How to Turn Your Bread Loaf Recipe into a Roll Recipe: 100% Whole Wheat Honey Rolls

I recently made an important discovery: it is super easy to turn a bread loaf recipe into a roll recipe. I volunteered to bring rolls to a friend's house for dinner, forgot to buy them, and not wanting to run to the store just for rolls, decided I'd just go ahead and try making some from my favorite recipe for white bread (which I'll post next week). They were super easy and a huge success. We had to ration them out to the hungry wolves children at dinner. Why are rolls so much more appealing than a slice of bread? Is it the texture of the exterior and interior, the just-the-right-size portion, the compact shape? I don't know, but I know kids and adults alike love them.

Loaf to Rolls

Generally speaking, to make rolls instead of a loaf of bread, divide the portion of dough for a single loaf into two, roll each half into a long strip (18" or so), and then divide into rolls. I usually divide strips into 10 to 12 rolls, so one loaf is equivalent to 20 to 24 rolls. I use a bench scraper to divide my dough, and if you bake and divide dough often it's definitely worth getting one, but you could also use a knife. Bake at same temperature (350 usually for bread) for 15 to 20 minutes, or about half the baking time for a loaf. But you could also make fewer and larger rolls, for example you could make 8 or 10 large buns that you could slice in half and use for burgers, but then you'll need to increase the baking time a bit.

Just as an illustration, here is my tried-and-true 100% Whole Wheat Honey Bread recipe turned into a roll recipe. You can find the original bread recipe and directions here. The ingredients are exactly the same. All that has changed is that after the first rise, instead of forming loaves, you form rolls. And then decrease the baking time.

Honey Whole Wheat Rolls (double recipe)

Makes 40 to 48 small dinner rolls

2 ¼ - 2 ½ cups whey or milk, lukewarm
2 T active dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey, maple syrup, or molasses (use 2/3 to 3/4 cup if you want noticeably sweet bread)
1 T table salt
0 to 6 T vital wheat gluten (I most often use no gluten or 1 T gluten)
6 to 7 cups whole wheat flour (2+ pounds)

Dough forming ball in the mixer.

  1. In a standing mixer, mix milk, yeast, oil, honey, salt, gluten and about 6 cups whole wheat flour until well combined. Add as much flour as you can without the motor straining and the mixer knocking. Continue kneading on level “2” (on Kitchenaid standing mixer) for 6 to 8 minutes. You may want to stop mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides. 
  2. Let sit 1 minute. Then add 1/2 to 1 more cups whole wheat flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) until the dough pulls away from sides of the bowl and forms a ball, but still sticks to the bottom of the ball some (see photo above).  
  3. Cover dough (I use a plate) and let rise until double in size. In the summer in my non-air-conditioned home, this takes less than one hour. You can accelerate rise time (in the winter if you are in a hurry), by putting the dough inside a barely warm oven (turned off). I find I get a nicer rise from a longer rising time, however. 
  4. Grease or line (I often use a Silpat) two baking sheets. Knead very briefly to press out air bubbles and divide in four. Roll out each portion into a 12 to 18" long strip, then divide each strip into 10 to 12 rolls using a bench scraper. Space rolls evenly on sheets. Cover with lightweight towel and allow to rise 1-2 more hours, until about double. You can use the oven (as in step 3) to accelerate rising once again, but I prefer not to
  5. Heat oven to 350. Bake rolls 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned on top and bottom. 
  6. Allow rolls to cool on rack, or enjoy immediately as soon as they are no longer piping hot! 

Bake and Freeze Whole Wheat Rolls in Bulk

Whole wheat rolls freeze and defrost beautifully, and my first grader now takes a whole wheat roll straight from the freezer in his lunch to school each day. Rolls are just so wonderfully portable. And tastier than a slice of 3-day-old bread according to my 6yo. The roll doesn't dry out like a slice of bread does, and recently defrosted straight from the freezer tastes almost as good as fresh out of the oven. I often grab a few for snacks on-the-go for my younger ones when we go on outings. They take 30 to 60 minutes to fully defrost.

Or Freeze the Dough and Enjoy Freshly Baked Rolls Later

I've never tried freezing fully baked white rolls. I suspect they wouldn't defrost as nicely, but I have frozen white bread dough and then baked up fresh white rolls later. I usually don't bother freezing whole wheat roll dough because the baked rolls freeze so well, but of course you could freeze the whole wheat roll dough as well. Simply freeze the dough on a sheet after dividing the dough and forming rolls (this is after the first rise and before the second rise). Once mostly frozen, you can transfer them to your reusable freezer bag. Allow an extra hour or two for the second rise and then bake as usual on a greased or lined sheet. I'm guessing the dough keeps well frozen for a couple of months, although we've always used up ours before then.

Related Posts

100% Whole Wheat Honey Bread Recipe
Better than Cake: Homemade White Sandwich Bread (or Rolls)
How to Make a Beautifully Risen Loaf of 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Lazy Person's Guide to Homemade Bread (Part 1) -- 5 Easy Steps to Get Started
Top 10 Reasons to Make Your Own Bread

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  1. I'll have to do this! There is something wonderful about rolls. I've been making this bread recipe 2 times a month and freezing 3 loaves and everyone loves it. Thanks, Betsy!

    1. So glad the recipe is working for you, Heidi! Yes, try the rolls. Your children will thank me.

  2. While my husband and I love our homemade bread, the teenage daughters have a yearning for the plastic stuff that comes from the supermarket. However, if I bake rolls rather than bread I run out before the end of the day !

  3. This worked like a charm. Thank you and well done!

  4. Thanks for the tips on using bread dough for rolls! If I make the dough today and need to bake it tomorrow, would you recommend putting the rolls in the refrigerator or the freezer?

    1. I'd say fridge. Sorry I didn't see this earlier. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

    2. Hi! Thank you for your reply. I actually just now got it. The notification went to my spam folder for some reason. Anyway, I did put them in the fridge overnight and it worked out great! Thank you so much!

    3. Oh, maybe I should add that I shaped them into balls and arranged them on the tray before I put it in the fridge. I didn't just put a big lump of dough in the fridge.


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