Buttery Thanksgiving Sourdough Dinner Rolls

Buttery Thanksgiving Sourdough Dinner Rolls

There are so many Thanksgiving sourdough recipes to choose from, including nine on this blog site, that is seems unnecessary to post another. But still with Maurizio Leo's recent release of "The Perfect Loaf: The Craft and Science of Sourdough Breads, Sweets, and More," featuring recipes for the home baker, I just could not resist. 

Especially since his Soft Dinner Rolls, featuring tangzhong paste and sourdough make for an especially soft, tender, and "squishy rolls." He promised that they will be the perfect roll "for Thanksgiving or any holiday meal."[1] 

Continuing on his blog site, he explains, "flavorwise, these rolls are what you want and expect from a dinner roll: slightly buttery, a smidgen sweet, and with only the slightest touch of sourness (if any). The flakey salt on top is like a lightning bolt to the taste buds, waking them up while sharpening the taste of the bread. And let’s not forget a very important purpose of rolls at any meal: to soak up all sauces (gravy! salad dressing! au jus!) on the dinner plate. And yet, they also shine when you keep it simple and plain, enjoying them as-is or simply with a pat of warm butter."[2]

And surprisingly enough, these can be made with either all-purpose or high protein bread flour. Leo explains, that bread flour will give the rolls a higher rise and make them more sturdy fir dipping in gravy and sauces. But all-purpose flour leaves them tender and soft, and with tangzhong paste they become even more soft and airy, much like Japanese Milk Bread Rolls (or Hokkaido milk bread).

But the major advantage of this recipe, says Leo, is that these rolls can be made a day ahead. "For example," he says, "if you're making these for Thanksgiving, you can make the rolls the day before and proof them in the fridge. Then on Thanksgiving day, take them out a few hours before the big meal, finish proofing on the counter if necessary, and bake them so that the rolls are warm for dinner."[3]

This recipe yields just 16 rolls in a 9x9 square pan, but for my family we need a much larger number of rolls. So I will test this first for his small batch, then try to triple the recipe for a larger number.

Buttery Thanksgiving Sourdough Dinner Rolls

Serving: 16 Dinner Rolls
Prep Time: 18 hours
Bake Time: 40min
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult


  • 3 heaping cups (402g) All-purpose (AP) Flour (11.5 % protein)
  • 1 cup + 2.5 Tbsp. (148g) Bread Flour (12.7-14%. protein)
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp. (Whole Milk 166g)
  • 1 stick (95g) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 heaping cup (53g) caster sugar (Baker`s Sugar Ultra-Fine Pure Cane Sugar)
  • 1 cup + 1Tbsp. (254g) Real™ Water 
  • 2 tsp. (12g) Real™ Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30g) Active Sourdough Starter
  • 1 egg combined with 1 Tbsp. (15g) whole milk (for egg wash)
  • Course Sea Salt, for optional topping


1.  Mix Levain 
While you can use an active starter, Leo suggests making a preferment with just a bit of active starter, which is combined with water, flour and a bit of caster sugar, as follows:
  • Mix a heaping cup (74g) of AP flour
  • a heaping tsp. (15g) caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. (74g) water
  • 2 Tbsp. (30g) active sourdough starter in a container.

Leave this loosely covered overnight (12 hours) at room temperature.

2. Make Tangzhong

Combine ¼ heaping cup (41g) all-purpose flour and 1 cup + 3 Tbsp whole milk (166g) milk in a medium saucepan set on medium-low heat. Initially whisk this vigorously to break up flour and combine it well with the milk, then continue whisking constantly until this thickens into a paste. This mixture won’t seem to do much at first, but it will thicken in 5 to 8 minutes. Once it is thickened, spread it on a plate and set aside to cool.

What is a levain?

"A levain, also called a leaven or levain starter, is an off-shoot of your sourdough starter, and it's a mixture of fresh flour, water, and some ripe starter. This mixture will be used entirely in a batch of dough and has the same fate as the bread dough you're mixing: you will bake it in the oven. But before that, it's your preferment for the day's dough, meaning it will leaven your dough (make it rise) and be responsible for the flavor produced through the byproducts of fermentation."[4]––Maurizio Leo, The Perfect Loaf


3. Mix All the Ingredients

Slice the butter into pats to allow them to warm at room temperature. Check your levain (or starter) to see that it is active (doubled, bubbly and a tsp. of it floats in water when tested). Make sure the water you are using is set and ready at room temperature along with the other ingredients

In a mixing bowl or (the a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook), combine all the tangzhong, ripe levain (or active starter), with the remaining flour, the water and salt. Stir with a dough hook or your hands until well combined for a few minutes.

Kneading Sourdough Bread

Work the dough with your hands, kneading it on a counter until it is no longer sticky, but elastic. Or if you are using mixer, turn speed to medium for 5 to 6 minutes until the dough clings to the hook. Either way, let the dough rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minute rest combine the butter one pat at time into the dough, working it in well before adding the next pad. Continue this process until all the softened butter is combined into the dough. (If using a mixer this takes 5-8 minutes.)

Transfer the dough to a covered container for the bulk fermentation. 

4. Bulk Ferment the Dough (3 hours 30 minutes at room temperature: 74°–76°F [23°–24°C])

Note your starting time and plan for three sets of stretches and folds every 30 minutes. Note the the current time and set a timer for 30 minutes, allowing the dough to rest in a warm place. When the timer goes off, give your dough a set of stretches and folds as Leo describes:

"Using wet hands, grab one side of the dough and lift it up and over to the other side. Rotate the bowl 180 degrees and repeat. Then rotate the bowl a quarter turn and stretch and fold that side. Rotate the bowl 180 degrees again and finish with a stretch and fold on the last side. The dough should be folded up neatly. Cover and repeat these folds every 30 minutes for a total of 3 sets of stretches and folds."[5]

Following the last set, cover your bowl and allow the dough rest for the about 2 hours.

5. Chill and Firm the Dough

Following this long rest chill the dough in your refrigerator for 15-25 minutes. Leo promises, "This time will firm and slightly chill the dough to make shaping easier."[6]

As the dough is chilling prepare your 9-inch square baking pan by liberally buttering it (this even if it is a non-stick pan.

6. Divide and Shape the Dough

Remove your dough from the fridge and lightly flour the top. Then gently scrape out the dough onto a floured counter.  surface. Dust the top and divide the dough into 14-16 pieces. Leo advises:

"Because the dough is so soft, I prefer using my bench knife to help shape each roll. Use the knife to drag the dough toward your body as your other hand rounds the dough, tucking the edge down under the ball. Repeat this dragging and tucking with the knife and your other hand until you have a uniformly round ball. Place the ball in the prepared baking pan. When using a round pan, I prefer to start placing the rolls along the outside in a ring, and then work inward as each ring is filled in."[6]

7. Final Proof and Bake

Proof the rolls in the pan, covered for 2–3 hours at room temperature before baking. While the rolls are proofing, place your rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400°F (200°C). Also make an egg wash by whisking 1 egg with 1 Tbsp whole milk.

Just before baking, uncover the rolls and brush each with a light coating of the eggs wash. Then sprinkle the tops with coarse salt, and place the pan into the preheated oven. 

Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, then turn the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C). Bake for another 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is around 204°F (95°C). 

After baking let the rolls cool for 30 minutes before eating so set the dough. Serve immediately and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner

Get this detailed recipe and 70 more from this new book, "The Perfect Loaf," by Maurizio Leo. 


In the comment section below, let us know what #sourdough4thanksgiving plan you made this year. 


    1. Leo, Maurizio. The Perfect Loaf (p. 332). Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed. Kindle Edition. 
    2. Leo, Maurizio. The Perfect Loaf Blog Site. "Super Soft Sourdough Rolls."
    3. ibid.
    4. ibid.
    5. ibid.
    6. ibid. The Perfect Loaf (p. 335). 
    7. ibid.The Perfect Loaf Blog Site.
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Terry you asked: What does “the remaining flour” mean? Is some of the flour taken up by the levain so that we subtract this (74g) from the total?
Yes subtract that from the total

Darryl Alder

“In a mixing bowl or (the a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook), combine all the tangzhong, ripe levain (or active starter), with the remaining flour, the water and salt.”

What does “the remaining flour” mean? Is some of the flour taken up by the levain so that we subtract this (74g) from the total?


For Thanksgiving dinner, I remade these. I doubled the recipe and allowed a very long slow cold final proofing and I got the results that the original author promised. They were tall in the pan, fluffy, but held up to dipping in the gravy and as sandwiches the next day. This will indeed by my new Sunday Dinner Roll!

Darryl Alder

I made these for Sunday dinner. They were great BUT they needed more time to cool and set. They were done but a bit gooey for my liking, but after cooling an hour, they were still warm, but the gooeyness was gone

Darryl Alder

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