Our holidays almost always include at least one incarnation of a rich, decadent bread, and that’s often in the form of a decorative wreath or braid, Christmas morning cinnamon buns, or soft and buttery dinner rolls.
While it’s totally possible to make bread without milk and eggs, the most festive ones usually feature both. These are the elements that make these breads so special – tender and unassuming, they’re ready to shine with not much more than but a smear of butter or a swipe of gravy. Their mildness is perfect for highlighting whatever they’re accompanying, be it sugar and spices, candied fruit, or leftover Christmas roast. While I do sometimes include a small amount of whole wheat flour, these dinner rolls are a completely different animal from our usual wholesome loaf, and I wanted to be able to bring that element back to our holiday table.
As a devotee of the no-knead movement, I was thrilled to discover I could still get airy buns with lots of lift (*ahem*) without an extended kneading session.
The resulting rolls are so squishy and delicious that test batches were scarfed down in no time. The butter soaks in and helps to keep the crust soft, while giving them a slightly salty exterior reminiscent of croissants.
This dough recipe is very adaptable and can be used as the base for vegan cinnamon buns, challah, brioche, burger buns, or even formed into loaves and used as a classic farmhouse sandwich loaf.
As always, I prefer homemade soy milk in these, due to its richness and higher protein content, but go ahead and experiment with other (unsweetened) non-dairy milks to find one that works for you.
No-Knead Vegan Dinner Rolls
These soft and buttery dinner rolls are perfect for Christmas dinner. The rich and tender dough can also be used to make cinnamon rolls, challah, burger buns, or farmhouse sandwich loaves.
- 1 cup water (warmed)
- 1 cup soy milk (warmed)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp aquafaba (bean water reserved from canned beans)
- 1/4 cup non-dairy butter, melted (plus more for brushing)
- 6 cups (930 grams) all purpose flour (can sub one or two cups whole wheat)
Heat milk and water until just warm/body temperature. Pour into bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl). Add sugar, stir to combine, then sprinkle over with yeast.
Measure and melt butter; measure flour. Gather remaining ingredients.
Ensure yeast is alive and active (it should look foamy after several minutes; if not, you might have to replace it with fresh yeast). If the yeast looks good, add salt, aquafaba, melted butter, and flour to the bowl with the liquids. Stir (use the dough hook if using a mixer, the handle of a wooden spoon if doing it by hand) until well combined (a minute or so). Dough will be somewhat sticky.
Leave dough in bowl; cover with a plate or something to keep dough from drying out. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour and a half).
Once dough has risen, prepare large baking pan or sheet by coating well with non-dairy butter (you can make 12 large buns in a 9 x 13 pan, or 24 smaller rolls in a 13 x 18 half sheet pan). On a floured surface, punch down dough and divide into the appropriate number of pieces (I cut the ball into four equal pieces, then each of those into two, and each of those into three, to get 24 rolls). Form each piece into a tight ball by tucking the sides down and under until you have a smooth, seamless top.
Melt an additional 2 – 3 tablespoons of non-dairy butter and brush half of it across tops and sides of the rolls. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).
About 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Once rolls have risen, remove towel, and bake rolls until golden, about 20 – 25 minutes.
Remove rolls from the oven, and immediately brush tops with another thin coating of butter. Slide onto cooling rack, and let cool slightly before serving.