Soft and fluffy, honey wheat rolls are simply irresistible. These homemade wheat rolls use some tricks to keep them pillowy, fresh and soft for days. Perfect for serving your family more fiber rich foods for better health.
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Soft Honey Wheat Rolls
The popular soft dinner rolls and bread rolls are made with white flour, which is not a good source of fiber, and therefore not healthy to use it all the time. But bread is a foundation of our diet, and especially bread rolls are eaten in larger quantities.
When these rolls are made with whole wheat flour, the two things that stand out are the change in texture and flavor. Whole wheat flour has the bran and germ, which can come in the way of gluten development, if we are not careful. And it also has a stronger flavor.
Whole wheat baking often results in drier and coarser bread, due to inadequate hydration and technique used. Here in this recipe, I have used some tricks to enhance the dough and gluten development to give super soft honey wheat rolls. And if you have these with a touch of honey, jam or cheese, you won’t even know they have more whole wheat.
These honey wheat rolls are so soft and stay fresh for much longer than usual — really unbelievable for a wheat roll with more fiber.
Why This Recipe Works
- Tangzhong: A Japanese technique in which small amount of flour is cooked with liquid into a thick paste and added as an ingredient. It is a dough enhancer, that is one of the secrets to soft rolls.
- First Hydration: Here we combine whole wheat flour with the liquid and let it rest. This allows the bran and germ to hydrate, soften and let the proteins come together to make the gluten. Sufficient time is given for the starch to absorb moisture and swell. So we avoid using excess flour.
- Vital Gluten: Whole wheat flour has enough protein to make good gluten, when we follow proper technique. However, vital gluten can enhance gluten development. This may be useful for new bakers.
- Dry Milk Powder: It softens the dough. And to make up for the tangzhong made with water.
- Butter on Top: I use less butter in the dough, but the brush of butter on top adds a buttery flavor, shine and softness that is more perceptible to our palate.
- Seeds: These add a nice flavor, texture and appearance, and is good for wheat rolls.
- White Whole Wheat Flour: This has a less intense wheat taste and appearance. Great for introducing whole wheat flour into your breads.
How to Make Wheat Rolls
Below is a brief overview. Full recipe with quantities is at the end of blog post.
- Tangzhong: cook the flour with water into a paste.
- Combine whole wheat flour, warm milk, dry yeast and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Add remaining dough ingredients except bread flour and combine.
- Gradually add bread flour, letting the flour absorb the liquids well.
- Knead the dough until smooth and soft.
- Let it rise until double in bulk.
- Punch it down and make rolls and let it rise again until double in size.
- Brush egg and sprinkle with seeds.
- Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and well done.
- Brush honey-butter or garlic-butter on hot rolls.
Tangzhong Paste, First Hydration, Make Dough (Steps 1 - 4)
Knead, First Rise, Shape Rolls, Second Rise (Steps 5 - 7)
Egg Wash, Top Seeds, Bake, Brush Butter (Steps 8 - 10)
- Active dry yeast would be better for these rolls. Longer fermentation and rise times, give the dough more time to develop, as the yeast activates more slowly.
- Use Thermometer: Be sure to check the temperature for your yeast and follow package instructions.
- Give Time to Rise: It is a richer dough with ingredients known to slow the yeast. I let it rise in an oven that is not preheated. Placing a bowl of hot water on the oven floor, but away from the dough, gives it a warm environment.
- Flour Ratio: I used a ratio of whole wheat to bread flour, for a soft pillowy texture that would be acceptable to most. But rolls with 100% whole wheat flour will work too.
- Yeast baking is about touch and feel, and not so much about exact flour measurements. Temperature, humidity, climate, altitude, the packing of your flour and other factors can influence the amount of flour you will actually need for a recipe. So focus on the dough characteristics as you make it.
- Black Seeds: Have amazing health benefits. But it may be an acquired taste for some people. So try it and use.
How to Increase Whole Wheat in Recipes
- Be Gradual: Converting people who are used to white bread to whole wheat breads takes time.
- White Whole Wheat Flour: Try this flour and start with ⅓ substitution and scale it up as accepted. The key is to at least get some fiber into the breads, if not all!
- Fresh Flour: Whole wheat flour oxidizes sooner. Buy it from stores with high turnover rate. Store it in refrigerator or freezer to prevent rancidity due to the oil-rich germ. And try to use in couple months.
- New to Bread Baking: Start with bread flour as it is easier. Then gradually increase the amount of whole wheat flour used in your recipes. Once you master gluten development with whole wheat flour, you may not even need to use vital gluten.
Whole Wheat Flour and Gut health
Whole wheat is a great source of fiber, polyphenols, vitamin E, and phytosterols, all of which may play a role in lowering the risk of certain chronic diseases.
The greatest benefit of whole wheat flour vs. refined white flour is the higher content of fiber. And research studies have indicated that wheat fiber improves laxation, lowers gut transit time and may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
More Yeast Baking Recipes
- Sheermal (rich, subtly sweet flatbread)
- Musakhan (Sumac Chicken Caramelized Onion Flatbread)
- Blueberry Kuchen (yeast bread topped with blueberries)
- Whole Wheat Naan
★ DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE COMMENT AND GIVE IT A STAR RATING BELOW!
Soft Honey Wheat Rolls
- ¼ cup bread flour or all purpose flour
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup warm milk
whole or reduced fat
- 1 packet active dry yeast or fast acting
- 2½ cups whole wheat flour try white whole wheat
- ⅓ cup honey
- 3 tablespoons butter softened or melted
- 3 tablespoons light olive oil or butter
- 2 eggs medium, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons dry milk powder optional
- 1¼ cups bread flour
or all purpose flour, adjust as needed
- 2 tablespoons vital gluten recommended
- Flour for dusting
Topping (seeds/almonds optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoon honey
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup bread flour with some water to make a smooth paste. Whisk in remaining water and cook at medium heat, making sure no lumps form. Cook to a thick paste and allow it to chill/cool. It will thicken further while cooling. Bring it to room temperature before using it.
- Warm the milk to 110° Fahrenheit and pour into stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Scatter the yeast over milk and let it stand in a warm dark place until the yeast foams up, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in 2½ cups whole wheat flour and let it rest for the flour to absorb the moisture and swell up, about 20 minutes.
- Add tangzhong paste, honey, butter and/or oil, eggs, salt, dry milk powder (if using). Let the stand mixer run at low speed until all the ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Gradually add ¼ to ½ cup of bread flour at a time, giving the flour time to absorb the liquids and swell. Add vital gluten in between, if using. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, soft and pull away from the bowl while the mixer is running.
- Tip: Go slow to let the flour absorb the liquids, or you will end up using more flour and the rolls will not be moist. Check for gluten formation by doing the window pane test. If not, knead some more time.
- Oil the dough and bowl lightly and cover with a moist towel or lid. Place it in a warm dry place and let it rise to double in bulk, about 2 hours or more, depending on climatic conditions. I let it rise in an oven that has not been preheated.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide into 16 equal portions. You could weigh them to be accurate.
- Roll each portion into a cylindrical shape and place it on a smooth surface. Place both your palms over the dough and roll it into a smooth long strip. If needed, use oil or flour lightly to keep dough from sticking. Fold it over to make a loose knot, and bring the ends of string to other side and pinch together to seal it well.
- Tip: You could also make plain round shape rolls too, but be sure to smoothen the dough and pull the seams to the bottom.
- Place the rolls over a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them apart by at least 2 inches to give enough room to rise. Allow the rolls to rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.
Topping and Bake
- Brush beaten egg on top of rolls and sprinkle seeds or almond slices. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until nicely brown on top. Tent with foil if tops become too brown before they are baked fully.
- Melt butter. Stir one tablespoon of butter with honey, and the remaining with grated garlic. Remove rolls from oven and brush with honey-butter or garlic-butter. Serve immediately.
- Warm milk: 120 - 130 degrees F for rapid rise yeast and 110 degrees F for active dry yeast. Check yeast package instructions.
- Important steps for success:
- Let the yeast foam up well before adding other ingredients.
- Allow the dough to rise in a warm environment.
- Give enough time to let the dough double in bulk in first rise and second rise.
- Placing the dough or rolls in an oven that has not been preheated and with a pan of hot water one level below will help the dough rise better. But don’t place the hot water too close to the dough.
- Storage: Wrap cooled rolls in cheesecloth or paper towels and pack in plastic bags. You may store at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
- Freeze: You can freeze rolls for couple months. Thaw and warm it up in oven or toaster oven.
- This recipe can easily be halved.
- Check the blog post for more tips and information about whole wheat flour baking.
More Bread Recipes
This post was first published on 9th April 2020 and has been updated with video, pictures, formatting and additional enhancements.