Why Do My Homemade Dinner Rolls Turn Out Hard?

Dinner rolls. Light, airy, fluffy clouds of goodness that melt in your mouth.  At least that is the goal we are intending to reach. So why do dinner rolls sometimes come out hard as a rock?  I can think of 4 main reasons for this happening.

  1. The flour to water ratio in the recipe is incorrect. The core of this issue can come from multiple places as I will explain later.
  2. Flour selection
  3. Your baking temperature is too low or baked for too long.
  4. Your rolls have dried out while in storage.

So you spent all this time making dinner rolls and everyone sitting to dinner when you notice someone knocking the dinner roll on the table, letting you know how hard the rolls actually are. ☹Not what you want to hear. 

The flour to water ratio is incorrect

    Too much flour in your recipe can make for a dense dough which in turn will make a hard dough with little air bubbles in it causing it to be hard.  Too much flour can come from multiple sources. Generally speaking, the liquids to flour ratio should be approx. 35% -38% no less.  Can be as high as 50% or more in special cases but stick to around 40% that should be best.

    1. The recipe

    It could very well be that the recipe you have is either just flat out wrong and the ratio’s are off or, you are using a recipe for a dense bread that is not meant to be used as a dinner roll.

    • You scaled out the ingredients incorrectly

    I can’t tell you how many times I have seen or heard about this mistake.   We all have busy lives and many times we find ourselves multitasking.  Scaling ingredients for bread is not one of those things you should be multitasking

    While scaling ingredients for bread make sure to have a recipe with a checklist you can mark off ingredients after you scale them (never ever go off memory, trust me. I have been baking for many years and this is the #1 rule). I don’t care if you made the same recipe for 100 times.  USE A RECIPE WITH CHECKLIST.

    This will decrease the number of times you will make mistakes either in scaling amounts or scaling the same ingredient more than once without noticing.

    • You are adding too much flour while kneading the dough.

    When you start to knead dough, it is very sticky at first.  As you knead it more and more the gluten mesh will start to from, and your dough come together which in turn will be less sticky to the surface you are working on. Many times, beginning bakers will add more and more flour to prevent the dough sticking to their surface and their hands. This action will raise the flour to water ratio and will result in a dense and hard dough.

    Flour selection

    Dinner rolls as far as I know are soft and fluffy. In many cases the recipe for dinner rolls is very similar to a brioche or to a challah bread recipe.  Rich in flour, sugar and oil or butter, water or milk or a combination of the two.

    Flour selection for the dinner roll is very important to the texture and softness of your final product.

    The flour to be used for dinner rolls is generally white flour only.  These days many of us are more health conscious and do not like the idea of using only or any white bleached flour in our recipe.  Well, if you ask me, I personally would not change this but if you do want to add some whole flour into your dough to raise the fiber content in order to make the bread a bit “healthier” make sure to use no more than 30% whole flour in your recipe.

    Whole flours will make your finished product denser. 

    Whole flours such as whole wheat or rye also take longer to soak up flour making the dough rising stage or dough proofing stage longer.  So make sure to give it the proper amount of time to rise before baking.

    Baking temperature is too low or you baked It for too long

    Due to a dinner roll dough being so rich in fats and sugars it is generally baked at much lower temperatures as you would bake bread dough or sourdough for example.

    Dinner rolls should be baked at around 350°F or approx. 175°C.

    There are a couple of reasons you might not be baking at the correct temperature.

    1. You must pre heat your oven.  Preheating an oven is crucial to the rising stage of your dough. If you did not preheat your oven to the necessary temperature, it will cause many issues with your final product including making it more dense and hard.

    2. our oven setting on your dial might not be accurate or may have gone out of calibration.  This is why I always recommend using an oven thermometer to check the actual internal temperature of your oven. This will let you know the actual temperature of your oven and will also let you spot out the hot and cold spots in your oven as you can move it around when checking.
    3. Another common mistake I see with beginning bakers and more experience once as well as they turn down the oven temperature because their dough is getting too much color too early in the baking process.  So in order to slow down the caramelization process they turn down the oven.  This action will force you to bake the rolls longer than they should be in the oven for resulting in a dried out and hard product.

    TIP: make sure to pre heat your oven about 15-20 degrees hotter than your recipe requires. This is because during loading of the dinner rolls into the oven much of the heat escapes which in-turn will lower your oven temperature

    FYI – this early color / caramelization to the rolls can stem from either your oven temperature being too high to start with ( as mentioned in point #1 your oven thermometer might not be calibrated properly )  or you have a very high sugar content in your dough.

    Your rolls have dried out while in storage.

    Baking takes a long time. It is common practice bake dinner rolls a day or two before the actual dinner they are intended for to save time.  In this case you must make sure you store you rolls properly to ensure they stay soft and fluffy.

    I have a whole article on storing bread if you are interested to read up on it right here.

    Generally, the best way to store your roll is as following –

    • Let your rolls cool down all the way. Approx. 4 hours on a cooling rack.
    • Place the rolls in a paper bag and close the paper bag. 
    • Place the paper bag into a plastic bag.  Leave the plastic bag open.
    • Now store it in a dark and cool place.

    This will keep your rolls fresh and fluffy for approx. 3 days.  If you want to store your rolls for longer than that I suggest freezing your rolls.

    In order to freeze your rolls properly follow these steps

    • Let your rolls cool down all the way. Approx. 4 hours on a cooling rack.
    • Place the rolls in a plastic bag
    • Try to get out as much air out of the bags without crushing the rolls
    • Seal the bag very well.
    • Place in your freezer

    If you freeze your rolls, you can store them in your freezer for quite a while.  3 Months at least.

    To thaw out your rolls just take out the amount you want out of your freezer bag.  Let them thaw out at room temperature (this should take about 30 minutes or so).  After your rolls have thawed out you can warm them up before serving. 

    To warm your dinner rolls before serving pre heat the oven to 350°F or approx. 175°C and place the rolls in for about 3-5 minutes.


    Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

    Recent Posts