Once I started making my own dinner rolls and realized what a snap they are, I knew I had to try Cloverleaf Rolls next. They’re so buttery and pretty, and you can peel them apart—they’re a food and an activity!
Cloverleaf Rolls begin with the same dough as my original Fluffy Dinner Rolls. The recipes are identical until after the first rise when the dough is punched down and divided into twelve pieces.
Each piece is further divided into three pieces (or four if you want four leaf Cloverleaf Rolls). Those little pieces are rolled into balls and sorted into a buttered muffin tin three at a time. They’ll rise up and the balls will fuse into “leaves” before baking. This is how they get that perfect peelability, not unlike Monkey Bread.
When the rolls are baked and golden, they get brushed with butter and sprinkled with flaky salt—fancy! Served warm, they’re the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving or holiday spread. I like to make them at random throughout the year as well—surprise Cloverleaf Rolls, anyone?
makes 12 dinner rolls
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast*
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
For brushing & garnish:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
flaky salt (I used Maldon)
Read the recipe all the way through before beginning. Instructions for using instant yeast and mixing by-hand are in the notes at the end of the recipe.
In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the buttermilk until it’s between 90-110F (warm to the touch, but not so hot that you can’t comfortably hold a finger in it).
Stir together buttermilk and granulated sugar in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until it is a bit bubbly or foamy (sometimes a light stir can help this be more visible). If it doesn’t bubble, your yeast is dead. Discard the mixture, get new yeast, and try again.
In the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a dough hook, combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Add butter and buttermilk mixture and mix to combine. Mix in remaining 3/4 cup flour. Knead dough in mixer* for 5 minutes or until smooth and slightly sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free environment for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, heavily butter (or otherwise grease) a 12-capacity muffin tin. Set aside.
Flour a surface. Uncover risen dough and gently punch it down. Place dough on floured surface and pat out into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Flour a large, sharp chef’s knife and slice the rectangle into 12 pieces.
Shape the rolls. Working with one piece at a time, slice it into 3 equal pieces. Working with one smaller piece at a time, use your fingers to pull edges or creases underneath, creating a smooth ball-like appearance. Place in pan, using 3 balls per muffin cup. Repeat until all rolls have been shaped.
Loosely cover the pan of rolls and place in a warm, draft-free environment for 30-45 minutes or until they have puffed over the top of the pan (see pictures).
Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the central or lower position (either will work). Preheat your oven to 400F. Melt the butter for brushing.
Uncover risen rolls. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the tops with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake rolls for 19-20 minutes, or until deep golden on top. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter when you remove them from the oven. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if desired.
Let rolls cool 10-15 minutes before serving.
Rolls are best the day they are baked, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or so.
- You may use an equal volume of instant yeast. Add it (and the sugar) directly to the dry ingredients, skipping the blooming step. Add warmed buttermilk and butter directly to the dry ingredients and mix as written above in the paragraph beginning “In the bowl of a stand mixer.” The rises may take about 15 minutes longer than with active dry yeast.
- You may mix this dough in a large mixing bowl with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
- You may knead this dough by hand on a floured surface.
I remember my mom making these; they were quite popular when I was a kid. Sometimes she tucked cheese in around the little balls!
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I’ve made cloverleaf rolls since I started baking with yeast (10 years old). I love how buttery these rolls are. Fantan rolls are also fun and very buttery as well.