Looking to bake some fluffy whole wheat dinner rolls? This whole wheat bread recipe is one of the best I’ve found and always creates soft dinner rolls that are healthy and tasty too!
The original recipe came from my great-grandma’s cookbook. Published the late 50’s, there are many gems tucked in and among the yellowing pages. I can get lost in that cookbook without even noticing that time is ticking away. And you can be sure when I came across a recipe titled “Twice Baked Dinner Rolls” I knew I needed to give it a try.
This recipe was developed to save the housewife on days when she had unexpected company.
The notes reveal that these dinner rolls were meant to be baked, frozen and then reheated in a 400+F oven for a few minutes before serving. Better yet? They weren’t supposed to dry out and by all appearances, come out of the oven looking, smelling and tasting like fresh baked bread!
Every time I make them, I almost feel like I’ve moved back in time. Fresh bread in an instant? What housewife wouldn’t have been proud of herself for that?!
Originally, the recipe was created for white flour. So of course, I had to tweak it a bit for the heaviness of a whole grain flour and exchanged white sugar for honey. The salt ratio also seemed high, so I cut back on that as well.
And now, whether I make this delicious recipe with 100% whole wheat flour or exchange the whole grain for a few cups of all purpose flour or even pastry flour, this recipe turns out fluffy dinner rolls that rise beautifully every time!
It never fails me. And so while this whole wheat roll recipe has to be baked for much longer than normal, I keep coming back to it again and again. The buns are just so delicious, moist and fluffy, I can’t stay away!
Let me walk you through how to make these slow baked whole wheat dinner buns. Oh, and I’ve included affiliate links to products I use, so you don’t have to hunt them down yourself.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- fresh milled whole wheat flour (I use organic red fife)
- heritage pastry flour
- active dry yeast
- warm water
- sea salt
- butter (or lard)
Tools You’ll Need
- Nutrimill Grain Grinder
- Bosch bread mixer with dough hook
- large bowl
- measuring spoons
- measuring cup
- piece of plastic wrap or damp cloth
- 11×14 glass baking dish
Watch the short video tutorial!
How to Make Slow Baked Whole Wheat Dinner Buns
And now? Let me show you how to make this whole wheat dinner roll recipe! You can also get directions on the printable recipe card below.
To start off, you’re going to measure milk and butter or lard into a small stockpot on the stovetop. You can do a mix of the two fats, if you prefer. Heat the milk just until the fats have melted. Set it aside to cool a bit. It doesn’t have to be at room temperature; just make sure its cool enough it doesn’t kill your yeast!
While your milk and melted butter are cooling, measure honey, warm water, salt and yeast into your mixing bowl. I like to do the first part of this recipe in my Bosch mixer. You’ll see why in a minute!
Add about 6 cups of whole wheat flour to your mixer, then add the warm milk and melted butter or fats. Turn your mixer on and let it run for about 5 minutes on low speed. Working the wheat flour will help strengthen it’s gluten strands, which results in more yeast bubbles being trapped in the dough, giving you a higher rise with your bread!
Note: if you are making bread by hand with a large bowl and wooden spoon, you can skip this step and just knead the finished dough by hand for 5 minutes. I just find it’s easier this way.
After your sticky bread dough has been kneaded, go ahead and add in a cup of pastry flour and let the Bosch mix it in for you. Turn this sticky dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Stop when the dough turns satiny in texture. Form a smooth ball and let it sit while you go grease a large bowl for the first rise.
Place dough in your bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, a beeswax wrap or a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place that’s also draft free. Let your dough go through its first rise.
When your dough has doubled in size, punch it down and knead it again on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 20-25 minutes. You’ll see the dough rise a bit again in this time.
And then, it’s time to shape it into rolls or buns!
Liberally grease your bread pan and then form balls that are 2.5 inches in diameter. Be sure to place them close together in the pan. Here’s why: because whole wheat has a weaker gluten content, breads tend to spread outward (instead of upward) as they rise.
But if you place your buns close together, they must go up because they can’t spread out! Also, having a pan with higher walls, helps (see link to best pan HERE).
Let the whole wheat rolls rise in a warm place, until they’re about half the height you’d normally go for. And then? You’ll place them in a preheated oven set to 275 F.
The long, slow bake will give the buns time to fully rise as they cook, and maybe even go a bit higher than usual! After about 30 minutes, your homemade rolls will turn a golden brown on top and you’ll find that delicious bread smell wafting out from the oven.
The original recipe in my great-grandma’s cookbook said to bake them for 40 minutes. But I actually find that 30 minutes is above perfect. Maybe my oven burns hotter than most, but 40 minutes is too long for a batch of 20 buns in a glass baking dish!
When finished, remove your buns from the oven and cover the golden tops with a damp tea towel. Let everything rest for about 20 minutes. And then? It’s time to tip your fluffy rolls out onto a wire rack to cool. You can serve them hot, let them cool and keep up to 10 days on the kitchen counter or store them a freezer bag in the deep freeze.
Can I substitute warm water for warm milk in this recipe?
Yes, you can! Milk will make your dinner buns softer in texture and even a bit sweeter in flavor. But water will do as well.
Is it ok to use white flour or bread flour in this recipe?
This recipe is very versatile. You can change up the ratio of white and whole wheat flour to the point of half n’ half. I’ve never tried using bread flour and find that whole grain pastry flour gives me the fluffiest end result.
Do I need to let my yeast rise for 5-10 minutes before adding other ingredients?
I never do. 🙂 In my kitchen, I always keep fresh yeast on hand for making yeast doughs, so there’s never any need to “proof” it before using! But if you’re worried, you certainly can test your yeast mixture, whether using instant yeast or acitve dry yeast.
Must I do a second rise with this dough?
You don’t really do a second rise with this recipe. Once you’ve punched it down after the first rise, you just let the dough rest for 20 minutes. And then? You form your dinner buns by rolling dough balls that are about 2.5 inches in diameter.
I don’t have a deep baking dish; can I just use a baking tray to make these buns?
The reason I recommend using a deep baking dish is because it makes whole wheat buns rise higher and leaves you with a fluffier texture. While you can make buns in a low-walled pan, you probably won’t get the same rise with them. I use this one HERE.
What does it mean if my buns are falling flat in the oven?
If you let your buns rise too much, they’ll probably fall flat in the oven. Next time, only let them rise an inch or so before putting them in to bake at 275F.
Can I increase this recipe for a double batch of buns?
This recipe doubles beautifully. Just make sure you have room in the oven for a double batch!
Slow Baked Whole Wheat Dinner Buns
- Nutrimill grain grinder
- Bosch bread bowl with dough hook
- large bowl
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- 11×14 glass baking dish
- plastic wrap or damp cloth
- 6 cups fresh milled red fife flour
- 3-4 cups whole grain pastry flour
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 4 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 cups heated milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter or lard
- Measure warm water, salt and honey into your mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of dry yeast on top and let sit.
- Warm your milk on the stovetop and measure in butter or lard.
- Heat until the fats have melted, then remove pot from the burner and cool.
- Measure 6 cups of red fife wheat into your mixing bowl.
- When milk has cool enough it won't kill the yeast (aka is warm but not painfully hot when you dip your finger in it), also pour it into your mixing bowl.
- Turn your Bosch mixer on and let it knead your dough for about 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour and let the machine also mix this in.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and slowly knead in another 2-3 cups of pastry flour.
- Knead the dough until it is soft and satiny.
- Grease a large bowl and place your dough in it for a first rise.
- Rub the top of the dough with melted butter or lard to keep moist while rising.
- Cover the top with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave it in a draft free place until dough has doubled in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently flatten it.
- For the dough into a round ball once again and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Heavily butter your glass bread pan, being sure to get the walls as well as the bottom of the dish.
- After it has rested, roll the dough into balls that are 2.5 inches in diameter. Place them in the glass pan, creating rows of 4 buns that are touching one another.
- When you've finished rolling buns, cover the pan with the same damp cloth and let them rise until they're about 1/2 the height of a normal bun.
- Remove the cloth and place them in a 275F oven to slow bake for 30 minutes.
- When the tops are golden brown and you can smell the aroma of fresh bread wafting from the oven, remove the pan and set in on a wire rack to cool.
- Cover the top with your damp cloth and leave the buns in your pan for 20 minutes.
- Remove and recover with the damp cloth until cool.
- Serve warm or bag, label and freezer for later.
Liz Isaac says
I’ve never thought of using a deep glass dish for making dinner rolls, but totally makes sense! I make 100% fresh milled whole grain bread regularly, but rarely do so as buns because it seems too dense to me. I’m excited to try this slow baked method! Do you ever put ascorbic acid in your fresh milled baking to help strengthen the gluten?
The deep dish works really well. I’ve never heard of adding ascorbic acid to bread before. Does it make a noticeable difference? I’ll have to look into it! 🙂
Liz Isaac says
I do feel like it makes a difference in how fast my bread rises and how it holds its rise. Something about the oxidizing factor helps the gluten hold longer and stronger.