One roll, many ways

Drizzling icing on apple-walnut rolls.

Rolls make the meal as well as a holiday, enhancing the senses with aroma, visual enticement, tenderness, flavor and sounds of comfort and joy.

It takes less than 10 minutes of people time to assemble the ingredients and knead the dough for the first rise. At any point after that, the baker can gather the rest of the ingredients for one or more recipes and assemble them. The rest of the time is spent shaping the dough, letting it rise and baking it.

An added bonus is the homeyness of fresh-baked bread hot from the oven.

A holiday roll should be rich; buttery and eggy, perhaps a little sweet. The trick is to provide variety all through the season: from a breakfast roll to a dinner roll to one that is available all weekend, or to bring as a hostess gift.

My neighbor, Cathy Nutatis, frequently bakes and leaves a taste or two for me to sample. So I asked her to help develop new recipes from the basic roll dough I’ve done for years, adding and subtracting ingredients as needed.

We start with cloverleaf rolls, which add a quiet elegance to the table. Fan-Tan rolls made from the same dough but enhanced with herb butter add complex flavors with a new shape. Cranberry-orange rolls, also from the same dough, are as good for a late-night snack with a cup of tea as they are for an early breakfast riser or sandwiched with turkey for leftovers. And apple-walnut rolls are about as good a grab-and-go treat as there is. All the cook needs do is master one dough recipe, then vary it in one or all the ways.

Making double batches of the dough and then shaping and baking them in different ways over several days or doing a batch cooking day while binge-watching a favorite TV show also can make a chore a pleasure and get two things done at one time. (Take note, however, that it is not a good idea to double a recipe the first time you make it.)

As an added bonus, this dough may be refrigerated after the first rise. Knock down the dough and refrigerate, using an oiled plastic bag to hold the dough. Moreover, the baked products will keep, well-wrapped, several days at room temperature and freeze well, too.

Makes 24-28 rolls

Using eggs and butter makes a very rich dough, almost like a brioche, allowing the rolls to last a few days when well wrapped.


1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided use

1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided use

Melted butter (optional)


Oil two (12-cup) muffin tins.

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a sturdy electric mixer.

Scald the milk by heating it almost to a boil (small simmering bubbles will appear around the edge of the pan). Add the remaining sugar, butter and salt to the milk. The mixture should be less than 115 degrees.

Stir the milk mixture into the yeast mixture. Stir in the eggs. Stir in 21/2 cups of bread flour. Beat until smooth, adding enough additional flour as needed to form a soft pliable dough that is slightly sticky.

Turn out on a floured board and knead, or knead in the mixer, adding flour as needed until pliable and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove and knead a minute or two more on the board. The dough should bounce back when lightly touched and feel slightly moist and tender. Move to an oiled plastic ziplock bag or oiled bowl.

Rest in a warm place until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour. Insert 2 fingers into the dough and remove. If the holes they make don’t come back, it has risen sufficiently.

Punch down the dough and knead it lightly. The dough may be refrigerated at this point.

To shape into cloverleaves: Divide the dough into fourths. Divide each fourth into 18 (1-inch) balls. Roll the balls lightly to smooth the top. Place 3 balls in each oiled muffin cup. They should fit easily. Let rise until doubled.

(For other shapes and fillings: see below.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Cover if the rolls brown too rapidly. The rolls are done when the internal temperature of the bread registers 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the rolls from the oven. Remove them from the pan and cool on a rack.

Brush the tops with butter if desired. The rolls freeze up to 3 months, well-wrapped. Reheat in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes 16

These rolls are easy to shape, thanks to chilling the dough overnight. Glazed, they make a wonderful breakfast treat for family and guests. These rolls can be baked in advance and pulled out of the freezer when needed.

Also, with the traditional Thanksgiving flavors of cranberry and orange, these rolls are wonderful for “leftover” turkey sandwiches. Omit the orange glaze and follow the directions up until the point of shaping the dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape into balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your hand. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise as directed. Brush with lightly beaten egg and bake at 400 degrees until browned.


1 recipe of Rich Cloverleaf dough

1 cup chopped, dried cranberries

1 tablespoon orange zest

Orange Glaze (recipe follows)


Mix the cranberries and orange zest into the dough at the end of the mixing process, before the dough is kneaded. After the first rise, refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Divide the cold dough into equal halves and shape into 8 balls. Arrange balls in two 8-inch round pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size. This may take up to 2 hours since the dough is cold. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Rolls should be evenly browned. Allow the rolls to cool for about 5 minutes before spreading with the glaze. Glaze may be omitted if you want to serve as dinner rolls.


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

Pinch of salt


Combine all ingredients, using the smaller amount of orange juice. Add more juice as necessary to achieve an easily spreadable glaze.

Makes 12

Shaping these old-fashioned style rolls may take a few extra minutes, but the results are worth it. While this dough can be used after the first rise, I found that it was much easier to roll out and cut after it had chilled in the refrigerator overnight. The butter in the original cloverleaf roll recipe is replaced by the same amount of an herb butter.

After baking, the rolls can be stored in a sealable freezer bag and frozen for later use.

When ready to use, remove from freezer and allow to defrost in the sealed bag. To warm the rolls, place on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Heat in a 350-degree oven until warm.


1 recipe of Rich Cloverleaf dough

Herb Butter (recipe follows), divided use

1 egg, lightly beaten to mix


Make the dough according to master Cloverleaf Dough recipe except omit butter as it will be replaced with the herb butter.

After the first rise, refrigerate the dough for at least 8 hours. On a lightly floured surface, roll the cold dough into an approximately 12-by-18 rectangle. Trim the ends slightly to achieve a neat edge. Spread lightly with 1/4 cup herb butter. On the 12-inch side of the dough, mark off 2-inch strips and cut with a sharp knife. Gently lift dough and stack the strips on top of one another, ending with a six-layer strip of dough. Gently cut the dough in half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter into thirds, resulting in 12 equal pieces. Put each piece into a lightly greased muffin tin, cut side down. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. The dough should be slightly crowning above the muffin tin. This may take as long as 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees 30 minutes before the dough is ready to bake. Brush the tops of the rolls with the lightly beaten egg and bake for 12-14 minutes. Serve with additional herb butter.

This versatile butter stores well and can be used for a variety of foods as well as incorporated into the dough. To freeze, shape into a cylinder and wrap tightly with plastic. It can then be sliced as needed to add flavor to grilled meats, salmon and vegetables, as well as breads.


1 cup butter

1/2 cup of assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano and flat-leaf parsley, lightly packed

1/4 cup sliced scallion, green part included

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1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large clove garlic

Ground pepper, to taste


Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until completely blended. Store in refrigerator or freeze for later use.

Makes 16

This variation of the traditional cinnamon roll brings fall flavors to the breakfast table. These rolls transport well when frozen. Double the recipe and have extras to take to friends and family. If freezing for later use, do not ice the rolls. Prepare the icing and store in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator. After defrosting, snip the corner of the plastic bag and squeeze the icing over the rolls. One egg is removed from the recipe, and the butter is replaced with softened butter added with the apple walnut filling.

I found that it works best not to skip the chilling process. When cold, the dough was easy to roll and slice.


1 recipe of Rich Cloverleaf dough

4 tablespoons softened butter

Apple-Walnut Filling (recipe follows)

Vanilla Icing (recipe follows)


Prepare dough as directed, except omit 1 egg and butter. Refrigerate dough after the initial rise for at least 8 hours. The cold dough is easier to work with. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10x18-inch rectangle. Spread with softened butter and sprinkle the chopped apple mixture evenly over the dough. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Roll the dough, jelly roll fashion, beginning with the 18-inch end. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter into 4 equal pieces. Arrange the slices in two 8-inch round pans that have been greased and lined with parchment. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size. Again, this may take longer since the dough is cold. Bake in a 400-degree preheated oven for approximately 15-17 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before spreading with icing if you want the icing to melt onto the rolls. For a more decorative look, the icing can be piped on after the rolls have cooled.


1 cup chopped dried apples

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Boiling water

1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt


Place the sugar in a small bowl. Add boiling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve a thick but spreadable icing. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

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