Gluten Free Dairy Free Soft Dinner Rolls Recipe
For the last week and a half I have been working on a gluten free recipe for dinner rolls. And not just gluten free dinner rolls but SOFT gluten free dinner rolls.
You see for several years now I have prepared and served completely gluten-free Thanksgivings. Not a pie crust, cracker or bread product with a speck of gluten has graced my feasting table. My family, friends and I have been very happy – no complaints. My gluten free cornbread stuffing is fabulous (she says modestly), I’ve mastered gluten free pie crusts, and gravy and creamed spinach is wonderful gluten free and a breeze to make. But the one thing missing was dinner rolls. The bread basket was not empty, I have served cornbread and biscuits; all fine but not the yeasty, warm, SOFT dinner rolls I remember from way back when. I missed them. I know they are in no way the star of the show, in fact they are barely a supporting character but still, I missed them. But it was my own fault; I never took the time to figure it out – to get them right.
For the most part cooking gluten free is no more complicated than regular cooking but gluten free baking poses challenges. I find that when I take the time to understand a subject it is easier for me to conquer the challenges. And of course I like to pass along what I have learned along the way.
Gluten is sticky, it holds things together (remember mixing flour and water together as a kid and getting paste? That’s the gluten.) So we need to add sticky stuff to our flours to make up for the lack of “glue.” The sticky stuff comes in the form of starches (such as tapioca, corn or potato starch) and gums (xanthan and guar). I wanted traditional, soft dinner rolls so I stuck with rice flours instead of the heartier ones like Millet and Sorghum. All rice flours are not created equally; the gritty texture people associate with gluten free baked goods made with rice flour is due to the way it is milled. Whenever I use rice flours, I use Superfine or Asian rice flour. But don’t use Asian potato starch as it is usually made with sweet potatoes and that’s not what you want. I also made these with my own ALL PURPOSE, Pastry Quality Flour blend and they were fabulous. (If I do say so myself!)
Gluten is a protein molecule; it adds structure to baked goods – helps them stay put. When you add yeast to flours that don’t have protein this is especially a problem. Imagine that you tried to pump air into one of those big bouncy houses and there weren’t enough sides or walls in the bouncy house – it would fall down right? So we need to add protein to our dough to act as the structure. Eggs provide the perfect solution.
Just as with flours, not all eggs are created equally. I tested this recipe using generic supermarket eggs and eggs from Nature’s Yoke – egg producers who use only pastured eggs from small, local farms where the chickens are all free roaming – no horror house cages-and-eggs factories. All their hens are free of drugs and hormones and are fed vegetarian diets. Studies have shown that eggs from free-roaming chickens are higher in nutrition than eggs from caged hens. I think that anyone, including chickens, will produce better, higher quality products if they have happier lives! And since we are adding eggs to the this recipe, they should add flavor as well – the rolls made with eggs from Nature’s Yolk were not only better tasting, they had a better texture and a more beautiful brown color.
To make soft, yeasty, risen rolls we need, of course, to add yeast. Yeast must be “active” to work. If the yeast doesn’t foam up while “proofing” it isn’t active – get new stuff!
This roll recipe is dairy-free. I don’t personally have to be dairy-free but others in my family do. However, since I was testing I made a few batches with dairy products and guess what? It was unanimously agreed upon that the dairy free rolls tasted better. There wasn’t a huge difference and if you want to make your’s with dairy, go ahead. But I will tell you this – the rolls made with rice milk and Earth Balance were more tender and the flavor of the honey shone through better without the dairy masking the flavor.
As I explained with my gluten free French bread recipe, gluten free baked goods need a little extra help with structure. They should be risen, baked and cooled in muffin tins to get them that little extra help. I also made a few batches in cake pans – I scooped the batter into the cake pans with an ice cream scoop and let them rise, bake and cool in those. These were very soft and made “pull apart” rolls. I personally like the aesthetics of the individual rolls better but it is just an option. There was no difference in rising and cooking times.
If you, like me, don’t relish the idea of making your rolls while trying to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal I have good news! I made several batches ahead, I let them cool in the muffin pans, covered the pans with plastic wrap and then refrigerated for up to 2 days, reheated for a few minutes and they were just as fantastic! In fact they are even good cold so if you have left-overs, save them for gluten free turkey sandwiches the next day!
Click here to see my cooking demonstration of this recipe on Daytime TV!
- 2 tablespoons dry active yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cups rice milk or milk (warm but not hot)
- *1½ cups superfine or Asian White Rice Flour
- *½ cup superfine or Asian Sweet Rice Flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
- *¾ cup potato starch (not potato flour)
- *½ cup tapioca starch
- 3 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3 large eggs divided
- ¼ cup butter or non-dairy butter substitute (Earth Balance recommended) (plus more for brushing the pans)
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Combine the yeast, sugar and warmed milk in a small bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Let sit for 6-8 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and has increased in volume.
Combine the flours, starches (or all-purpose gluten free flour blend), xanthan gum, salt and baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix for 30 seconds on medium-low to combine and break up any lumps in the potato starch.
Add the yeast mixture, 2 eggs, melted butter substitute (or butter), honey and vinegar. Mix on medium low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer on high and mix for 3 minutes. You should have a very thick, smooth batter.
Brush 2 standard muffin pans with melted butter (or butter substitute) or spray with gluten free, non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling about ¾ full. Alternately, you can use a small (#60) ice cream scoop and place 3 scoops in each muffin tin (like a clover leaf). Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft free place to rise. Let rise for 35 minutes or until the dough has almost doubled in size.
Beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water very well with a fork. Gently brush the tops of each roll with the beaten egg.
Bake for 17-18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
The rolls can be made ahead – bake them, let them cool in the pans, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Warm for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven.
*In place of the various flours and starches you can use 3¼ cups of a good quality, all-purpose gluten free flour blend.
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