These soft dinner rolls are like magic! Just mix the ingredients in a bowl - no kneading, no stand mixer, no special ingredients required. These are soft, fluffy and moist, nicely salted with a touch of sweet. This requires 2 hrs 15 minutes+ rise time.
Place the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the sugar in a medium bowl, then pour in water. Leave for 5 minutes until it froths.
Place flour, remaining sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix to combine.
Make a well in the centre. Add milk, butter, eggs and pour in the yeast liquid, including all froth.
Mix until combined with wooden spoon - it will be like a thick muffin batter. Not pourable, but thick and sticky.
Leave dough in the bowl, cover with a wet (clean) tea towel and place in a warm place (25C/77F+) to rise for around 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until almost tripled in volume. See Note 4 for how I do this (you will laugh - but it works every time!). Dough surface should be bubbly (see video or photos in post).
Forming Balls (watch video, it's helpful):
Line a 31.5 x 23.5 cm / 9 x 13" tray with baking paper with overhang.
Remove tea towel and punch dough to deflate, then mix briefly in the bowl to get rid of the bubbles in the dough.
Dust work surface with flour, scrape dough on work surface. Dust top of dough then shape into a log. Cut log into 4 pieces, then cut each piece into 3 pieces (12 in total).
Take one piece and press down with palm, then use your fingers to gather into a ball, flip (so smooth side is up) then roll the dough briefly to form a ball. This stretches the dough on one side and that's how I get a nice smooth surface on my roll. (For this step, use as much flour as needed to handle dough and avoid piercing inside into the wet dough)
Place the ball with the smooth side up on the tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Line them up 3 x 4.
Rise # 2:
Spray surface of rolls (or cling wrap) with oil (any), then place cling wrap over the tray.
Return tray to warm place and leave for 30 - 45 min, until the dough has risen by about 75% (less than double in size).
Partway through Rise #2, preheat oven to 200C/390F (standard) or 180C/350F (fan/convection).
Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, or until the surface is a golden brown and the roll in the centre sounds hollow when tapped. The surface colour is the best test for this recipe.
Remove rolls from oven. Brush with melted butter.
Use overhang to lift rolls onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool to warm before serving.
1. 1 tbsp dry yeast = 9 grams. I use Lowan Dried Instant Yeast (red tube, sold at Woolies/Coles baking aisle) which technically doesn't need to be frothed before using but there's no harm in doing it, and I do it out of habit + also because then the same steps apply to any dried yeast. If you are using the packets, you can just use 2 x 7 g sachets, that is 4 1/2 tsp which is slightly more than 1 tablespoon but it works just fine. Doesn't taste yeasty and makes it rise a touch more. Otherwise, measure out 1 tablespoon. If your yeast doesn't go frothy, sorry to say it's not active so your buns won't rise. To use fresh yeast (comes in a block that crumbles, not powder like dry yeast), use 27g/ 0.9 oz. You don't actually need to dissolve it in liquid like I do with the dry, but there's no harm in doing it and so for the sake of consistency, crumble it in and let stand until it foams up, same as using dry yeast.
2. Scalding hot milk and hot water kills the yeast. I heat milk for 45 seconds on high in the microwave, and use warm tap water. The test is this: stick your finger in. If it was a bath, would it be pleasant? Good. It's not too hot or too cold!
3. Breads are fluffier and slightly more tender if made with bread flour rather than normal flour (plain or all purpose). However, this recipe works great with normal white flour too. Cups around the world differ in size. If you don't have scales to weight the flour, please use the relevant cup size. For US/Canada, use 4 1/2 cups (they are slightly different, but close enough). For rest of world other than Japan, use 4 cups of flour. For Japan, please weigh the flour.
4. WARM PLACE for dough: This is what I do all year round - use my dryer. Laugh - but try it! Run the (empty) dryer for 1 - 2 minutes, then place the bowl inside. If you do that, the dough will rise in 1.5 hours. Even if it's snowing outside!
5. SUGAR: This is not a sweet roll (I'd use 1/2 cup+ for that) but there is a touch of sweet. 1/4 cup of sugar across 12 rolls = 1 tsp per roll. You can reduce it to 2 tablespoons of sugar.
6a. MAKE AHEAD: Follow recipe up to rolling balls and cover with cling wrap. Then refrigerate for 4 hours - 24 hours (this is the 2nd rise), take them out 30 minutes before then bake!
6b. STORING: As with all homemade bread, it is best served on the day it's made. Things made using this No-Knead version doesn't keep as well as the kneaded version - dries out more. For the day after, reheating makes all the difference to make them soft and moist again - 15 sec in the microwave! These freeze great cooked, then just defrost. The dough can be frozen too but it won't rise as well (but still fluffy). To reheat batches, I pop them on a tray and cover with foil (to avoid the surface getting too crisp), then reheat at 160C/320F for 8 minutes or so. Or cut in half and toast.
6c. DOUBLING: Make double the batter in one large bowl, then divide the batter into 2 bowls for the first rise (if double the dough is in one giant bowl, may struggle to rise). Proceed with recipe and place rolls on a large tray or 2 trays, and bake them all on the same shelf in the oven.
6d. EXTREME HUMIDITY (eg. South East Asia) can make the dough stickier after the 1st rise and makes it a bit harder to form into balls. Just be generous sprinkling with flour with forming into log, cutting, rolling into balls - don't knead the flour in, use it on the surface for handling purposes only. The dough is stickier than usual kneaded dough, so the technique I demo in the video to make the rolls is specifically to minimise making contact with the sticky dough.
7. SOURCE: This recipe is adapted from various no-knead bread recipes I've come across over the years. I probably first saw it on Martha Stewart or New York Times.
8. HIGH ALTITUDE: Multiple readers have now reported that this recipe worked out great! Also, varying reports on the dough seeming too dry or too wet then adjusted with more flour compared to that demonstrated in the video have all also worked out fine, proving that this recipe is actually very forgiving!
9. GLUTEN FREE: This also works with gluten free flour, though the rolls are not quite as fluffy as is usually the case when substituting GF flour. However, they are still definitely fluffy! I think you'll be amazed how well these turn out!