Overnight Dinner Roll “Pillows”

Let me start by saying that this is the first of a few “Thanksgiving” posts that I will be putting up, as Troy and I made our big meal today (Sunday) instead of this coming Thursday as we will not be able to see each other for the meal that day. I made stuffing, turkey, gravy, stuffing and of course, these dinner rolls. I wanted to make so many more things but it all came together at the last minute and, in my tiny kitchen, I could only pull so much together. Was also planning on make some brussel sprouts since we got a nice beautiful stalk of them from the farmer’s market but I guess that will have to wait for another day.


These rolls were a complete surprise to me. The night before we planned to have our Thanksgiving feast I realized that I had no bread to serve. After searching through cookbooks and all over the web I began to get frustrated because I simply didn’t have enough time for long rises, etc. I started to think I’d just have to pull something out of the freezer and thaw it out but then I came upon a roll recipe on a wonderful online blog called Real Mom Kitchen called “Molly’s Rolls”.  A couple of things appealed to me about this recipe including shorter rising times and the inclusion of egg and milk- I wanted to make some sort of “enriched” dough. Reading through this recipe inspired me and I came up with a roll recipe that I can only call Dinner Roll “Pillows” because our reaction upon taking one fresh from the oven and brushed with melted butter was “Wow these are soft!”. Tearing one open and seeing the steam pour forth from the soft interior, just begging to melt a pat of butter, I knew I had succeeded. I worried the previous night while making this dough that they would end up dense and not rise properly, due to a shorter initial rise. But I have used an overnight fermentation method when making sourdough before so I figured, why not give it a shot? And it was wonderful!


I decided to use a good amount of bread flour, some all purpose and a bit of whole wheat to give it more complexity of flavor. If you want to use just all purpose flour, then by all means go for it but I will tell you that this combination worked amazingly for me. They almost reminded me of lighter potato rolls but of course there is no potato to be found in them. There is however, melted butter in the dough. Tell me how that can be bad?

And making the dough, forming the rolls and placing them directly on their baking sheet (on a silpat of course) the night before will save you time on a busy holiday morning for sure! Just take the tray out of the fridge about 2 hours before you plan to bake them. They don’t take long to bake, only about 15 minutes, depending upon how large you make them. I made one tray and placed the dough balls about an inch apart so that during rising and baking they would rise up against one another, making them very soft on the edges and almost a pull apart bread (although of course they didn’t really rise into one another).

These were wonderful served with a big turkey dinner and I am eagerly anticipating using one for a leftover turkey sandwich. I had another epiphany while putting the leftover rolls away: they would make a wonderful hamburger bun! I made mine just the right size. They have almost a brioche texture and I have been longing for a brioche hamburger bun but thus far have been unable to find one at any of my local megamarts so I will have to give this a try! You can of course, make these rolls smaller, as they will rise quite a bit. But be sure to brush them with some melted butter right after you take them out of the oven. Besides that wonderful taste it will give them a gorgeous golden color.


If you don’t want to let them sit overnight you can let them rise at room temperature after shaping them until they are nice and puffy and then bake.


Overnight Dinner Roll “Pillows”


  • 2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast (or 1 packet active yeast)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk or half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • ½ tbs. fine kosher or sea salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Cooking spray or vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

*You may need a bit more or a bit less flour depending on humidity, etc.- the dough should be tacky and pull away/clean the sides of the bowl


  • In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment pour the water, milk and butter and stir until mixed
  • Mix in the sugar and then the egg
  • Mix in the yeast and the 2 cups of bread flour
  • Switch the paddle attachment out for the dough hook attachment
  • Mix in the salt and the ½ cup of wheat flour
  • Add the all-purpose flour ½ cup at a time until the dough cleans the sides of the bowls and forms one mass around the dough hook
  • Knead for 3 minutes
  • Lightly grease a large bowl with either cooking spray or vegetable oil
  • With wet hands (to help prevent sticking as the dough will be tacky) remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl


  • Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for 30-45 minutes or until nicely puffy (it will not quite double in size)
  • Line a half sheet pan with parchment or a silpat and mist with cooking spray (or grease lightly with vegetable oil)
  • Portion out your dough into equal pieces- a kitchen scale is handy for this. Make approximately 4 ounce portions to make a sheet of 12 rolls or smaller, depending on what you like.
  • Roll each dough ball on an un-floured surface under the palm of your hand, using a circular motion, into a ball. Lightly spray your hands with cooking spray to help prevent sticking.
  • Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet 1 inch apart
  • Cover with plastic wrap (that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray on the side that will touch the dough) and refrigerate overnight


  • Remove the tray from the fridge at least 2 hours before you plan to bake and allow to come to room temperature and complete the final rise


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F about 30 minutes before you are ready to  bake, with the oven shelf in the middle position
  • Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 10-20 minutes, depending on how large or small you made your rolls. For 4 oz. rolls this should take about 15 minutes. They should be lightly golden brown on top and with an internal temperature of about 200 degrees F (taken with an instant read thermometer).


  • Brush with melted butter and serve immediately



9 responses to “Overnight Dinner Roll “Pillows”

    • I will be visiting my dad who lives out of town on Thanksgiving so I will have another meal that day- except that one I won’t have to cook myself!

    • I will be visiting my dad who lives out of town on Thanksgiving so I will have another meal that day- except that one I won’t have to cook myself!

  1. I’m definitely making these. I have a recipe for brown and serve rolls that my mom used to make, but I don’t have any luck at all making them, so I’m hoping these will turn out better. I don’t think I have any plans for tomorrow, so that will be my thing to do.

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