Obsession alert! Warm, pull-apart buttermilk cloverleaf rolls have can’t-stop-eating-them flavor.
With bread stuffing in the turkey, why bother to bake rolls? For me, there are two answers: gravy and butter. Meant to be served warm, soft American yeast rolls like these regularly appeared in the bread baskets of my childhood. Based on a 1950s recipe which I first developed about 20 years ago, I feel they have an heirloom quality and old-fashioned simplicity that feels right to me for Thanksgiving when we celebrate our American traditions. These rolls are part of mine.
The dough is easy to make and handle, fun to shape (especially with little helpers) and the recipe makes 16 rolls, which bake in 15 minutes. It’s done in two steps: first a simple yeast starter is mixed and left to rise. Then the starter is added to the other 5 ingredients in the dough.
I always use my food processor to knead bread dough because it’s fast and thorough — 2 minutes vs 15 minutes by hand to get a smooth, even texture.
Once the dough is kneaded there are two choices: It can be set aside in a bowl to rise at room temperature if the rolls are to be baked the same day. Or, it can be transferred to a wet gallon zip-lock bag and given a refrigerated rise overnight — or even two nights — if it’s easier to mix the dough ahead.
Same-day dough, will usually take less than 2 hours to rise after the rolls are shaped and put into the muffin tin. Refrigerated dough is very cold and needs to warm up before the shaped rolls can rise in the muffin tin and be ready for baking — that may take double or more than the usual time.
Soft rolls like these can be shaped in a variety of ways. I chose cloverleafs because they are easy and attractive. I work the risen dough as little as possible when removing it from the bowl or the refrigerator bag. I turn it out onto a floured surface and use a metal dough scraper to cut it — first in half.
Then in quarters which are divided again.
The result is 16 pieces.
To form the cloverleafs, I cut each piece of dough into thirds and make 3 little balls.
Nestle 3 dough balls into each muffin cup. So easy.
The muffin cups are a guide to ensure that the rolls rise just above the rims. Then they are ready to brush gently with butter and bake.
Buttermilk gives the rolls a tangy flavor and great keeping quality. They can be cooled slightly on a rack and served immediately, or set aside and reheated for 5 to 10 minutes. Do serve them warm! The gravy will thank you.
(Photos: Lisa Deyo)
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