Thyme Infused Dinner Rolls (with homemade cultured butter)

These herbed pull-apart dinner rolls, with their rustic crust and fluffy sweet interior, possess exactly the right density and flavor for sopping up pan drippings and gravies at Thanksgiving. The dough comes together like a velvet symphony when ingredients are allowed to reach room temperature and the mixing bowls warmed before combining. The secret to the light and fluffy interior is to add only as much flour as necessary and not a pinch more.
Dough Ingredients:

Pull-apart dinner rolls infused with fresh thyme.

 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup (8 oz) milk, slightly warmed
1 large egg (locally sourced, of course)
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or peanut)
4 tablespoons sugar (do not skimp)
1 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour (but very likely less)
2 tablespoons minced thyme (fresh, please)
Topping ingredients:
2 tablespoons soft, room temperature butter
1 glug of olive oil
1 teaspoon course salt
1 tablespoon minced thyme
Dough Instructions:
  •  In a warm dry bowl, combine 1 cup slightly warm milk with 1 tablespoon active dry yeast. Stir until dissolved. Set aside until foamy, about ten minutes.
  • In a separate bowl combine egg, oil, sugar, salt, and thyme. Whisk.
  • Stir in the yeast mixture.
  • Add 1 cup of bread flour and combine thoroughly.  Add additional flour, about 1 cup, incrementally until a sticky dough forms.
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm draft free place to rise, about 1 hour. At this point you will worry that you have not done enough fussing or flouring, but you will be courageous and walk away to let the gluten develop.
  • If you are fortunate enough to own a deep-dish cast iron pan, for goodness sake oil it and set aside. If not, a 9X13” cake or casserole dish will do, greased.
  • Prepare the butter topping by mixing 2 tablespoons of soft, room temperature butter with minced thyme and a nice glug of olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Webbed appearance

  •        After the dough mixture has risen and takes on a webbed appearance when pulled away from the side of the bowl, scoop it out onto a lightly floured countertop and work in just enough flour so that the dough turns from sticky to velvety.
  •       Cut dough into 12 equal pieces. 
  •       Shape each piece into a dinner roll. Keep your hands lightly dusted with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you. Don’t worry about making perfectly smooth dough balls. Things will even out in the second rise.
  • Arrange dough balls in the baking dish so there is space between each roll. 
  • Place in a warm draft free spot to rise, about 30 minutes. 
  • Heat oven to 360 degrees.
  • When the dough has risen so that it crowds the pan, thoroughly coat the tops with the butter, herb and oil mixture using a pastry brush. Use a gentle touch to avoid deflation.
  • Sprinkle the tops with course salt.
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown. 
  • By all means enjoy piping hot, especially with a dollop of homemade butter.
Speaking of homemade butter…

Heavy cream and buttermilk

1 quart heavy cream
quarter cup cultured “buttermilk” (the stuff you find in the store)
Day 1
  • Pour heavy cream into a clean, dry caning jar until nearly full.
  • Add a quarter cup of buttermilk.
  • Cap and shake gently.
  • Uncap to let the gas out, then recap lightly, just until you feel resistance.
  • Leave on the counter, lightly capped, for 24 hours. Nope, do not refrigerate.
Day 2
Congratulations, you have made crème fraîche. By all means drop a dollop of this glorious, tangy concoction onto a crusty thyme roll with an anchovy and a sprig of chive and savor your good life and all of its bounty. Then…
  • Pour crème fraîche into a mixing bowl.
  • Using the paddle attachment, mix at high speed until butter forms. This takes several minutes of continuous, rigorous beating. The mixture will go through a series of predictable stages to let you know when you are close:

From crème fraîche to butter in three minutes.


  •      Pour off the liquid, but do not discard! This liquid is real buttermilk, the stuff people referred to in your grandmother’s cook books and old family recipes. For goodness sake save this stuff in a jar in the refrigerator for the buttermilk biscuits you are going to whip up later.
  •        Rinse the butter with cold, clean water and press forcefully against the side of the bowl with the back of a spoon, squeezing out all the residual buttermilk. Repeat this process until the liquid runs clear, about three cycles.
  •       Add salt if desired, in quantities that suit you. Mix thoroughly
  •      Slather your homemade butter over a hot, thyme-infused dinner roll.  
         Savor your moment of Zen.

I am so, so excited about linking up with Homestead Bloggers Network and the 7 Days of Homemade Thanksgiving Recipes. Check out the delicious bread recipes below, and be sure to visit the site for recipes to last you the whole season.

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  • Reply Angela November 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Those rolls look AMAZING! I am going to try that thyme and butter treatment next time I bake bread too! Thanks for participating in our link up!

  • Reply Misty Schutt November 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks Angela! It took several attempts before we got the recipe right for a bread with the proper gravy sop-ability but I think we nailed it with this one 😀

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