Amma learned how to  make dinner rolls from a Tarla Dalal book. They used to be pretty but a tad yeasty–thanks to the substandard domestic yeast available three decades ago. She kept bettering the craft, and the shapes you see me make today are the exact same ones that Amma made then.

When I was studying breads, this was the first ever recipe taught to us. I now know why–it is a simple, straightforward recipe that works like a charm even if you do it blindfolded, and it always yields pretty results. The soft crumb of the rolls and the buttery aftertaste seal the deal. Once you master this recipe, it is very easy to move on to more complex breads because you will have gained an understanding of yeast and flour behavior, and had some practice kneading.

One keyword–baby bum. That’s how soft the dough must feel when you roll it into a ball. Pliable, sweet smelling, and bouncy.

Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 450 gms. all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. butter + for greasing and brushing
  • 2 tsp.salt
  • 200 ml lukewarm milk + for brushing
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds/sesame seeds to sprinkle (optional)

Baking time: 12-15 minutes

Baking temperature: 230 degrees centigrade

Makes: 16 rolls

Difficulty levels: Very easy

Method:

  1. Mix the yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour half the lukewarm milk over the yeast and allow it to stand for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the frothed yeast to it. Add the reserved milk or water and knead to a soft dough. Sprinkle more milk, if required.
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead in stretching motions for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Rub the butter and salt together until pale and creamy. Incorporate the butter into the dough and knead again until smooth and elastic. Cover and allow to rise until double in size.
  5. Knock back the dough and knead again, briefly. Divide into 16 portions and shape as desired—knots, simple round buns, plaits, etc. and place well apart on a greased baking tray. Leave in a warm spot until double in size again; about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Brush lightly with milk. If using seeds, sprinkle them on at this stage.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 230 degrees centigrade for 12-15 minutes until pale golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with butter.
  9. Allow at least one hour to cool before serving.