Thursday, March 21, 2024

Light Wheat Seeded Dinner Rolls

Last fall, a long time client requested a “brown seeded” roll to go with a luncheon that I was preparing for her. This wasn’t an item I had in my repertoire. Whole wheat is something that I enjoy in hearty, substantial loaves (brown soda bread…the home-made hippy-style whole wheat loaves of my childhood—toasted and drowned in butter…), but that I don’t tend to want in things that to me are inherently light or delicate—or that are typically made with white flour. I don’t really like whole wheat pasta, for example. And I was most definitely not a fan of my mother’s stealth additions of whole wheat flour to things like pancakes and French toast when I was a kid.  Even though I favor dinner rolls that are light and fluffy (like my Grandmother’s pan rolls)…or possibly light and crisp (like a classic petit pain)…I admit that I have on occasion had delicious light wheat dinner rolls, so I was certain I could find something I would feel good about making.

I looked in a few cookbooks…and online. I eventually decided to try out a recipe published by David Tanis. I have great respect for Tanis…the way he handles ingredients…his palate…the simple finesse of the foods he prepares. I figured anything he made would be good…if not excellent.

The recipe I found was called “Seeded Molasses Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls.” I’m sure they would have been fine if I had followed the recipe as written, but I admit that my desire for something lighter led me to cut some of the whole wheat flour with bread flour (the sponge in the original recipe was already all bread flour…but the rest of the flour was whole grain). I knew that this adjustment would produce something one would identify as a wheat roll, without it being too heavy.

Other than that, my changes were minor. I added more salt. And I altered the finishing mixture of seeds. The original rolls had a topping of mixed spices/seeds that seemed to be too strongly flavored for the luncheon I was preparing. So I just topped mine with sesame seeds (I love sesame seeds on rolls...sourdough loaves...hamburger buns...).

After testing the recipe, I looked no further. The rolls were fantastic. They have a complex flavor…are sufficiently “wheaty”…yet have a nice light texture. The mixture of seeds

Clockwise from top: Flaxseed, Millet, Sunflower seeds, Pepitas

is flavorful and adds a subtle crunch. I suspect you could alter the mix to suit your pantry. But I like it so much as is that I haven’t bothered to experiment.

I have since made these rolls several times. You could definitely say they are now a part of my regular repertoire. I love having them on hand to go with soups and salads (they freeze/thaw beautifully). I like serving them just slightly warm. And they are delicious when split and toasted. The recipe makes 24 fairly good sized rolls (about 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall). This is actually larger than what I think of as a dinner roll, but it somehow seems just perfect with the aforementioned soups and salads. They could be made larger and serve as a sandwich roll (would be amazing filled with egg salad)…or they can be formed into 32 smaller rolls and tucked into square baking pans to make “pan rolls.”

Split and toasted with a salad and frittata....

Even if you are not adept at bread making, if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you should be able to make these rolls without difficulty. The most important thing is to resist the temptation to keep adding flour. The rolls will be heavy if you add too much flour. The dough will seem wet…and will remain slightly sticky as you work with it. If you are worried that it will be unmanageable, follow the original recipe’s instruction and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. The chilled dough is much easier to handle. If you must add more flour, I included a measured extra amount in the recipe (45 grams) to be added gradually as necessary during the kneading process.  You may add up to the full amount listed without adversely affecting the lightness of the rolls.

I'm so glad my client requested these rolls.  I hope you will give them a try...even if you think you're not really a fan of whole wheat bread....

Light Wheat Seeded Dinner Rolls

20 g. molasses
7 g. instant yeast (2 t.)
350 g. room temperature water
250 g. unbleached bread flour

40 g. flaxseed
50 g. millet
40 g. sunflower seeds
40 g. pepitas
100 g./2 eggs, beaten
55 g. olive oil
140 g. spelt flour
200 g. whole wheat flour
100 g. unbleached bread flour, plus up to 45 g. more for kneading
14 g. kosher salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt
2 1/2 T. sesame seeds
Flaky salt for sprinkling

Place the molasses, yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve. Whisk in bread flour to obtain a batter-like consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until mixture looks active, about 30 minutes.

the active sponge....

Meanwhile, soak the larger seeds for the dough: Put flaxseed, millet, sunflower and pepita seeds in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cool water and drain well (let sit in a strainer if necessary…seeds will absorb anywhere from 120 to 150 grams water). Stir the soaked seeds into the sponge mixture.

Add eggs, olive oil, spelt flour, whole-wheat flour, bread flour and salt. By hand, mix well until dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Using the dough hook, knead on medium low for about 10 minutes to develop the gluten, adding more flour if necessary (only add enough so that the dough can be handled). Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a smooth ball.

Transfer dough to an oiled bowl 

and let rise until doubled (about 1 to 2 hours).

Fully risen/doubled when you can stick  your finger into the ball of dough
and the hole doesn't fill back in.

Alternatively, transfer the dough to the refrigerator for a slow, cool rise overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put risen dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut dough into 24 65-gram pieces. Form each piece into a tight ball. Divide among 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing evenly. Cover dough balls loosely with a large piece of sprayed plastic wrap and place baking sheet in a warm spot until balls have doubled, about 1 hour.

Uncover and paint tops of balls lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and with sea salt, if using.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool on a rack.

Makes 24 large dinner rolls.


  • Making the dough a day in advance and letting it rise slowly in the refrigerator gives it a more complex character and makes it easier to handle. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking, or freeze raw dough for up to 1 month.
  • For a smaller roll, form into 32 50-gram balls and place in two 9- by 9-inch greased baking pans. After the rolls are cooked through (about 20 minutes) tip them out of the pan. If the bottom of the raft of rolls isn’t slightly golden, place them back in the oven (directly on the rack) for a few minutes.
(Adapted from New York Times, David Tanis)


JohnnyMac said...

These look really good. I shall have to give them a try.

Paige said...

I hope you enjoy them! I'd love to hear back if you try them out.

Cindy McCloud said...

These were so delicious when you made them as part of a curbside pickup dinner. Any easy conversion from grams to ounces, etc?

Paige said...

Hi Cindy! I'm so glad you enjoyed these rolls. I just made them for a dinner this weekend...and had one for lunch today. I love them.

As far as converting to ounces, just multiply the number of grams by (16/454...or .035). I didn't use volume measures because flour is so variable...and the variations will make a difference. The original recipe I adapted from is linked to in the text and it was written in volume and weights. I hope this helps. I will try and get to double checking the volume conversions and adding it to the recipe.