Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of bread, those large, crusty loaves with beautifully scored tops just aren’t what comes to mind. For me, the perfect breads are pillowy-soft and just slightly sweet. I’m sure a lot of locals can share my opinion. Dinner rolls are a staple at any fiesta table, buddying up with it’s Chamorro cousin, tatiyas, as one of the main starches. I was lucky enough to grow up with a Nana who made them all the time for us- filling my memory (and stomach) with some amazing bread. I’ve also had my fair share from Aunties and random people we’ve ordered from who make some of the best rolls I’ve had as well. All in all, I know what I’m looking for when it comes to dinner rolls, so the bar was already set pretty high. The recipe comes from the man Joshua Weissman who’s given me a bunch of great recipes at this point. Josh is great because he breaks down recipes for any average home baker but doesn’t skimp on the flavor or the right techniques. These dinner rolls follow in the same suit.
It starts off by making a tang zhong or “water roux”. It’s a quick paste that’s used in bread-making all over Asia. It allows for more moisture in the dough without added liquid, meaning the bread will be softer and stay fresh longer. It’s as simple as adding some flour and water to a saucepot and cooking it until thick- almost like you were making choux pastry. The tang zhong is then cooled while the active dry yeast is proofed in some warm water. While that gets nice and foamy, the bread flour, sugar and salt are whisked together in a large bowl. Bread flour is key because it has more protein content than regular all purpose flour and thus allows for better gluten formation which will give our dough its structure. The tang zhong, yeast mixture and an egg are then added to the bowl to start mixing. Once it comes together, softened butter is gradually added to enrich the dough and keep it nice and moist. The dough is then kneaded in the mixer for about 7 minutes before being transferred to a greased bowl, wrapped and set to rise for about 1-2 hours. After that, the dough is punched down then divided into nine pieces and shaped. The easiest way to shape perfect dough balls (for me) is to fold the edges of dough into the center, turn it over, then scrape it along the dry counter with my hands, keeping contact with the dough. The friction helps tighten up the top, making it smooth. Each ball is placed into a greased 9×9” pan, spaced equally before it can be covered and set to proof for another 1-2 hours. (Again, bread is not quick). An egg wash gets brushed over the top, after which the rolls are baked for about 30 minutes.
Let me tell you, these rolls are amazing. The tang zhong really makes for a pillowy soft bread that just melts in your mouth. We had it fresh out of the oven and couldn’t get over how soft they were. They’re pretty mellow in flavor- having just the slightest sweetness. I skipped Joshua’s garlic butter for a more neutral roll and they were still incredibly good. They ended up browning just a shade darker than I like and I did have an air bubble that made for a less than perfect top, but neither had any bearing on the great flavor these had. The only thing I’d change would be to make them smaller- say dividing the dough into 16 rather than 9. One Joshua sized dinner roll wasn’t enough, but two just seemed like too much. I can totally see myself doubling the recipe and baking up a huge batch of these in a 13×9 pan to take to a party. I guarantee you haven’t had a bread this soft before.
Full Recipe | Method by Joshua Weissman: