull them out of them freezer and set them out on a parchment-lined sheet pan just before I take the turkey out. While the turkey is resting, the rolls will sit out at room temperature. When the carving of the turkey begins, I’ll bake the rolls for about 15 minutes.

What Thanksgiving favorites do you prep ahead of time?


1. Lightly flour work surface, and pat dough into 9-inch square. Fold dough into thirds, folding upper 3 inches down and lower 3 inches up. Pinch together edges to seal.



2. Using the side of your outstretched hand, firmly press an indentation along the length of the dough.



3. Fold and roll upper sealed edge of dough toward center indentation, pressing firmly with your fingertips to seal.

4. Pull the upper edges of the dough down over the thick portion to meet the seam, pressing with your fingertips to seal. Repeat 5 or 6 times. The dough will lengthen and form a taut, narrow cylinder about 17 inches long.

5. Dust with flour, then roll the dough seam-side up and pinch firmly to seal.

6. Press an indentation into the length of the dough along the seam with the side of your open hand. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to form a long, taut cylinder.



7. Gently stretch and roll the dough cylinder until it measures 36 inches long and about 21⁄2 inches wide.

8. Holding the bench scraper at a 45-degree angle to the cylinder, lop off one end. Cut triangular-shaped rolls along dough, alternating the scraper 45-degrees to right and left. You should get 24 rolls.

Ready for the freezer


Make Ahead Dinner Rolls

Recipe Type: Bread
Author: Cook’s Illustrated
Serves: 24 rolls
To ensure the softest, most tender rolls, avoid flouring the work surface during hand kneading; if necessary, flour your hands instead. The flour that you use to dust the work surface during shaping stays on the surface of the dough and is meant to give the rolls a soft, delicate look. The dough is best made in a standing mixer; there is too large a quantity of soft dough for a food processor, and it is difficult to make by hand.
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 package rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened
  1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven reaches 200 degrees, maintain oven temperature 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.
  2. Microwave milk and sugar in microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl at full power until warm (about 95 degrees). (Alternatively, heat milk and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until warm; remove from heat.) Whisk to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle yeast over surface of liquid, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 10 minutes to soften yeast. Whisk egg into milk mixture, dissolving yeast.
  3. Combine flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 15 seconds. With mixer running, add milk mixture in steady stream; mix on low speed until flour is just moistened, about 1 minute. With mixer running, add butter one piece at a time; increase speed to medium and beat until combined and dough is scrappy, about 2 minutes. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough until smooth but still sticky, about 4 minutes. Scrape dough out onto work surface. Knead by hand until very smooth and soft but no longer sticky, about 1 minute; do not add more flour. Transfer dough to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven until dough doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  4. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down dough, replace plastic wrap, and let dough rest 5 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and follow illustrations 1 through 8 (above) to shape and cut into triangles. Transfer rolls to baking sheets, then cover each with clean kitchen towels (NOT plastic wrap) and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 20 to 30 minutes. Be carful not to over-proof. Remove towels and (without pressing on the rolls) wrap baking sheets tightly with greased plastic wrap. Freeze rolls until solid, about 6 hours; transfer to large zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.
  5. When ready to bake rolls, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen rolls on 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets; let stand at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and switching positions from top to bottom halfway through baking time. Transfer rolls immediately to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and serve.

One comment

  1. […] fabulous make-ahead dinner rolls, requiring a quick counter thaw and time in the oven (A Passionate Plate has illustrated the prep nicely, […]

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