Yeasty rolls hold sandwich fillings, sop up sauces or soups, or sit alongside an entree at dinner. But while the pure, wholesome taste of yeast and butter with a hint of salt often does the trick, a change of pace is sometimes welcome to shake up the flavors at your dinner table. Make yeast rolls more flavorful with herbs, aromatics, sweeteners or cheese – or a combination of any of these ingredients.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme aren’t just song lyrics or stand-bys for roasted vegetables. These and many other herbs can stud a dough, adding robust and unexpected flavor to yeast rolls. Oregano or basil work wonderfully in Italian focaccia or pizza doughs, particularly when extra virgin olive oil is thrown into the mix. To add any kind of dried or fresh herb to a dough, mince and mix it with the other ingredients.
Just a Hint of Sweetness
You don’t want to go overboard with sugar and end up with a bread that tastes more like dessert. But a hint of sweetness can go a long way to add flavor to your rolls. Challah rolls – made with a brioche egg dough – usually include honey as a sweetener. Hawaiian rolls – another classically sweet type of yeasted roll – get their sweetness from pineapple juice. Whether you add sugar, a fruit juice or honey, sweeter breads pair well with spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom for even more dynamic flavor.
Onion and Garlic Do the Trick
Onion and garlic are the backbone of many stews, roasted meats and other dishes, but they also liven up the humble yeast roll. Dice, mince, sauté or caramelize onions, then stir them into the dough. Or use dehydrated onion flakes – like those often found atop an everything bagel – or onion powder. Similarly, mince garlic, sauté and incorporate it into the dough. Or use dehydrated garlic or garlic powder. For a roasted garlic flavor, cook a whole head in the oven until golden brown, mash into a paste and mix it into the dough.
A Little Cheese Goes A Long Way
Look no further than pizza for evidence of the fact that cheese and bread go together like peanut butter and jelly. Mixing shredded cheese into your dough – and sprinkling a bit on top of the unbaked loaf for good measure – adds silky richness to the crumb and a cheesy flavor throughout. For bold flavors, use a sharp cheddar, a tangy blue cheese or a nutty hard cheese like Manchego.
Maya Silver is an editor at DiningOut Magazines. She is the author of "My Parent Has Cancer And It Really Sucks" and has written for "U.S. News & World Report," the "Washington Post Express" and local newspapers and magazines. She has helped hundreds of homes make energy improvements. Her culinary knowledge stems from professional and personal cooking experience.