Easy to make and flavored with a slight sourdough tang, these soft pull apart dinner rolls will be a welcome addition to any meal and a great use of your sourdough discard!
Why this recipe works
- Sourdough starter discard adds a light, tangy flavor
- Milk and potato flour keep these sourdough rolls soft and fluffy
- Great way to use unfed sourdough starter
Since I maintain a sourdough starter, I have a never-ending quest to find ways to use my weekly sourdough starter discard. I have quite a repertoire of sweet and savory sourdough recipes like pretzels, bagels, spice cake, focaccia, banana bread, and more.
Here's another delicious way to use unfed sourdough starter: Soft Sourdough Dinner Rolls
What you need
This sourdough rolls recipe uses the basic bread ingredients, plus a few extras.
Sourdough starter discard: Sourdough discard is unfed sourdough starter, i.e. the amount you remove from your crock before feeding the remainder (I do this weekly). Since it's not active starter, it's used for flavor rather than fermentation (you'll need yeast for that).
Milk: Helps to make a softer dough. You can use any type of milk you have on hand, be it whole, low-fat, non-fat, or even an unsweetened plain non-dairy milk. If you prefer, you can substitute in 1 cup hot water and ¼ cup nonfat dry milk for the milk.
Potato flour: Helps keep the rolls light and fluffy. If you choose not to use potato flour, increase the amount of flour to compensate.
Flour: You can use all-purpose flour or bread flour. All-purpose flour is convenient for most people, but bread flour will produce a slightly chewier roll. The rolls will be still soft and fluffy no matter which type of flour you use.
Egg: Using an egg enriches the dough, similar to challah (egg bread).
Butter: Like with the egg, butter adds richness and flavor to the rolls.
Sugar: Used to sweeten the rolls.
Salt: Used to balance the sweetness and bring depth of flavor to the rolls.
How to make sourdough rolls
Like most dinner roll recipes, this one takes just a little bit of action. Most of the time is spent letting the dough rise.
Step 1: Make the dough and let it rise
Combine the dough ingredients in a stand mixer, then knead until a slightly tacky dough forms. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours (photo 1).
Step 2: Shape the dough into rolls
This soft, silky dough is now ready to be shaped into balls. Start by portioning the dough into 16 individual pieces (photo 2).
Roll each piece into a tight ball. Place 8 each into two 9-inch round cake pans (photo 3).
Step 3: Let the dough rise again, then bake
After allowing the covered dough to rise until puffy (about an hour), bake at 350˚F for 20 to 25 minutes (photo 4).
Storage and make-ahead instructions
Storage instructions: These rolls can be stored, covered tightly, for 2 to 3 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For longer storage, freeze the rolls for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired.
Make-ahead instructions: You can let the dough have its first rise in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to fully rise for 2 more hours before portioning and shaping. This will allow the dough to develop even more flavor.
You can also shape the rolls before refrigerating them overnight. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them rise, still covered, on the counter for about 1 to 2 hours before baking.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
If you have a dedicated bread proofer, lucky you! Otherwise, cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place. An unheated oven with just the light turned on works wonderfully.
After portioning the dough into 16 pieces, take one piece and flatten into a rough square. Pull the corners down underneath to tighten the skin, then pinch them together. Place the ball on the counter, pinched side down, and cup your hand over it. Roll the ball around moving your hand in a circular motion...this is to seal that bottom pinched spot even more. Voila, a shaped roll ready for rising and baking!
Instant yeast doesn't need to be rehydrated (or "proved"), and can be added directly to the bread recipe's dry ingredients.
Active yeast needs to be rehydrated in a warm liquid before using (or have very warm liquid, between 120 to 130°F, in the recipe), and will take about 15 to 20 minutes longer to rise than instant yeast.
Whether you choose to proof your yeast is up to you.
Pro Tip: Leave out the commercial yeast
If you don't want to use commercial yeast in this sourdough dinner rolls recipe, replace the yeast with ½ cup (114 grams) of active, fed starter, and reduce the amount of flour by about ½ cup (57 grams) and water by about ¼ cup (57 grams). The rising time will be longer (about double) for both the first and second rises.
These rolls are a hit!
These soft sourdough rolls are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!! They're fluffy and flavorful with just a tang of sourdough notes at the end.
Actually, these would better be called "Sourdough maybe-they'll-make-it-to-Dinner Rolls"...they're that good. You'll definitely want to serve them at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
That's dinner, improved!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
When you maintain a sourdough starter, you have a dilemma. What do you do with your unfed sourdough starter discard? I've got lots of suggestions for sweet and savory ways to use your fed sourdough starter and the sourdough starter discard.
Good news for sourdough bakers! I've published an e-book that allows you to discover a new method to feed your starter with less flour, making your baking both sustainable and scrumptious. Learn how to have the right amount of starter for your favorite sourdough bread recipe, and explore various bread baking pans to level up your baking game. Plus, dive into a bonus recipe for a naturally-leavened sourdough bread using unfed starter that will fit into your busy schedule for fresh bread any time. Head over to my shop and get your copy today!
And if you sign up to receive my weekly featured recipe email, I'll send you the recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. Enjoy!
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Soft Sourdough Dinner Rolls
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, or bread flour, adding more if needed
- 1 cup milk, warmed between 100°F to 110°F, see Recipe Notes
- ½ cup sourdough starter discard, at room temperature, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup potato flour
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons instant yeast, or rapid rise, see Recipe Notes
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine all the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment (or a bread machine on the dough cycle). Mix and knead on medium speed until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms, adding flour or water in 1 tablespoon increments until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can mix this dough by hand with a large wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
- Keep the dough in the mixer and knead for an additional 2 minutes or by hand on a lightly floured surface. The dough will be soft and tacky.
- Lightly spray a large bowl with canola oil spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours or until double in size. An oven with the light on works wonderfully.
- Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with canola oil spray. You can also bake the rolls in two 9-inch square baking pans, a 9- ×13-inch baking pan, a cast iron skillet, or on a half sheet baking pan lined with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper.
- When the dough has risen, knead it gently to deflate it. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces with a bench scraper. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, then place 8 in each prepared baking pan, spacing them out evenly.
- Cover the shaped rolls and let then rise until they're puffy, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to a lower third placement and preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes or until they're golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through. If the tops of the rolls are browning too quickly, loosely cover the pans with aluminum foil.
- Remove the pans from the oven and allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Storage instructions: These rolls can be stored, covered tightly, for 2 to 3 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For longer storage, freeze the rolls for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired.
- Make-ahead instructions: You can let the dough have its first rise in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to fully rise for 2 more hours before portioning and shaping. This will allow the dough to develop even more flavor.
- You can also shape the rolls before refrigerating them overnight. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them rise, still covered, on the counter for about 1 to 2 hours before baking.