Go wild with bay leaves for the best yeast rolls

Soft yeast rolls
The fragrant, tinglingly-spicy leaves are the perfect herb to perfume soft yeast rolls. Prop styling by Kate Parisian.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Thanksgiving in 2020 is going to look a lot different this year in more ways than one. So instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and play around with the expected holiday tropes. You’ll see that the classic dishes can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.

After almost a year of being at home and the same old, same old, reinvigorate your Thanksgiving table with a fresh outlook on the traditional holiday staples.

Whether it’s rounds, cut into squares or stacked into pull-apart sheets, there’s no shape of yeast rolls that hasn’t already been tried. But what you can change is the flavor of your butter. And while rosemary and thyme and other hardy herbs are a classic pairing for buttery soft rolls, I love the earthy, nasal spiciness of fresh bay leaves, which are abundant in California and inexpensive.


Fresh bay leaves in butter
Fresh bay leaves flavor the butter for soft yeast rolls. Prop styling by Kate Parisian.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

But because chopping and eating bay leaves would not be pleasant I like to infuse their essence in plenty of melted butter, some of which will be mixed into the dough and some will be used to brush the rolls before and after they’re baked. And if that doesn’t give you a big enough bay leaf hit, the leaves are baked in between each roll, which perfume the rolls even more and lend it a beautiful presentation.

Bay Leaf Butter Yeast Rolls

Time1 hour 15 minutes, plus 2 hours unattended
YieldsMakes 16 rolls