Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, these soft, buttery, homemade Lion House Dinner Rolls grace our table. Of all the roll recipes I have tried (and loved), these are the ones that get made most often at our house, and for good reason. They really are the best!
When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I have a confession to make. As much as I love the pie, my very most favorite thing of all are the fresh, homemade dinner rolls. Especially with some homemade raspberry freezer jam to go on them.
A roll with jam is always, always my last, ultimate dessert of the day, even after too many slices of pie. I just can’t help myself.
And while I have a few roll recipes that I make (like these incredible Knotted Orange Sweet Rolls from my sister-in-law, Deborah), these Lion House Dinner Rolls are the ones I always go back to as the best I have ever had.
Now, unless you are from Utah or are a Mormon, you may not have ever heard of Lion House dinner rolls. There is a restaurant in Salt Lake City called the Lion House Pantry where they make these rolls, along with a bunch of other delicious food. My mom had a couple of Lion House cookbooks when I was growing up and those recipes were well-loved.
These rolls are so light and fluffy and buttery inside. I’ve never had another roll quite like them. Not only is there butter in the dough itself, but a thin layer of melted butter is brushed onto the roll dough before shaping, and even more is added to the tops of the warm rolls when they come out of the oven.
You can see why these rolls are amazing now, right?
The Lion House shapes their rolls by rolling out the dough into a large, flat rectangle, then slicing it into rectangles just a little smaller than the size of a dollar bill. Each rectangle gets rolled up into a cylinder, which creates wonderful layers and a really unique roll shape.
You might be interested in watching this video tutorial showing how the Lion House shapes their dinner rolls. Although I don’t do the stretch and flip method because it just sends butter flying around my kitchen, lol. Rolling them up seems to work just fine for me!
Now, I don’t know for sure why the recipe calls for powdered dry milk and water instead of just using whole milk, but I’m under the impression that powdered dry milk helps tenderize the dough, resulting in the unique and wonderful texture of these rolls. It’s a product that is totally worth having on hand, just for making the best rolls of your life, but also because it makes good food storage and has come in handy for me in a pinch when I have run out of milk and needed some without running to the store.
I have replaced the water for milk before and eliminated the dry powdered milk altogether and the rolls still turned out very good, although I honestly didn’t think they were quite the same as the originals. So if you really don’t want to buy the dry powdered milk, you can still use this recipe to make fantastic rolls with ingredients you have on hand. But I totally recommend trying the original version first!
Tips for Making the Best Dinner Rolls
- Don’t add the flour all at once! Adding 1/2 a cup at a time not only makes it easier to knead the dough and incorporate the flour, it also makes for a much more tender and delicious roll and gives you more control over when enough flour has been added. When making soft dinner rolls, you want to err on the side of less flour rather than adding too much. The dough should feel soft, supple, elastic and just slightly tacky to the touch, sort of like the back of a post-it note (a weird, albeit apt comparison for knowing when roll dough has enough flour).
- Space the rolls about 1 inch apart when placing them on the baking sheet so that they have room to rise. It’s fine for them to touch each other eventually (they should, actually!) but you don’t want to squish them.
- Use a stand mixer with a dough hook if you have one. It makes kneading the dough so much easier.
- You can make these Lion House dinner rolls ahead of time and freeze the dough before the second rise. Just shape the rolls like normal, then wrap the baking sheet with the shaped rolls in a couple layers of plastic wrap and pop them in the freezer before they begin to rise for the final time. When you are ready to bake them, remove the tray from the freezer and allow the rolls to sit at room temperature for 4 hours, until they have had a chance to thaw and complete their final rise before baking.
- The baked rolls also freeze well as long as they are already totally cool before you put them in the freezer. Just use a ziploc bag to protect them.
I’m sure these Lion House dinner rolls will be as big of a hit at your house as they always are at ours! You might want to double the recipe to be sure there are plenty of leftovers!
- 2 cups warm water
- 2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, softened, plus 3/4 cup extra for brushing on the rolls during shaping and after baking
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5-6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- Stir together the water and dry milk powder in a large bowl of a stand mixer until the milk powder dissolves. Add the yeast and let it proof for 5 minutes until foamy.
- Mix in the sugar, salt, butter, egg and 2 cups of the flour and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook and add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, only slightly sticky dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. I almost always use 5 1/2 cups of flour, but you might need a little more or less. Knead for 5 minutes by mixer or 10 minutes by hand until the dough is smooth, supple and elastic.
- Transfer the dough to a large bowl greased with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Turn the dough over in the bowl so it is coated on all sides with oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- When dough has doubled in size, generously dust a clean counter with flour, then turn out dough onto the floured surface and divide in half using a bench scraper. Working with only half of the dough at a time, roll out into a large, approximately 11"x14" rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick and brush with 1/4 cup of melted butter.
- Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice rectangle in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 12 small rectangles, approximately 2"x4" each. A good guide is by making an "L" shape by holding your palm out flat with the thumb extended and cutting the rectangles to be the same length and width as the "L" shape.
- Roll each rectangle up and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, placing the tail edge of each roll flat on the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough, then cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Close to the end of the rising time, heat oven to 375 degrees and melt remaining 1/4 cup of butter. When the oven is hot, bake the rolls for 14-16 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter while still hot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147 Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 17mg Sodium: 234mg Carbohydrates: 23g Sugar: 3g Protein: 4g