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How to Make Easy Cloverleaf Dinner Yeast Rolls

Helena Ricketts loves cooking from scratch and sharing her recipes with anyone who wants to try something new in the world of food.

These beautiful cloverleaf rolls are fresh out of the oven.

These beautiful cloverleaf rolls are fresh out of the oven.

The Beauty of the Dinner Roll

In my house, dinner rolls are one of the most important things that hit the table every evening. My husband is a beef, potato, and bread kinda man, so one of the first things that I had to learn how to make from scratch was the coveted dinner roll.

These rolls have just the right amount of sweetness to them. They are light and airy with an almost melt-in-your-mouth center. The outside of the rolls are firm and since they are brushed with butter straight out of the oven, they have that wonderful buttery taste that melts right into the bread.

We do cloverleaf rolls because they can be pulled apart during the meal and each leaf can be buttered on its own. This makes these rolls a fantastic companion to stews and soups because each leaf is the perfect finger size for soaking up that fantastic broth.

This recipe is made using a stand mixer to knead the dough but it can also be kneaded by hand. If you are hand kneading I have to forewarn you that it will require approximately 10 minutes of kneading in order to get the dough to the softness that is needed. I made these by hand a few times before finally caving and purchasing the stand mixer. It's easier with the stand mixer but not impossible to do by hand.

Ingredients to make the dinner rolls

Ingredients to make the dinner rolls

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour 50 min

20 min

2 hours 10 min

12 cloverleaf dinner rolls


  • 1 cup milk, local or organic if you can get it
  • 1 package yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar, organic or sugar cane are ideal
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt, use sea salt if you have it
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 more tablespoons butter, for brushing after baking
  • Drizzle olive oil, for coating the bowl while rising


  1. Cut the butter into chunks. Put the milk and butter into a saucepan and turn the heat to low/medium on the stove. You want to heat the milk and butter until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm, no warmer than 120°F or you will kill the yeast.
  2. Once the milk and butter are warmed up, pour it into your mixer bowl (you'll want to have the dough hook attachment already on the mixer) and add the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast is bubbly. This is the yeast's way of letting you know that it is alive!
  3. While the yeast is waking up, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. Turn the mixer on low and add the egg yolks.
  5. Start slowly adding the flour mixture until it is just mixed in with the milk and butter. Once you have all of the flour mixture in and it is incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high for approximately five minutes and allow the mixer to knead the dough for you.
  6. You'll know it is finished when the dough looks smooth and is pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. It's not going to look too pretty until you knead it a couple of times by hand. It should be soft and smooth after you knead it a few times. Form the dough into a ball.
  8. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of a bowl and give it a good smear with your fingers up the sides of the bowl. Drop the dough, top side down, and flip it over. This will give the top of the dough a thin coating of oil so it doesn't dry out while rising.
  9. Cover the bowl and put it into a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  10. Once the hour is up, punch the dough down and divide it into two equal pieces. Then divide each half into six equal pieces. Then divide each piece into three equal pieces. You should end up with 36 equal pieces of dough. If you are freezing any of the dough for future use, this is where you set those pieces aside for freezing.
  11. Grease the bottoms and sides of each of the cups in a 12-hole muffin tin.
  12. Form each of the dough pieces into a ball and put three balls into each of the muffin holes in the tin.
  13. Loosely cover the muffin tin with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise again for at least 30 minutes or until the rolls have doubled in size.
  14. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the rolls have finished rising, remove the plastic wrap and set the pan on the rack in the middle of your oven. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
  15. The rolls are done when they are a dark golden brown on top. They will rise more in the oven as they begin to cook so they will be larger than what they were when they went into the oven.
  16. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and keep them someplace warm until time to serve.
  17. Pull them apart, add butter and enjoy!

Adding Herbs to the Rolls

You can create variety in these finished dinner rolls by easily and quickly adding herbs to the dough. One of my favorite herbs to add to the rolls is garlic. It adds a bit of a zing to the finished product but almost any herb can easily be incorporated into these fantastic dinner rolls.

You can also add the herbs to the butter for the brushing at the end for a more subtle touch. A nice hint of rosemary, sage, or garlic provides a nice change from the every day, plain Jane yeast roll.

To add herbs to the dough:

  • First, decide what herb(s) you want to add. Rosemary holds up very well in this recipe along with garlic and basil. Tailor your herb choices for what the rolls will be eaten with.
  • I mix the chosen herbs into the flour mixture as the rolls are being made.
  • Another choice for a subtle hint of the herb is to lightly brush each ball with egg white and roll the ball in the dried herb before putting it into the pan for baking. This could add the twist of using three different varieties on one roll, each leaf being a different flavor.

You can experiment any way you want and that's one of the beautiful things about cooking at home. Sometimes you miss but sometimes you hit that fantastic home run that makes other people ask how in the heck did you do that?

5 Reasons to Make Your Own Breads at Home

  • Ingredients: If you have never read the ingredients label on a package of store-bought rolls, you should. If you don't know what an ingredient is, put it back and make your own!
  • Freezing: These rolls freeze VERY well.
  • Variety: You can add different things to the dough to change them up.
  • Choice: Use wheat, white, rye, or any type of flour you want to make the type of roll you like best.
  • Freshness: There are few things on Earth that taste better than homemade rolls straight out of the oven that are made without additives and preservatives.

How to Freeze Homemade Yeast Rolls

If you only need a few of these rolls, you can make a batch to use what you need and freeze the rest for a later date. Here's how you do it:

  • Follow the directions for making the batch of yeast dough.
  • Let the entire batch of dough go through the first 1-hour rise.
  • Form the balls for the dozen rolls but only put the number of rolls together in the pan that you will need. For example, if you only want to make four rolls then you will only use 12 of the balls, three in each muffin-pan cup.
  • Place the rest of the formed yeast balls on a cookie sheet that will fit into your freezer and put them into the freezer until they are frozen through. This usually takes a few hours.
  • Once the balls are frozen, put them into a plastic freezer bag, label the bag, and put it into the freezer.
  • To use the dough, take the number of balls out that you will need for the number of rolls that you want (three for each roll) and put them into the muffin pan cups.
  • Allow the dough to thaw and rise until the rolls have at least doubled in size. Depending on the temp in the room this could take from three to five hours.
  • Bake like you did the original batch.
This roll is fresh out of the oven and 30 seconds away from being devoured!

This roll is fresh out of the oven and 30 seconds away from being devoured!

Reap the Rewards!

I hope you try this recipe and explore the different options with it. Baking bread at home is a fantastic experience and the best part about it is that you get to reap the rewards and the rewards are good.

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© 2013 Helena Ricketts