Cloverleaf Rolls & Cheesy Breakfast Casserole

Today’s delicious dish – Cloverleaf Rolls  

When I was growing up, we once in a while had some type of fancy dinner roll.  I was always fascinated by them and very interested in finding out what had to be done with the dough to make each kind.  Some are a bit tricky, but cloverleaf rolls are easy.  Take the amount of dough you would use to make a regular roll, divide it into three pieces, roll them into balls, and put the balls into a greased muffin tin well.  They rise into lovely pillowy rolls that come apart with no effort and no cutting.  I think these are ideal for kids because the pieces are a good size for biting and because there are a lot fewer crumbs when the roll didn’t have to be split with a knife.

There’s no specific recipe for cloverleaf rolls – it’s just a way to shape the dough.  But you want to have the right amount for the pan you plan to use.  This recipe makes a dozen tasty and tender white rolls.  Milk and butter in the dough (instead of water) makes it softer and less likely to be dry or chewy.  A bit of sugar provides a subtle sweetness.  If you like, double this recipe, then divide the dough after the first rising and put half in a zip top bag in the freezer.  The next time you want to make homemade rolls, it’s just a matter of defrosting the dough and letting it come up to room temperature, shaping it into a dozen rolls, letting them rise in a warm oven, then baking them.

The instructions for this recipe assume that you have a good stand mixer.  If you don’t, you can still make this recipe.  Mix by hand or with a hand mixer.  At the stage where you would switch to the dough hook, turn the sticky mass of dough onto a floured countertop and knead in the last of the flour by hand.  You’ll get a good upper body workout!

If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, you should really consider getting one.  I like to think I have a good eye, and can easily divide a ball of dough into 12 equal pieces.  So I try it, then weigh them and find that I’m off by a tenth of an ounce or more on most of them.  If I want to have consistent results, I need to employ the right tools, and why wouldn’t I?

If you prefer to use whole milk or fat-free milk, this recipe works just as well.  If you’d like a wheatier roll, substitute up to half of the all-purpose flour with 100% whole wheat flour.  Your dough may be a bit heavier if it is made with very much whole wheat flour.  You’d be smart to weigh your entire ball of dough, then divide that by 12 to know how much dough to use for each roll.  Hooray – cooking math!

Cloverleaf Rolls

  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (about 1 Tablespoon) active dry yeast

Turn on oven to 200 degrees.  When it gets to that temperature, turn it off.

In microwave, heat milk and butter together for 90 seconds, until butter is mostly melted.  Stir to combine and set aside for 5 minutes.  Butter will continue to melt as the mixture sits.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Stir milk and butter mixture, then incorporate into dry mixture and beat well, using paddle beater.  Beat in another 1/2 cup of flour.  Scrape down bowl and switch to dough hook, then knead in remaining 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is smooth and pliable.  Add more flour, a Tablespoon at a time, if necessary.  Dough should be smooth and not sticky.

Turn dough onto countertop and knead lightly, then form into a ball.  Put dough ball into an oven-safe bowl, cover bowl with a damp cloth, and let rise in warm oven for 1 hour.

Remove dough from oven and punch down.  Knead dough lightly.  If dough is very sticky, dust lightly with flour and knead a bit.  Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

Lightly grease a 12-well standard muffin pan.

Turn oven to 200 degrees.  When it gets to that temperature, turn it off.

While oven heats, divide dough into 12 equal pieces, each about 2 ounces.  Divide each piece of dough into 3 pieces.  Shape each small piece into a ball.  Place 3 small balls of dough in each well of your greased muffin pan, pushing them to the bottom.  Place in warm oven and let rise for 15 minutes.

Leave rolls in oven.  Turn oven on to 375 degrees and bake rolls for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Remove rolls from pan immediately.

Makes 12 rolls.

Nutritional information (per roll):  168 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 4 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams sugars, 1 gram fiber, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 230 milligrams sodium

 Cost per roll:  23 cents

 Preparation time: 2 1/2 hours


What happens next?

Homemade rolls keep for about 5 days if wrapped or bagged.  To reheat a roll, wrap it in a paper towel or napkin and microwave for 15 seconds – it will taste fresh and nice.  If you reheat these in the oven, cover them to keep in the moisture that will begin evaporating.

These rolls freeze beautifully – just put them in a bag or container.  When ready to use, thaw and then reheat.

You can do some creative things with leftover dinner rolls:  cube and sauté with oil and herbs to make croutons, grind into bread crumbs, cut up and use in bread pudding, make little sandwiches, slice up and make into little French toasts, cube and use to make stuffing, the list goes on and on.  I like to use them in a tasty breakfast dish that I put together the night before I serve it, so I always put aside 2 rolls for a Cheesy Breakfast Casserole.


Another day’s delicious dish – Cheesy Breakfast Casserole

Here’s an easy dish that we love to eat for breakfast or brunch.  I assemble it the night before, and then in the morning all I have to do is get it in the oven.  If the leftover rolls have been frozen, they need not be thawed – they are easy to cut up even then.  The rolls are cubed and become the base for a flavorful soufflé-like casserole with bites of sausage throughout.  Some cheese goes on top after a while, and the casserole comes out all tasty and cheesy and melty.  While it bakes, I might make a nice fruit salad and homemade hot cocoa.  I usually feel quite virtuous about having done most of the work ahead of time and making my morning pretty easy.

Don’t skip the step of allowing this to soak before baking.  The overnight soak allows the eggs and bread to become something like a new ingredient as they meld.  It’s as though the eggs get to have some structure while remaining soft and rich.

If you want to use some other kind of sausage, you’ll need a little less than 4 ounces (1/4 pound), and you will want to drain it after cooking but before adding to the casserole.  If you want this dish to be spicier, use more Tabasco sauce.  If you want it to be milder, omit the Tabasco.  I think sharp cheddar cheese has the most flavor, but you should use any cheese you have or prefer.

If you don’t have any leftover Cloverleaf Rolls, you can still make this recipe.  Use 2 of any fist-sized white dinner rolls, although you may want to avoid rolls that have nuts or seeds in or on them because these might give the casserole an odd taste or texture.  You would want to think twice about using rye or any dark brown bread, because it might give the casserole an odd look.  You could also cube up other light-colored bread you have on hand.  You’ll need about 1 1/2 cups bread cubes.

If you double this recipe, bake it in a 9” x 13” baking dish.

This casserole is a great leftover itself.  On another day it can be microwaved for about a minute for a terrific quick meal.

Cheesy Breakfast Casserole

  • 6 pieces brown & serve link breakfast sausage
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Butter, softened
  • 2 Cloverleaf Rolls
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Brown sausage links in a dry skillet, then set aside to cool.

While sausage is cooking and cooling, spread butter over bottom and sides of an 8” square baking dish.

Cut Cloverleaf Rolls into cubes (about 1”) and place in buttered pan.  If you have created any crumbs, put these in the buttered pan too.

Once sausage is cool enough to handle, slice links into 1/2” thick circles.  Scatter these over the bread cubes.  Pour any accumulated sausage grease from skillet (it should be a very small amount) over bread cubes.

Beat eggs, milk, and seasonings together.  Pour over bread cubes and sausage in baking pan.  Press bread cubes down into liquid.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least for 2 hours.

Turn oven on to 375 degrees.

Uncover casserole and bake for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and bake for another 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving):  422 calories, 29.5 grams fat, 13.5 grams saturated fat, 21 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams sugars, 0 grams fiber, 334 milligrams cholesterol, 676 milligrams sodium

Cost per serving:  93 cents

 Preparation time: 20 minutes

Chilling time:  overnight, or at least 2 hours

Baking time:  35 minutes


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