Why Cloverleaf Rolls? For one thing, when you pull them apart each piece has some crust from the top, and some softer dough on the bottom. But then, too, they have more surface to put condiments on when you pull them apart; condiments like jelly, jam, preserves, honey and butter- and who doesn’t like to butter their rolls.
And then there are the possible toppings that you can bake onto the rolls. I chose plain, salt, poppy seeds and sesame seeds. I suspect that you might also have a favorite.
This recipe is also nice in that it is made over two days, so much of the work can be done ahead of time, and then only putting the rolls in the muffin cups and baking them is left for the second day; the days don’t even have to be consecutive. You can do the first part 2 or 3 days in advance if it helps make your party easier to schedule.
Makes 12 rolls
- 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup warm water (100 degrees to 115 degrees)
- 1 four-ounce packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs, divided
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- cooking spray
- optional toppings, e.g. poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt
- In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar and water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit until foamy- about 5 minutes.
- Separate one egg; save the white for an egg wash, and the yolk will go into the dough with the other whole egg.
- Add 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture and, using the mixer, beat on medium until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, the whole egg and egg yolk, and the cooled melted butter; beat until combined.
- Using a wooden spoon, add the other 2 1/2 cups of flour about a half cup at a time, and mix until it is all combined
- Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough to it. Spray the top of the dough, loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days). The dough will double in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, and divide it into 36 equal pieces (about 1 ounce each).
- Coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. Roll each dough piece into a smooth ball and place three balls in each muffin cup.
- Coat the top of the filled cups with cooking spray, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in size, 60-90 minutes.
- Add a tablespoon of water to the reserved egg white, and paint the tops of each roll with this egg wash. If toppings are being used, sprinkle the topping on the rolls at this time.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls until puffed and golden- about 10-15 minutes.
And here are some thoughts from my experience with this recipe. When I first put it together, I had too much moisture, and the dough balls did not keep there individual positions, but seemed to meld together on top so there was one very big roll. I have reduced the moisture, and now the recipe gives excellent results. Note that this is a yeast dough, but there is no kneading of the dough- the recipe is very easy except for getting all of the flour into the dough.
I found that I need to turn the ball of dough while adding the last 2 1/2 cups of flour. Otherwise, the dry flour seems to slip under the dough ball and hide, and stay dry; it is not part of the dough needed to make the rolls. So be certain that the dough ball picks up all of the flour, and none of it hides at the bottom of the bowl.
When dividing the dough ball into 36 equal pieces, you might want to weigh the first couple pieces you separate off to calibrate your eye for doing the rest. I found that what worked best was to cut rows from the ball, each about 1 inch wide, and then cut the row into individual pieces about the same size. A rather dull knife works well; I used a bench scraper, or a regular table knife.
The first row will be weird since it is on the edge of the ball and both ends are very curved and it is hard to see the long straight row that will make multiple pieces; leave this first row until you have done the second row, then you can see how to pull the long thin tails of the first row into the size pieces you need.
Even so, if you do not come out with just 36 equal pieces, you will need to determine which pieces are too large or too small and adjust their size.