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4 cups milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/3 cup lard or shortening
1/4 cup sugar (increase to ½ cup for a sweet dough for cinnamon buns)
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp instant yeast
9– 10 cups flour
Combine milk and water and scald. I use my 8 cup glass measuring cup and do this in the microwave, approx 7 or 8 minutes. You want the milk to be about 120 degrees, it should be steaming with bubbles forming around the edges.
Add the softened butter, lard or shortening, sugar and salt to the milk mixture and continue to stir until the butter and shortening are mostly melted and salt and sugar are dissolved. It’s OK if there are still a few small unmelted pieces left. Now the mixture should be at baby-bottle-warm temperature.
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the milk/butter mixture to the eggs and mix until thoroughly combined.
Add 5 cups flour and beat well, about another 3-5 minutes.
Mix the yeast with 1 cup flour. I do this so that the yeast is thoroughly combined with the flour before I add it to the batter.
If using a stand mixture, switch to the dough hook and add the flour and yeast mixture, as well as another 3 cups flour. You have now used 9 cups of flour so far. Let this knead in your mixer for at least 3 or 4 minutes, and then you’ll gradually add more flour in ¼ cup increments, enough to make a soft dough, but not too sticky. You want it to be pulling away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. Give yourself at least 2 minutes of kneading each time before adding more flour to make sure that the flour has thoroughly incorporated into the dough. This is where experience comes in. I’ve learnt that when I stop my mixer, I want to the dough to settle by about 1 inch, and then I know I’ve added enough flour. I usually use a total of 10 – 10 ½ cups of flour.
Put dough into a large, greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. The oven, with the oven light on, is a good place. My oven has a 100 degree proofing setting, and it’s perfect.
Grease cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough. To form the buns, you can either take small pieces and roll them in your hands to form a smooth ball, or my preferred method – the pinching method. With lightly floured or buttered hands, pinching off a large handful at a time, form buns by pinching off a small egg-sized ball. The pinching action is not unlike making a fist, but using only your forefinger and thumb. Place on greased cookie sheets. Do not worry if these do not look perfect. Leaving an inch or two between them will give room for spreading. Once you have a sheet full, you can take each bun and lightly squeeze it through your thumb and forefinger once more, pushing with the other hand underneath. They will round out nicely and more so as they rise and bake. Cover again with tea towel. Let rise another 30-45 minutes. There’s a number of good youtube videos online that demonstrate shaping dinner rolls.
Preheat oven to 375F and bake 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. It helps to check the underside of the bun to make sure they’re done, you want the bottoms lightly browned as well. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
Yields 3 dozen. Whatever doesn’t get consumed that day should be frozen.