Honey Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Baking a batch of whole wheat rolls that’s both SOFT and FLAVORFUL feels like winning the lottery. Or, at the very least, winning dinner time.
What normally results in hockey pucks can finally grace our dinner tables proudly. These honey whole wheat dinner rolls easily compete with (and beat) the tastiest white flour rolls because they’re nutty, a little sweet, and have a little more oomph in the texture department. And unlike “whole wheat rolls” with refined flour hiding in them, this recipe is 100% whole wheat.
Let’s get right into it because we have a lot of carbs to cover today!!
Whole wheat flour is picky. It’s heavy and doesn’t contain the same level of gluten as white flours. This missing gluten poses a problem when it comes to bread making. Many whole wheat bread recipes call for the addition of vital wheat gluten to make up for it, but I don’t really keep that in my kitchen and assume you don’t either. Another option would be to sub some whole wheat flour out for all-purpose or bread flour. But then the whole wheat rolls won’t be 100% whole wheat. I worked around this as best I could and after a few failed whole wheat dinner roll attempts, I landed on both a recipe and method I loved. And I’m confident you’ll be satisfied too!
Admittedly, these whole wheat rolls aren’t as fluffy and tall as their white counterpart, but I like that they have a heartier texture. (And I appreciate that they are 100% whole wheat and call for readily available ingredients!)
HOW THIS RECIPE WORKS
I adapted this whole wheat roll recipe from my regular version. You’ll need the same exact ingredients, except you’ll swap the bread flour for whole wheat. A few other differences make up for the heavy and dense whole wheat flour:
- Use softened butter instead of melted. Softened butter produces lighter and fluffier cakes, so I figured it’d work here too. And my gut instinct was right! I ended up increasing the softened butter in test batch #2 and even more in test batch #3. 1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 Tablespoons) produced the best tasting whole wheat rolls.
- Use 2 whole eggs instead of 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. The extra liquid from the egg white keeps the dough a little more hydrated.
- I added an extra Tablespoon of honey for flavor.
And the glue holding everything together is our superior baking yeast. The one and only Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast. This is an instant yeast and my preferred yeast for any and all bread baking. I’m a fangirl for RSY and use it exclusively in my kitchen because it’s always a guarantee.
The dough comes together easily. I recommend using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (most stand mixers are sold with it), but if you don’t have a stand mixer, mix the dough together with a wooden spoon and knead by hand.
Whole wheat dough requires a slightly longer rise time since it’s weighed down with wheat germ and bran. There are 2 rises. The first for about 2 hours after the dough is made, the second for about 1 hour after the dough is cut into rolls. No shortcuts around either rise time.
(*While you can’t rush it, you can certainly make things easier on yourself by following my make ahead instructions below!*)
Now here’s where things take a different turn. Normally I divide the bread dough and roll into individual balls. (Just like with my honey butter rolls.) It works, but the dough never rolls up perfectly. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient, but some of the rolls end up looking a little scraggly and misshaped. It’s frustrating, especially when I want uniform shaped buns. (LOL!)
And that brings us to the following approach.
THE BEST SHAPING TRICK
Instead, let’s take our risen dough and shape it into a long 9×13 rectangle, the size of our baking pan. Almost as if we were making cinnamon rolls, but we’re not stretching the dough out quite that far. It’s pliable, so just use your hands to shape the dough as best you can.
Then take your pizza cutter and cut into 15 rolls.
SO EASY!!! No individual rolling!!!
Then it’s business as usual. Loosely cover and allow the rolls to rest and rise one more time. They’ll get nice and puffy in about 1 hour.
Bake the whole wheat rolls until they’re golden on top then finish them with 2 goodies: a brush of honey butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. You know I’m a big fan of finishing touches and trust me when I say: the brush of honey butter and sea salt are the best. Both boost the rolls from “good” to “wow I can’t believe these are whole wheat rolls because they taste dynamite.” (I trust you’ll say those exact words.)
The honey butter will soak down into all the cracks and crevices and the sea salt makes that honey flavor pop. They’re crucial.
These honey whole wheat dinner rolls are soft, but they aren’t particularly fluffy. But that’s one of their best qualities! Unlike rolls made with refined flour, these whole wheat rolls are hearty; they have structure, body, texture, and staying power. Great for soup dunking, maple almond butter spreading, mopping up all this delish sauce, and pretty much anywhere carbs belong.
Told ya… WINNING.
You should also try my 100% whole wheat pizza dough!
Honey Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Red Star® Platinum yeast
- 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (cut into 4 pieces)
- 1/3 cup (105g) honey
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) whole wheat flour, plus more for kneading/shaping
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons honey
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Make the dough: Pour the warm milk over yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Or, if you don't have a stand mixer, a regular large mixing bowl. Whisk together, cover bowl with a towel, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will be frothy and foamy after 5 minutes.
- On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Then beat in the honey, eggs, and salt. The butter won't really be mixing into the mixture, so don't be alarmed if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 6-7 more minutes. The dough should pull away from the edges of the mixing bowl. Poke it with your finger; it should gently bounce back. If the dough is too sticky, add more whole wheat flour 1 Tablespoon at a time until it pulls away from the bowl and you have the right texture. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.*
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball, coat your mixing bowl with nonstick spray or olive oil, and place the dough back in and turn it over so all sides of the dough are coated with the oil/spray. Cover the dough/bowl loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 - 2 hours. Here's what I do: turn the oven on to 200°F (93°C). Once heated to that temperature, turn the oven off. Stick the covered dough inside the oven and allow it to rise in this warm environment.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
- Shape the rolls: Punch the dough down to release any air bubbles and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using floured hands, stretch the dough into a 9x13 rectangle (doesn't need to be exact, it can be a little smaller). Use a pizza cutter and cut into 15 rolls. See photo above for a visual. Round out the edges of the rolls since they stretched a bit as you cut them. Arrange in prepared pan. Loosely cover the rolls and allow to rise in a warm environment again until puffy and double in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake rolls for about 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don't brown too much. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
- Top the rolls: Meanwhile, mix the melted butter and honey together. Brush over warm rolls. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve warm.
- Cover any leftover rolls and store at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can also freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
Make ahead tip: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4. Or freeze for up to 2 months, then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and continue with step 4.
*Lower fat milk can be substituted, but the rolls won't taste as soft. I strongly suggest whole milk.
Don't leave off that honey butter/sea salt topping. The rolls will be lacking a little flavor without it. I prefer spreading the honey butter on the rolls after they bake as opposed to before they bake. Brushing butter on top of the delicate, airy unbaked roll weighs them down and encourages them to deflate. Best to spread on the honey butter right after baking.
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