Spanish Rolls

A few weeks ago, I tried a recipe for Spanish Rolls that I found on Catherine Toth's blog, The Cat Dish. This buttery soft bread is a staple at Filipino bakeries, and I've been working on getting the recipe just right for the holidays! When I was younger, a box of Spanish Rolls usually accompanied special occasions...whether it was served at a family party, a gift from an auntie, or from a stop at our favorite bakery in the Bay Area. We've always bought them already made, but this recipe showed me how easy it is to make my own version at home! (Especially when I get a super-craving...) The yeast-raised dough is filled with butter and sugar, so the aroma that fills your kitchen is almost enough to get you addicted. Once you take a bite of the pillowy soft rolls, though, you are definitely devouring a one sitting.

It all starts by "proofing" the yeast. You need this yeast to make your dough rise, giving the rolls their signature texture, aroma, and hearty flavor.

Combine the yeast, warm water, and a teaspoon of sugar in a measuring cup. The mixture will go from a cloudy liquid to half liquid-half foam. (Insert maniacal mad scientist, "Mwua ha ha haaa!")

Next, sift the flour, a bit more sugar, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add the melted butter, warm milk, beaten egg, and yeast mixture.

Stir everything together until the dough begins to form, just until there is no loose flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl.

Finally, using the dough hook attachment, turn the mixer on to "Stir" and knead the dough. After about 2 minutes, the dough should be elastic, yet still soft to the touch, and easily pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the ball of dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then turn the ball once to completely coat it in grease. Cover the bowl, place it in a warm spot in the kitchen, and allow it rise for about 1 hour. It will expand and double in size.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a clean surface and knead by hand for a couple of minutes, until it is nice and smooth. Divide the dough into 16 equal-sized pieces. Roll out each piece into a small rectangle. Then, spread the creamy butter and sugar filling down the center of each rectangle, leaving space around the edges.

(Unfortunately...aka whoops... I forgot to take a picture of the layer of breadcrumbs that you also sprinkle on before rolling. You can use store-bought or toast up your own. This simple ingredient helps to keep most of the butter from leaking out.)

Snugly roll up each rectangle, corner to corner, then set them aside on a parchment-lined 13"x9" pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let the rolls "rest" for about 30 minutes. The dough will rise and expand again, sealing in most of the filling and making nice, tight spirals.

Traditionally, these rolls include a lot more breadcrumbs, but...Confession Time: I've never liked the coating of breadcrumbs on Spanish Rolls. (I've even resorted to using a napkin and brushing off as many of them as I could!) However, if you happen to like that crumby layer, simply dredge each roll in a mixture of breadcrumbs and sugar before placing in the pan.

At last, bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes! Each roll puffs up, the tops turn into a golden brown, and some of the butter and sugar slightly glaze/caramelize the bottoms.

Filipinos love to eat these for breakfast or "merienda" (a midday snack), but I also thought that these would be perfect for all of the holidays coming up! Bring a couple of boxes to your next family party! If you're traveling for the holidays, a box of Spanish Rolls would make a great gift for your host. Or, if you will be the one doing the hosting this year, these would make an amazing breakfast for all of your overnight guests on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. 

Spanish Rolls (adapted from Jane's Kitchen; makes 16 rolls)

Print Recipe

1/4 cup Warm Water
1 packet Active Dry Yeast
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup White Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 cup Warm Whole Milk
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup White Granulated Sugar
Breadcrumbs, for sprinkling
Topping (optional):
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
1 tbsp White Granulated Sugar
  1. In a small bowl or cup, stir to combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for up to 5 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Into the bowl of a stand mixer, sift the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter, warm milk, beaten egg, and foamy yeast mixture. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until a dough begins to form and there is no loose flour. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for 2 minutes on "Stir" (or lowest possible speed). The dough should be elastic, yet still soft to the touch, and easily pull away from the sides of the bowl. 
  3. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl. Turn the dough once, to coat with grease, then cover the bowl. Place in a warm spot, and let the dough rise for about 1 hour (doubles in size).
  4. To prepare the filling, combine the butter and sugar in the clean bowl of the stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes. The dough should be smooth. Next, divide the dough into 16 equal-sized pieces. Roll out each piece into a small rectangle, about 3 in by 5 in. Spread 1/2 tbsp of filling in the center of each rectangle, at least 1/2 in away from edges, and sprinkle on a light even layer of breadcrumbs. Tightly roll up the rectangle. Transfer each roll to a parchment-lined 13 in by 9 in pan. Sprinkle the tops with the breadcrumb and sugar mixture (optional). Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  7. Bake the rolls at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. The tops will be a golden-brown.
  8. Serve warm, or cool completely and transfer for storage in an air-tight container.