Lunch Lady Rolls are a throwback to the days when school cafeterias served big, fluffy rolls. It’s been years since I’ve had a school lunch so I couldn’t tell you how they taste now, but I have good memories of the rolls (along with the rectangular pizza and a weird popsicle called Fruity Frost that tasted better than other popsicles).
When I first tried these, I wasn’t sure the description reading “just like the ones served at the cafeteria” would be accurate, but it really was. Lunch Lady Rolls are the lightest, tightest crumbed, delicate rolls to come out of my kitchen — and they don’t call for any special tricks like adding potato flakes or beer.
This version of the recipe is adapted from one on Allrecipes.com called Cafeteria Rolls. That school cafeterias version makes triple the amount of rolls, so if you need 36 rolls you might want to use that recipe. For us, the scaled down version works perfectly all the time.
There is one catch to this smaller batch Lunch Lady Rolls recipe and that’s the egg. The original recipe calls for 2 eggs and since I was making 1/3, I had to do the silly maneuver of cracking the egg, spooning out about a tablespoon and using the remainder. Whatever. It works! If you buy small eggs you can skip that, but who buys small eggs?
For the flour, I weighed out 15 oz of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose.
Lunch Lady Rolls
- 1 cup warm water 110-120 degrees
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour 15 oz — If you don’t weigh it, fluff it up very well before measuring.
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon shortening
- 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon butter melted
- In bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the warm water and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, and let it stand for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl then measure out about 1 tablespoon and discard. Whisk in the milk and salt, then add the egg milk mixture to the yeast mixture.
- Combine the flour and sugar in a separate bowl. Cut in the shortening with a fork. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the yeast mixture. Set the mixing bowl on the stand mixer with the dough hook and knead for about 3 minutes or until dough appears smooth and elastic and is pulling away from the bowl. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a warm towel and set it aside to rise for 1 hour.
- When the dough has risen, pour the melted butter over it, return to stand mixer and knead with the dough hook for about 3 more minutes. (See Note). Dough should be smooth, elastic, slick, but not shaggy. Flour a large surface. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then roll or pat out to a little less than 1 inch thick. Using a knife, cut the dough into 2 inch squares. Tuck the corners of the squares under to make smooth rounds and set them in the pan (I used two 9 inch round pans with about 6 balls of dough in each. Space about 1 inch apart.
- Set pans aside for another 40 minutes rise. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you like, brush the rolls with some extra melted butter. Bake the rolls for about 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. I brushed them with a little more butter before serving.