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Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls

A while ago I saw a promotion King Arthur Flour was doing called Bake for Good, the premise being to use your love of baking to do good in the community.  This really struck a chord for me as I love sharing my baking passion with others (like my very lucky coworkers), but always felt I could be doing more.  Reading the stories of bakers who provided their communities with delicious, homemade goods gave me just the push I needed to contact my local soup kitchen and inquire about donations.  I was met by an enthusiastic yes! and have been making periodic donations ever since.

I have made and donated plenty of pies and cookies to the soup kitchen over the past year (because who doesn’t need some homemade sweets in their life), but one of my favorite things to donate is dinner rolls.  As the name implies, they serve a lot of soup at the soup kitchen and nothing goes better with soup than some delicious bread to sop up what’s left in the bottom of the bowl.

I have dabbled with many dinner roll recipes, but this one for Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls I came up with last weekend is my favorite by far.  The understated bite of the black pepper gives just enough depth to these buttery and slightly sweet rolls, making for a perfect compliment to any meal (or if you’re like me, to enjoy with a bit of butter once they are cool enough to dig into).

As I know many of you are not as well versed in baking as I am, this post is a bit more of a tutorial, walking through the steps of the bread making process with plenty of photos.  For those of you confident in your bread making ability you can skip to the bottom for the full recipe, but for these rest here is my tutorial for Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls.

Note: I don’t own an electric mixer (sigh, someday) so this tutorial and recipe was developed to make the bread by hand.  You are welcome to try it out with an electric mixer if you have one, I have included notes in the full recipe below to help you go this route if you please.  

The first thing you need to to is to activate the yeast.  This step is not completely necessary and I see it skipped in many bread recipes, but I like to include it for two reasons: you can make sure your yeast is working before you get too far into the process, and I love the yeasty, fresh bread smell it imparts upon my kitchen (sounds gross but I promise it’s lovely).

To activate the yeast, stir the warm water, dry milk and sugar together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until dissolved.  To determine if the water is too warm, I like to stick my finger in and if I can leave it there without feeling like I’m burning, then the water is not too hot for the yeast (if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast and your bread will not rise, so be careful with this step).  Once everything is mixed, sprinkle in the yeast and give it a brisk stir.  You will see much of the yeast sink to the bottom, but then slowly it will start to rise up to the top.  This means your yeast is alive and activated.

Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes or until there is a nice layer of puffy yeast formed on top of the liquid.  It should look like this when ready:

Next, add in the salt, pepper and melted butter.  Stir to combine – it won’t be entirely homogeneous since you are trying to stir butter into water, but that’s OK.  Just give it a few stirs and you should be good.

Next, start adding the flour.  Add just half of the flour to start and stir until well mixed.  It will be very sticky at this point and not look like bread dough at all.  Once mixed, start adding more flour a half cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  It will get harder and harder to mix with your wooden spoon as you get close to adding all the flour, so once you simply can’t mix with the spoon anymore set it aside and use your hands to knead the rest of the flour in.

Note: Bread making can be a little tricky since the amount of flour added can depend on the humidity in your kitchen.  If you notice your dough is getting extremely dry and you haven’t added all the flour yet, it is OK to stop adding flour to make sure your bread stays moist.  On the other hand, if you’ve added all 3 cups of flour and your dough is still way too sticky to knead, it is OK to add a bit more flour a quarter cup at a time.  Once you’ve made bread a few times this determination will get easier.  Do note, however, this is a very moist dough and the consistency should be JUST dry enough to knead, but still very moist and soft.

Once you have added all the flour it’s time to knead!  I like to leave the dough right in the bowl for this part because I think it is easier to maneuver, but if you prefer you can dump it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough by folding it over on itself and pressing down and forward, essentially you are stretching out the gluten strands in the dough to give the bread a nice texture.  After every 1-2 folds and presses, turn the dough and repeat.  It will take about 10-15 minutes to knead, depending on how quickly you are working.  The dough will be done when it is mostly smooth and has a nice bounce back to it.  Once it’s ready, tuck the edges into the bottom of the dough to form a nice ball, it will look like this:

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl.  Lightly oil the top of the dough as well to ensure it doesn’t dry out.  Cover with a damp dish towel (not wet, you don’t want it to drip on the dough) and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour.  I like to set the dough in front of a closed window so the sun keeps it warm while it’s rising.  Make sure the window is not open because a draft will inhibit the rise of the dough.

The dough will be ready when it is doubled in size and quite puffy.  It should look like this:

A thing of beauty.

Now comes my favorite part – form a fist and give the dough a punch right in the middle.  It will make a “whoosh” sound as the dough deflates and will look like this:

How fun is that!  After you punch down the dough, give it a few quick kneads and form back into a ball.

Now it’s time to form your rolls.  Portion the dough into 12 equal parts – you can use a kitchen scale to get it just right or just eyeball it (to be honest, I just eyeball it most of the time).  Using the same tucking under technique you did to make the dough into a large ball earlier, make each small portion into a ball.  Evenly arrange in a 9×13″ pan that has been generously greased with butter.  The rolls will not be touching and should look like this:

Cover loosely with plastic wrap (to keep the dough from sticking to the towel) and then the damp dish towel.  Place back in a warm spot and let rise for about and hour until very puffy and touching, they should look like this:

Starting to look like dinner rolls right!

Right before they go into the oven, brush the tops with butter for added deliciousness.  This step is fairly straightforward but I took a photo anyways because it’s so drool worthy:

Now it’s time to pop the rolls into the oven to bake, 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.  I have a gas oven so I check mine at 15 minutes to make sure they are not browning too quickly.  If they are, pop a piece of foil over top and bake another 5 minutes to ensure the inside is done.

And viola!

The hardest part here is waiting for them to be cool to try one.  I promise the wait is worth it because if you break one of these open too early you will be met with a weird, doughy texture inside.

Let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer the whole thing to a cooling rack to finish.  You are good to break one off when the rolls are mostly cool but still slightly warm to the touch.

I’m hungry just thinking about it.

So there you have it!  My tutorial to make Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls.  I hope you and enjoy and please don’t hesitate to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section!

Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls

Category: Side Dish

Yield: 12 rolls


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup dry milk
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2.5 tsp. quick rise or instant yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • extra butter for greasing and topping rolls


  1. Combine the warm water, dry milk, and sugar. Stir until dissolved.
  2. Add yeast and stir briskly, then let rest for 10 minutes while the yeast gets foamy.
  3. Add salt, pepper and melted butter. Stir until incorporated.
  4. Add 1.5 cups flour and stir until evenly mixed. Continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time until all 3 cups are incorporated.
  5. Knead 10-15 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
  6. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled. Dough should be very puffy.
  7. Punch down the dough and knead a couple of times. Portion into 12 even pieces and form into rolls.
  8. Generously grease a 9x13" pan with butter. Arrange the 12 rolls in the pan (they will not be touching) and cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp dish towel.
  9. Let rise in a warm place until very puffy and touching, about an hour.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
  11. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  12. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer the rolls to a cooking rack.
  13. Let cool completely before serving.


This recipe is written to make the rolls by hand, but you can use an electric mixer if you have one. Follow the directions in the bowl of your electric mixer, using the paddle attachment to mix and the dough hook attachment to knead.


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1 thought on “Soft Black Pepper Dinner Rolls”

  • Wow…these were delicious. What a perfect complement to a spaghetti and salad dinner. The pepper is a wonderful addition to these rolls. Highly recommend trying them !

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