Dinner Rolls, (US) Biscuits, Sugar, and Yeast

This is sort of a multi-pronged thread.

First, I’ve been thinking of making dinner rolls myself. My food allergies make purchasing ready-made food problematic so I’m thinking home made will be better for me. I’m not at all intimidated by breads/yeast doughs as I’ve been baking bread for close to 30 years now.

This being the 21st Century I went on line to find some dinner roll recipes and was more or less appalled at the quantities of sugar frequently involved. The fact I have a diabetic spouse just makes it more of an issue (he does budget for some sugar in his food, but I really don’t want to be presenting him with excessive amounts, and certainly not without warning). So, first question: Does anyone have a decent dinner roll recipe that doesn’t involve tons of sugar?

Second, virtually all of the recipes seem to involve getting the yeast started in hot water, waiting for it to froth up, then adding it to the other ingredients. While I’m aware of this sort of thing the way I was taught to make yeast dough involves adding the yeast to the dry ingredients then adding heated liquids (yes, I use a thermometer, I’m not that fond of guess work for this sort of thing). So my preference is for the dry yeast rather than the wet yeast method, although I can do either and I’ve been known to convert recipes from one to the other.

If it’s at all relevant: I don’t’ have a bread machine. Heck, I don’t even have a mixer, I combine, mix, knead, etc. all with bare muscle power.

I’d really like a truly basic recipe without a ton of ingredients. I can always experiment later, right?

Also, anyone have a simple biscuit recipe? US style biscuits, I’m aware what we Americans call a biscuit and what the UK calls a biscuit are somewhat different. :wink:

These are utterly awesome, albeit a bit sticky (the dough.)

Cafeteria Lady (Dinner) Rolls

Ready in: 2 hrs
Serves/Makes: 16


½ teaspoon conditioner (or not)
4 cups flour (19 oz, 538 gr)[EDIT: Make it 4 ½ cups of flour]
1 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup melted butter (plus extra for brushing on top)
1 3/4 cup warm milk


Add yeast to warm milk and let sit 1 minute; stir and add melted butter.

Have dry ingredients ready and add to milk. Mix on medium speed until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. (12 – 15 minutes, maybe longer)

Place dough in a well-greased bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk. Stir down and form into rolls (note that dough is sticky) and let them rise again. Bake at 425 degrees until brown (start checking @ 10 minutes) and brush with butter while hot.

I usually make sixteen 70g (for dinner rolls, try 42g or 1 ½ oz)rolls, and bake them 8 (15 in 7 x 11 pans) to a pan in round cake pans.

The only thing sugar is needed for is speeding up the proofing of the dough. See, most people who don’t back want instant rise. Just omit the sugar and have the patience for a slower rise. Hell, you can eliminate the yeast entirely and use a sourdough starter [which yes is yeast, but not from little packets]

All most any bread product needs is flour, water, yeast and salt - some use an addition of oil, some use milk for part or all of the water, and some have egg. Only a sweet bread needs sugar or honey.

[the nice thing about making your own bread is adding or eliminating ingredients to suit.]

Simple biscuit recipe, from the back of the Clabber Girl Baking Powder can:


2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

in a medium bowl, then cut in

1/3 cup shortening (except I usually use lard)

until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add

3/4 cup milk

Stir just until the mixture is all moistened and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, then knead for 30 seconds.

Roll to about 3/4" thick (according to the recipe; mine are usually only about 3/8" thick), cut, and brush tops with butter or margarine (I never do this step myself).

Bake at 475 degrees for 11-15 minutes.

The recipe specifies that you cut in the fat with a pastry blender, and stir in the milk using a fork. I use my hands for both, and haven’t had any complaints yet

I use this recipe for dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls and ham and cheese rolls. Although the recipe calls for 2/3 c of honey, it makes about 6 dz rolls, so individually that’s not much, so that’s about 1/3 t per roll. It is a sponge-type roll, as you described. The recipe calls for freshly-grounded whole wheat flour, but I use bread flour and no dough enhancer. My sister grounds her lour fresh, though. Freak. All in all you’ll use about 12-13 cups of flour. The dough refrigerates and freezes very well, so although it’s a lot of dough, you can bake it over a period of time.


Flour (straight carb) is just as much of a problem for a diabetic as sugar. Alas.

Carry on.

Using whole wheat flour (which is almost the only form I use - I don’t even have white flour in the house right now) mitigates the otherwise rapid uptake of flour. White sugar, however, which is an all too common ingredient in dinner roll recipes, seems to get dumped instantly into the spouse’s bloodstream. The roller coaster results are undesirable.

I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of diabetic cooking. The spouse has done considerable tracking of his personal reactions to various foods, which can vary from one diabetic to another, and still retains some inherent insulin production which makes his diabetes a little different from the norm (he is diabetic due to part of his pancreas being destroyed, not due to insulin resistance, weight problems, or auto-immune disorder). In his case white sugar has a notably different effect than whole wheat flour. (This is also why I usually use brown rice rather than white)

What is this “conditioner” you speak of?

Are you okay with decadent amounts of butter? My mom makes a whole wheat roll by scalding milk with enough honey to feed the yeast (you can pick the amount you’d like- ours are usually pretty sweet so like a 1/4 or 1/2 cup- you need I think at least a tablespoon if you’re starting with a cup of milk) and then dumping in an entire stick of cold butter. Stir until butter is melted and mixture is at yeast-friendly temperature. If you want to be more decadent, and a beaten egg. Add a little salt to taste, then use whole wheat flour to make a roll-textured dough. Let it rise once in the mixing bowl, punch down, form into rolls*, rise again, and bake. Preferably after being brushed with melted butter or beaten egg or cream.

I haven’t made this in years and we never wrote the recipe down, so forgive the vagueness.

*We make a ball, then pull the edges down and pinch them underneath to make a smooth top.

My wife makes what are simply, hands-down, the greatest rolls on the planet. Unfortunately, her recipe is about eight pages long, and more importantly, in the other room.

Just leave some if not all of it out. The only problem is that the standard American-style dinner roll is meant to be very soft and slightly sweet. That’s why nearly all the recipes will include quite a lot of sugar, milk, and a hefty dose of butter.

But you can just as easily make a nice roll using just flour, salt, yeast and water, that will be tougher and more chewy.

The guy at Food Wishes .com does a nice job

(note you can leave out both the honey and the rosemary)

That’s done to make sure the yeast is alive and working since the vast majority of Americans have extremely old yeast in their cupboard and will bitch incessantly when their bread fails to rise. If you think you’re yeast is alive add it with the dry ingredients. If you’re worried it might be dead add it to the liquid.

The NY Times biscuit recipe. Which I’ve made a few times. It works quite well.

The first thing to do is buy yourself a bag of self-rising flour. Most biscuit makers don’t bother with adding baking powder. The best flour out there is White Lily, which you can order from Amazon, although any other self-rising flour will work.

I’ve experimented extensively with making biscuits and I believe the following recipe to be superior to most. Make sure that you handle the dough as little as possible and do NOT twist the cutter when you cut out the biscuits.

Preheat the oven to 425F
2-1/4 cups self rising flour
1/4 cup chilled lard, shortening or unsalted butter (I prefer butter) cut into about 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup chilled shortening, lard or butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup buttermilk, divided
melted butter for finishing

For a soft exterior, use something like a cake pan so the biscuits will touch. For crisp exterior, use a cookie sheet to allow a couple of inches between biscuits.

Fork sift two cups of the flour in a large bowl. Scatter the 1/4 inch butter pieces into the flour and work in using either your fingertips, using a “snapping” motion, or using a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like roughly crumbled feta cheese. Then do the same with the 1/2 inch pieces of butter until no pieces larger than a pea remain. If this takes longer than five minutes, put the bowl in the fridge to re-chill the butter.

Make a hole in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in 3/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix quickly with a spoon just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be quite sticky. If there is still dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, add a tablespoon or so more buttermilk and mix in. The dough should not be smooth, but rather look “shaggy”.

Sprinkle some flour on a board and turn out the dough. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough, and fold the dough in half. Pat it down gently to about a half inch thickness and fold in half again. If it’s still clumpy, repeat the pat and fold. Form the dough gently into a half inch sheet for normal biscuits, up to an inch for giant biscuits. Dip your cutter in flour and cut out the biscuits. Again DO NOT twist the cutter. Remove to a baking sheet with a spatula. Place the baking pan on the top shelf in the oven and bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating the pan after 6 minutes. Remove the biscuits from the pan to a cooling rack and top with melted butter, if desired. Serve warm.

You can definitely leave out the sugar entirely. If you want the illusion of a bit of sweetness, add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of mace to your normal recipe.

I think the addition of oil, whether butter or other oil will help make a moister roll.

With the whole wheat flour, I would recommend 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour. This will give you a good lift and sponge to the rolls.

The ‘proofing’ of the yeast (the mix in water with sugar, wait to foam) is only needed for regular yeast. Instant yeast can be mixed directly with the dry ingredients (and is the preferred method)

For simple easy biscuits, I use self rising flour. I’m not big on recipes, but it’s something like:

3C self rising flour
1 stick butter (or equivalent amount of shortening)
1 to 1.5 C milk. (enough to make a slightly wet dough. Just past the point that comes together.)
Optional extra ingredients (combine as desired, or not…):
Garlic powder/onion powder

Pour flour in bowl, cut in shortening/butter until it’s pea sized bits covered in flour.
Add 1/2 of the liquid, stir briefly. Add more if needed. Stir/mix as little as possible. (The more it’s worked, the more the gluten forms, and the tougher the biscuit).

Turn out on a floured surface. Pat out, then “envelope fold” a few times (fold the left third into the middle, then the right third. Pat out, front third onto middle, then top third. Repeat left-right fold). Pat out to about 1" thick. Cut with a cutter (I use tin cans with the bottoms cut out).

Gather scraps after first round of cutting, reform into a 1" thick sheet, cut. Repeat until you can’t cut any more. The 2nd/third/etc sets of cut biscuits won’t be as tender/flaky as the first set.

Bake at 425F 10-15 min. (or longer depending on thickness)

Extra marks for brushing with cream or butter prior to baking. A few turns of cracked black pepper are nice too on a savory biscuit.

I don’t really do biscuits very often. Nor do I eat them very often. (Honestly, I can’t remember having them in years.) But this thread is kind of interesting to me. Are Southern-style biscuits usually yeast leavened or baking powder leavened? I seem to recall most biscuits I’ve had to be baking powder leavened, but a lot of the recipes here use yeast. What’s the deal?

ETA: Oh, I think I see–we’re discussing two different things here: dinner rolls (yeast leavened) and biscuits (baking powder leavened.) Never mind. All is right in my world.

The so-called “angel biscuits” are leavened with both yeast and BP (and baking soda); they are one of the go-to recipes for Southern cooks, as they are nearly foolproof. Most biscuit recipes call for baking powder only, however, with perhaps a bit of baking soda when buttermilk is introduced.


From Wikipedia: A dough conditioner is any ingredient or chemical added to bread dough to strengthen its texture or otherwise improve it in some way.

I have (and use) this stuff. I don’t use it as much as I thought I would, but I have to admit that the results are somewhat astonishing. I’ve been baking bread for 30 years, on & off, and I just recently discovered conditioner within the last couple of years. I stumbled upon the idea over at The Fresh Loaf.

Dough conditioner is also known as ’ dough enhancer.’

I’ve been staying away from the self-rising flours because all of them I’ve looked at contain malted barley in one form or another, same for all-purpose flours. I’m allergic to barley, which is one reason I’m eating a LOT less bread and rolls these days because so many of them have it!

I haven’t been able to find out the ingredient list for White Lily, does it contain barley flour, malted barley, or barley malt?

One reason I’ve been baking with 100% whole wheat is to get around that problem.