Good honey-wheat dinner rolls have the softness of white rolls, with satisfying heft and a nutty whole-wheat flavor that’s complemented by a touch of floral sweetness. That said, these appealing rolls rarely hit the mark: Commercial versions are soft but taste artificially sweet, while homemade rolls have good flavor but can be as dense as wet sand. What makes achieving great whole-wheat breads so difficult is the presence of the bran. This part of the grain, which is removed from white flour, gives wholewheat flour its distinct hearty flavor. But the bran is sharp so sharp that it cuts through the bread’s gluten structure, leaving you with a dense product.
To produce a light, fluffy whole-wheat roll, we’d have to incorporate some all purpose flour but not so much that we’d lose the roll’s earthy, nutty wholewheat flavor. We also had success when we made a very wet dough. The excess liquid softened the bran’s edges, ensuring that it didn’t wreak havoc on the dough’s structure. To boost the honey flavor, we used 6 tablespoons instead of the 2 that many recipes call for. As a bonus, the liquid honey hydrated the dough further and contributed softness. And to make sure the flavor came through loud and clear, we brushed the warm baked rolls with honey butter. With this finishing touch, our fluffy, pleasantly sweet, nutty-tasting rolls really earned their honey-wheat title.
- Yield: 15 rolls
- Total Time: 4 Hours
- 2½ cups (13¾ ounces) whole-wheat flour
- 1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1¾ cups whole milk, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, and 2¼ teaspoons salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, 6 tablespoons honey, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg together in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until honey has dissolved.
- Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours.
- Make foil sling for 13 by 9-inch baking dish by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in dish perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of dish. Push foil into corners and up sides of dish, smoothing foil flush to dish, then spray foil with vegetable oil spray.
- Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and stretch into even 15-inch log. Cut log into 15 equal pieces (about 2½ ounces each) and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Arrange dough balls seam side down into 5 rows of 3 in prepared dish and cover loosely with greased plastic.
- Let rolls rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat remaining 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt. Gently brush rolls with egg wash and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking.
- Combine remaining 1 teaspoon honey and remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter in bowl. Let rolls cool in dish for 15 minutes. Using foil overhang, transfer rolls to wire rack and brush with honey mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.