We all know that the Thanksgiving spread isn’t complete without a bowl full of hot-out-of-the-oven rolls. Dinner rolls are an essential complement to the complex flavors of your plethora of Thanksgiving dishes, a solid staple used to sop up extra gravy or scoop up cranberry sauce. But bread doesn’t have to be boring, and these Whole-Grain Mini Bread Loaves are here to prove it.Baking homemade rolls is one way to seriously elevate your Thanksgiving dinner, and these whole-grain rolls are a simple crowd-pleaser. You can make them ahead of time to save some hassle on the holiday. Honey adds a dash of sweetness to the rolls and a generous coating of benne or sesame seeds brings texture and crunch to the crust. We love using benne seeds—a variation of sesame seeds that were first brought over from Africa in the 18th century, and have since propagated in the Charleston Lowcountry—as they add a bit of signature Southern charm to the rolls. But you can also substitute with standard sesame seeds. If you’re feeling ambitious, try making multiple types of rolls, like Sweet Potato Rolls and our Best-Ever Spoon Rolls, to make a winning bread basket. All it takes is a little yeast and a little patience to turn the dream of making homemade bread into a reality.

Paige Grandjean


Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe Summary test

40 mins
15 hrs 45 mins
1 hr 50 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Stir together 1 cup of the whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup of the bread flour, 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast, and 1 1/4 cups of the water in a medium bowl. Stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap, and let mixture stand at room temperature until bubbly, 14 to 24 hours. (This makes the sponge.)

  • Stir together remaining 4 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour; set aside. When the sponge is ready, combine remaining 1 cup warm water and 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir with a wooden spoon until yeast is dissolved, about 15 seconds. Stir in sponge and honey. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and salt, beating until incorporated, about 5 minutes.

  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding up to 1/4 cup bread flour, as needed, if dough is very sticky. Transfer dough to a large lightly greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

  • Place a pizza stone on middle rack of oven. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line 2 rimmed 18- x 13-inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 pieces. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, pat into a 4-inch square. Fold right and left halves in to meet in the center. Fold top 1/3 of dough down to the middle, and press to seal. Continue folding and pressing top third of dough down to form a tight 3-inch-long cylindrical loaf. With palms flat on work surface, place tips of thumbs together. Press thumbs into loaf, and slide loaf away from you several times to form a taut 4-inch-long football shape. Roll top and sides of loaf (not bottom/seam side) in benne seeds; transfer, seam side down, to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, placing loaves 2 inches apart. Let rise, uncovered, until almost doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Using a sharp, thin knife, cut a 3-inch-long (1/4-inch-deep) slit across the top of each loaf. Place 1 baking sheet on preheated pizza stone, and bake until golden brown, seeds are lightly toasted, and internal temperature registers 205°F, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven, and repeat with remaining baking sheet. Serve loaves warm, or transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.