Yeast rolls offer an extra utensil at Thanksgiving dinner, for swiping and mopping up all the delicious flavors on the plate. These rolls are sweetened lightly with honey and enriched with milk. Basting the rolls a few times with butter is what sets them apart from your average frozen dinner rolls and gives them their luxurious pillowy texture. Make the rolls up to a few hours before you need them and rewarm them in the oven for 5 minutes just before serving for hot dinner rolls everyone will fight over.
This recipe is part of our Guide to Classic Thanksgiving package, a collection of simple recipes for timeless holiday dishes to make this year and for years to come.
Warm the milk in a small saucepan or in a heatproof bowl in the microwave until it reaches 105 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or a large bowl) and stir in the honey and the yeast; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. If using instant yeast, proceed with the next step without waiting.
Pour 4 tablespoons butter into the yeast mixture. Add the flour and mix on low speed (or stir with a wooden spoon) until a dough forms, about 1 minute. Add the salt, then increase the mixer speed to medium (or transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface) and knead until smooth and the dough begins slapping the side of the bowl, about 8 minutes in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand.
If using a mixer, clean the dough off the dough hook and shape into a ball in the bowl. If kneading by hand, shape the dough into a ball and return to a large bowl. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let sit in a draft-free area until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Use a brush to grease the bottom and side of a 9-inch round baking pan, preferably light metal, glass or ceramic, with 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface, press it to release any bubbles, then cut the dough into 16 equal wedges. Working with one wedge at a time, cup your hand over the dough and, pressing lightly against the work surface while moving your hand in a circular motion, form the dough into a ball; repeat with the remaining dough wedges.
Arrange the dough balls in the greased pan, spaced evenly apart. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit until the dough balls have risen to touch the plastic wrap or towel, 45 to 55 minutes.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush the tops of the rolls with 2 tablespoons butter (take care not to deflate the rolls), then bake until puffed and light golden brown on their tops, about 20 minutes (if you use a dark metal pan, check the rolls at 18 minutes). Transfer the pan to a wire rack.
While the rolls are still hot, quickly brush the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over the baked rolls. While still wet, sprinkle each roll in the center with a small pinch of flaky sea salt. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve while warm.
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