How Homemade Brown-and-Serve Dinner Rolls Help Me Sleep Better

Sneak Preview: Having Homemade Brown-and-Serve Dinner Rolls on hand in the refrigerator or freezer gives you one less thing to worry about when preparing a big meal. Use this technique with almost any simple yeast roll recipe. I’ll show you how.

Homemade brown and serve rolls on a board--ready to eatPin

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Do you ever find yourself lying in bed the night before a dinner party, thinking about the timing of your meal preparation? You would think, after all these years, I would have it figured out–especially the bread.

But unlike pecan pies and Uncle Joe’s favorite orange jello salad that can be prepped in advance, day-old rolls lack that fresh-from-the-oven allure.

My solution? Homemade brown-and-serve dinner rolls.

Three Reasons Why You Need This Recipe

  1. Preparing the dough ahead of time may help you sleep better the night before a big dinner. You can use this technique with most basic dinner roll recipes. I will use a crowd favorite, my Classic Dinner Rolls in this post.
  2. Mix and knead the dough using the DOUGH cycle on your bread machine. Follow the directions for how to refrigerate or freeze the dough so that you can bake the rolls on another day.
  3. If you have a favorite roll recipe you make by hand or with a stand mixer, the process is the same after you make the dough and let it rise the first time. Proceed with confidence.

The Brown-and-Serve Approach Offers Several Advantages

  1. Make the dough and par-bake the rolls in advance.
  2. Store the rolls in the freezer for weeks or refrigerate for a few days.
  3. Bake only the amount required, saving the remainder in the freezer for another day.
  4. Eliminate the common pitfalls of underproofing or overproofing the dough during hectic meal prep.

📌Kitchen Tips for Success📌

My Classic Dinner Rolls--Par-bakedPin
My Classic Dinner Roll Recipe, Parbaked–you can shape the rolls this way for brown-and-serve rolls, but they are more difficult to store if you don’t have much freezer or refrigerator space.
  • Brush the rolls with melted butter before and after each trip through the oven to prevent the crust from drying out.
  • Handle par-baked rolls with great care! They are fragile. Always use a spatula to move warm rolls off the baking sheet. Even a gentle squeeze can deflate them.
  • Use a quick-read digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature, as you won’t have the typical golden brown color to indicate doneness. However, it’s important that the rolls come to 185-190˚F (85-88˚C) on the inside during the par-baking stage.

How To Par-Bake Dinner Rolls

This dough comes from my Classic Dinner Roll recipe (see the video below). You may opt for a different recipe, but whatever recipe you choose should contain enough fat to keep the rolls moist through two baking sessions.

Step 1–Shape the Dough: Once the dough cycle is complete on your bread machine, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. A silicone baking mat is handy for this task and easy to clean in the dishwasher.

pulling dough out of a bread maker after the DOUGH cycle ends.Pin
Flatten the dough with your hands, divide it into two equal parts, and shape each into a ball.
Using a rolling pin to shape the dough into a rectangle.Pin
Use your hands and a rolling pin to press one dough ball.
rectangle shape for making butterhorn rolls.Pin
To make the butterhorn shape, roll a ball into a rectangle measuring approximately 8 x 12 inches.
Cutting the dough into slender rectangles.Pin
1) With a short end close to you, slice the rectangle in half crosswise with a bench knife. 2) Cut each resulting square in half horizontally to get four equal rectangles. 3) Divide each rectangle in half diagonally to yield eight long, slender, triangular pieces of equal size, as shown here.
Rolling up the triangles of dough to make a butterhorn roll.Pin
Create the butterhorn shape by rolling the dough from the wide end towards the narrow end. Pinch the point to secure it to the bottom of the roll and keep it from popping out while baking. Then, place the roll on a prepared baking sheet (greased, lined with a silicone mat, or parchment paper) for proofing.

Repeat the shaping process with the other ball of dough. You should end up with 16 rolls total.

Step 2–The final rise: Cover the shaped rolls with plastic wrap or a tea towel for the final rise, allowing them to almost double in size. They should feel soft and fluffy to a gentle knuckle touch on the side. If the dough springs back quickly, it may need more time to rise. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 275˚F (140˚C).

Shaped rolls before the second rise and par-bake.Pin

Step 3–Par-bake the rolls: Place the rolls onto the middle rack of your oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 185-190˚F. You’re aiming for minimal browning while ensuring the rolls are fully baked inside.

picture of one rolls that is too dark and another that's very light.Pin
In my oven, the rolls get too brown on the bottom (left). If you have the same problem, try putting an empty baking sheet or broiler pan on the rack below the rolls as they bake.
Removing the rolls with a spatula to a cooling rack.Pin
After removing the rolls from the oven, let them sit on the tray for about 5 minutes. Remove them carefully with a spatula.
brown and serve roll that was accidentally injured while still warm. Pin
These rolls are VERY delicate. I picked up this roll with my hands while it was still warm from the par-bake. It never recovered, even after the final bake. 😩

Step 4–Cool and Store:

freezing parbaked rolls to be baked later.Pin
Place cooled par-baked rolls into a plastic bag. Double bag for better protection against freezer burn.

Step 5–Final Bake with Two Options

Option 1: Thaw frozen rolls at room temperature, which takes about an hour in my kitchen.

Option 2: Bake the rolls directly from the freezer or refrigerator, with no thawing necessary for refrigerated rolls.

For both options, brush the rolls with butter and bake at 425˚F (220˚C) for 8-10 minutes until they achieve a golden brown color—frozen rolls might need an additional minute. Brush with butter once more. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Baked butterhorn roll with butter on a butter knife to the side.Pin
Place rolls onto a prepared tray. Let them thaw for about an hour or bake them straight from the freezer or refrigerator. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Brush the rolls with butter, and bake them for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
Brushing the rolls with butter after they come out of the oven.Pin
Brush the rolls one more time with melted butter after they come out of the oven.
a single butterhorn-shaped brown-and-serve roll with butter on the side.Pin

FAQs About Homemade Brown and Serve Dinner Rolls

Can I refrigerate the unshaped dough and bake the next day?

Yes, you can refrigerate the unshaped dough and bake it the next day. For optimal flavor, aim to bake it within 12-18 hours. Once out of the fridge, let the dough warm up until it’s pliable for rolling and shaping. After shaping, let the rolls rise until they’ve nearly doubled in size, then bake in a preheated oven as per the recipe’s instructions.

Can I freeze the shaped rolls without baking them?

Yes, you can freeze the shaped but unbaked rolls, though the flavor might be slightly affected. However, they will still be delightful, particularly if they aren’t frozen for too long. A benefit is that shaped rolls occupy less space in the freezer. Remember to allocate time for thawing and the final proofing.
Here’s how: After the initial rise, roll and shape the dough. Place the rolls onto a baking tray, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until solid. Then, transfer the frozen rolls into a plastic bag and store them for up to two weeks. To bake, place the frozen rolls onto baking sheets to thaw and proof once more. They should become soft and puffy before baking. The thawing and proofing process can take a couple of hours, depending on room temperature, before they’re ready to bake as instructed in the recipe.

Can I cook brown-and-serve rolls in a microwave?

No. The rolls must be baked in a conventional oven to achieve the caramelization and browning necessary for that excellent flavor. Microwave cooking won’t provide the same results.

Why do my rolls have wrinkles on the top?

They probably didn’t get fully cooked. It’s crucial to ensure the rolls are fully cooked internally during the par-baking stage. A quick-read thermometer (paid link) is an essential tool to verify that they’ve reached the desired interior temperature of 185-190˚F, preventing undercooked results.

How do I keep the rolls from getting too dark on the bottom?

If you are using good, heavy pans, it is easy for this to happen. Try placing an empty baking sheet on the rack underneath the rolls. You could also try moving the rolls up higher in your oven.

Why do you brush the rolls with butter before and after baking?

It amplifies the buttery flavor and keeps the crust tender through two bakes.

Why do you roll your dough into a rectangle instead of a circle to make butterhorn rolls?

Traditionally, butter horns are made by rolling the dough into a circle and cutting it into pie-like wedges. However, starting with a rectangle makes a fuller shape with more layers that enhance their appearance and result in more even browning, especially with the brown-and-serve method. It’s worth experimenting with both techniques to find your preference.

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Parting thoughts: The tastiest bread typically comes from dough that’s mixed, kneaded, shaped, and baked in the oven with no pre-bake or storage. However, your peace of mind takes precedence. If the brown-and-serve method helps you serve a scrumptious dinner efficiently, then it’s the right choice. Additionally, if you need to transport your rolls and can bake them upon arrival, this method allows that option.

Sharing idea💡: Consider giving par-baked rolls to a friend or neighbor who might be alone during the holidays or embarking on a journey. Don’t forget to add the final baking instructions with your thoughtful gift.

Recipe Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

brown and serve roll--ready to serve with butter knife on the side.Pin
Yield: 16 rolls

Brown and Serve Rolls Made with My Classic Bread Machine Dinner Roll Dough

This recipe yields light, airy, and slightly sweet dinner rolls that you can easily mix in your bread machine. Shape them by hand and par-bake days or weeks in advance. Store the rolls in the refrigerator or freezer and bake them just before serving for maximum freshness.

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(5 stars if you loved it)

5 from 2 votes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 cup (227 9) milk
  • 1 large (50 g) egg
  • 3 tablespoons (36 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table or sea salt
  • ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, chopped finely
  • 3 cups (360 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast



  • Place 1 cup (227 9) milk, 1 large (50 g) egg, 3 tablespoons (36 g) granulated sugar, ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, chopped finely, 1 teaspoon table or sea salt, 3 cups (360 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, and 2 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast into your bread machine pan in the order listed. Select the DOUGH cycle and press START.
  • Check the dough at least twice during the mixing and kneading phase by lifting the lid to take a peek. The first time, look immediately after the machine starts mixing to ensure the paddles are engaged correctly. The dough should start to form a ball.
    Look again 10-15 minutes into the DOUGH cycle to assess the consistency of the dough. For most recipes, the dough should stick to the side, then pull away cleanly.
    If your dough is too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time.
    Conversely, if the dough is too dry, add one tablespoon of liquid at a time until the dough looks just right. Read more about this surprising secret to success with a bread machine here.
  • When the dough cycle finishes, the dough should be doubled in size. If not, leave the dough in the bread machine for a few more minutes until you can punch two fingers into the dough, and it fills in gradually. If it doesn’t fill in, it has risen too much. Compress the dough and try again. If the dough bounces right back and the dough fills in immediately, then it needs to proof (rise) a little bit longer. (This may happen if your kitchen is cold.)

Shaping rolls:

  • Pull the dough out of the machine and onto a floured surface. Lightly knead the dough to remove any large bubbles, and form it into one large ball. Divide in half, making two equally sized balls.
  • Roll one dough ball into an 8 x 10 rectangle (approximately). With the short side closest to you, divide the dough in half crosswise. Then, divide each square in half crosswise. You should have four rectangles. Divide each rectangle diagonally to form 8 long and skinny triangles.
  • Roll each triangle into a butterhorn shape by starting with the wide end of the triangle and rolling toward the point. Pinch the point to anchor it to the roll. Place the butterhorn roll onto a prepared cookie sheet (greased, parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat) with the point underneath.
  • Repeat the roll-out procedure with the other dough ball. You should end up with a total of 16 rolls.


  • Let the rolls rise until they are almost doubled (soft and puffy). Preheat your oven to 275˚F (140˚C).
  • Brush the rolls with melted butter. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes. Don’t let them turn brown, but make sure they cook all the way through. The internal temperature should reach 190˚F (88˚C).
    Remove the rolls from the oven, brush them with butter, and let them cool for 5 minutes on the tray. Using a spatula, carefully remove them to a cooling rack. Leave them there for an hour before placing them into a plastic bag, preferably double-bag for the best protection. Refrigerate 3-4 days or freeze up to two weeks. (I like to be conservative with the time.)

Final Bake (Browning):

  • If frozen, you can choose whether to allow the rolls to thaw or bake them straight out of the freezer. Position the rolls on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 425˚F (220˚C) for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the rolls with butter one last time and serve immediately.
  • If refrigerated, position the rolls on a baking sheet, brush the rolls with melted butter, then bake in a preheated oven at 425˚F (220˚C) for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the rolls with butter one last time and serve immediately.


Directions for making bread with a stand mixer or by hand:
Using a Stand Mixer:
  1. In a heavy-duty stand mixer, add the ingredients to the bowl in the specified order.
  2. Begin mixing on low speed until all the ingredients are moistened.
  3. Switch to a dough hook attachment and increase the speed to 2 or 3.
  4. Continue beating/kneading until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, typically about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place.
  6. Once risen, gently deflate the dough and shape it as the recipe directs.
Making by Hand:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until they form a shaggy ball.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands until it becomes smooth and elastic, which may take around 10-20 minutes, depending on your experience.
  4. Place the dough ball in a greased bowl.
  5. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to double in size.
  6. After rising, gently deflate the dough and shape it according to the recipe’s instructions.
Please Note: You can use active dry yeast as a substitute. Dissolving it first is optional. Active dry yeast may have a slower initial rise but will catch up eventually.


Serving: 1roll | Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 158mg | Potassium: 65mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 121IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a

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  1. Hi Paula
    I have just formed my rolls, but need to confirm. You say in step 2 to divide the dough in half, make a ball; then each ball in half, then cut those into 4 rectangles. I’m tracking so far…but then EIGHT triangles from each rectangle? That would make 32 mini crescents correct?
    I tried that and decided they were too small, so I Re rolled and went with: I had 4 rectangles, than made 4 crescents from each rectangle. I started over w second ball and this made a total of 16 rolls which is what your recipe states? Obviously I misunderstood the directions😬…but I’m hoping they still come out ok! I’m excited to try the par baking method for the first time!!! Thank you again for always being so willing to share your amazing recipes!

    1. You figured it out correctly. You should have 16 rolls when you’re done cutting the dough.

      Thanks so much for writing. I probably need to reword those directions to make it clear that you cut each half of the dough into 8 triangles which totals 16 when you’re done.


  2. Linda Fogarty says:

    Do the rolls taste as good and as fresh when you parbake them? I’ve never done that and I like everything to taste nice and fresh. Thanks so much and I love your site and recipes!

    1. Hi Linda,

      Everybody has different opinions about this. I think that bread bakers themselves tend to be more picky because we are used to eating bread fresh out of the oven. If one doesn’t bake bread themself, they rarely get that privilege unless they live with the bread maker.

      With that in mind, I don’t think par-baked rolls are quite as good, and you probably wouldn’t either. Maybe 90% as good. On the other hand, they are far superior to almost anything the vast majority of people ever get to eat. And honestly, I was amazed at how good they were when made with a superior recipe.

      Like all bread, a lot depends on how carefully it’s made, baked, and stored. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where having par-baked rolls on hand is extremely convenient. So, it’s a good trick to have in your back pocket.

  3. I haven’t tried to make these yet although it’s a wonderful idea! I think that addins would be nice like butter and herbs, cheeses, maybe some dried or cooked meats, etc.

    Maybe even dried fruits or nuts…

    1. Oh yes, Steve. The good thing about a basic recipe is that it makes a good canvas for creative bakers. Thanks for writing.

  4. Hi Paula ~ I may have sent this question in before but can’t find that post. Anyway, have you tried using an air fryer for quick baking of things like dinner buns? There’s a lot of buzz on YouTube lately and I thought you might have an opinion or perhaps have even tried it.

    1. I’m working on adding something about an air fryer to this post.