Dinner rolls beauty shot

A slow two-day rise in the refrigerator deepens the flavor of these Parker House rolls. 

By the time you read this, Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. You can hide under the covers and/or make reservations. You can also get a jump start now by cooking incrementally, stashing in the freezer and crossing those items off the to-do list. Thanksgiving prep can be quite the kitchen circus, especially as the holiday inches closer, when the shopping and the shlepping and the shuttling of guests is part of the mix. But getting into the make-ahead mindset can really make a dent in your workload and even lighten the mood.

As I type this tale, I have just filled two freezer bags of dinner rolls that will get reheated while the turkey is resting on Thanksgiving Day. While making space in the freezer, I spotted a pint of roasted winter squash puree from last month that will find a home in a pie shell or maybe in a quick bread batter. (Note to self: Thaw a few hours in advance.)

To make even more freezer space, I’ll put a reserved bag of poultry bones to work into a pot of broth for stuffing, gravy and maybe for moistening leftovers.

Cranberry sauce, which takes less than 30 minutes to make, gets even easier if you make several days ahead and stash in the back of the refrigerator. Applesauce, too.

The rolls in question come from my dear friend Rachael Coyle, who bakes all kinds of goodness in Seattle. They call for a two-day slow rise in the refrigerator, which means you can focus on other make-ahead projects in the meantime. And yes, they are delicious and you will thank me when you’re smooshing your very own rolls in gravy and cranberry sauce later this month.

Last but not least, I plan to stuffing-ready my bread cubes, and I’ll tell you all about it in Wednesday’s Food section. As I keep reminding friends also in the prep zone, remember to breathe! You’ve got this.

For details on cranberry sauce, roasted pumpkin puree and poultry stock, check out our nifty Thanksgiving planner online at lanc.news/TDayPlanner.

Dinner rolls proofing

Before baking, shape dough into taut balls and let them proof -- doubling in size -- on a greased pan.


Adapted from Coyle’s Bakeshop, Seattle.

Makes 25 to 30 pieces.

Part 1: Sponge


  • 2 cups cold whole milk
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or 390 grams on a scale)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar


1. Combine the milk and boiling water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and whisk until blended.

2. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Add the flour and the sugar, whisking until the mixture looks like lumpy pancake batter.

4. Cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and let the sponge proof at room temperature until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 1 hour.

Part 2: Final dough


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 360 grams on a scale)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons fine sea salt)
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) very soft unsalted butter


1. To make the dough in a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment. Add the sponge first, followed by the flour and the salt.

2. Mix together on low speed.

3. Cut the butter into small pieces and distribute around the bowl.

4. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together; stop and scrape any dry bits on the side and bottom of the bowl as needed.

5. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

6. Resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, pliable and just barely sticky, about 10 minutes.

(Plan B: Mix by hand in a large bowl until the dough is too stiff to stir. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth and pliable.)

7. Transfer the dough to an airtight container that is at least double the volume of the dough. Refrigerate for 48 hours.

8. After the first 24 hours, press on the dough to deflate; this helps keep the dough from over proofing.

Part 3: Shaping, proofing and baking the rolls


  • Soft butter for greasing, plus 4 tablespoons melted, for baking
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling


1. Press on the dough to deflate and dump onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease a sheet pan with soft butter.

2. With a sharp knife or dough scraper (aka bench scraper), divide the dough into portions weighing about 55 grams each (or about the size of a small tangerine or Hacky Sack). Shape the rolls into taut balls and arrange on prepared pan, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Lightly dust tops with flour and cover loosely with plastic.

3. Let the rolls proof in a non-drafty spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. When fully proofed, the rolls may be starting to touch; that’s OK.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. When oven is ready, brush the tops of the rolls with the melted butter and finish with salt.

5. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, then rotate pan from front to rear. Bake until rolls are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.

6. Completely cool before storing in the freezer.

To reheat frozen rolls: Keep in freezer until ready to reheat. Preheat oven to 325 F. Arrange on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The outside should be crisp and the inside should feel soft. Wrap in a kitchen towel until ready to serve.

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