4 – 5 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons of active dry yeast (2 packages)
1 cups of milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup of water plus 1/4 to 1/2 cups more to be used as needed
Warm 1/2 cup of water to about 115F – 125F (about 30 seconds in a microwave on high works well for this.) Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt to the water and stir well. When the sugar and salt are dissolved, stir in 2 heaping tablespoons of yeast. Set aside and let proof for 5 minutes or so – the yeast will produce a frothy “head” on the water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 4½ cups of flour, the sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt, mixing well.
Heat the milk and butter to about 115F – 125F. The butter will start to melt, but you do not need to let the whole stick melt.
Stir the milk and butter mixture into the flour mixture, and add the proofed yeast and water. You will most likely need to add some more water a small amount at a time until you have a smooth and elastic dough. If the dough is sticky, add some more flour at about 1 tablespoon at a time. If mixing by hand, this is a laborious process. In a large stand mixer, it should take about 6 – 8 minutes. Once the proper texture has been reached, knead for an additional 6 – 8 minutes. Put the dough in a covered bowl and let rise for about 15 – 20 minutes, until nearly doubled in bulk.
Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ baking pan. Set the oven to 425F.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out to 1″ thickness. Use a 2.5″ biscuit cutter to cut the rolls. Place the rolls into the baking pan in a grid — the rolls should be just barely touching one another. (You may have a good bit of leftover dough, so maybe you should also grease and flour an 8″ square baking pan also for any remaining dough.)
Let the rolls rise about 15 minutes more, then place into the oven on a center rack. Bake for 12 – 13 minutes. The tops of the rolls should be golden-brown. Take a wooden spoon and lightly tap the rolls in the center. The sound should be clear and “hollow-sounding;” a dull “thud” indicates that you should let the rolls continue to bake another 2 – 3 minutes.
For a whole wheat variation, use 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2½ cups white flour, adding more white flour as required; use 3 tablespoons of honey instead of sugar.