Soft rolls are a Sunday dinner staple all over America and Utah is no exception. New Englanders may enjoy Fan Tans. Those in Boston have a particular claim to fame with the Parker House roll, coming from the Parker House Hotel. Such rolls are dangerously delicious. Salt Lake City has a famous soft roll as well - the Lion House Roll.
Making soft rolls isn't always just making tiny bread loaves, although many of the things that make good soft breads are the same as for soft rolls.
Light rolls needs soft doughs. When mixing the dough, always add the flour gradually, keeping the dough as soft as you can handle. It's never necessary to use the entire amount of flour listed in the recipe – you just want to add enough to make a manageable dough.
In these busy times, even on Sunday (if you have a lot of church meetings to go to), you don't have a lot of time to wait for the dough to rise. To shorten rising time, try this technique:
When the dough is completely mixed, oil the bowl, turning the dough to cover with a thin layer of oil, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in the sink (or in a larger bowl). Fill the sink with enough hot water to come up about halfway along the outside of the bowl. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.
You can also try putting the bowl in an oven set to the lowest temperature, along with a bowl of hot water. Turn off the oven, shut the door, and allow the dough to rise.
You can also use these methods for the second rise, after you've formed the rolls. Put the baking sheet over a sink filled with hot water and cover. Just make sure the sheet will fit across the sink without falling in.
If you're using the oven method, reheat the oven while you shape the rolls. Place a fresh pan of hot water in the oven when you return the rolls. Remember to turn the oven back off and shut the door.
I prefer the sink method. I've never been able to get the oven method to work without ruining the dough by prematurely cooking it. It also works well if you have a cold kitchen.
Picture by Craig Jewell