Yeast rolls are best when fresh from the oven. Within just 24 hours of baking, they start to become stale. Because stale rolls are often unsuitable for eating with dinner, cooks sometimes use them to make bread puddings, bread salads and even homemade bread crumbs or croutons. But if you plan to bake your rolls a day or 2 before you plan to serve them, or if you prefer to eat the rolls leftover without putting them into some other recipe, you can heat them up to soften them and lessen staleness.
Microwave Method for Soft Dinner Rolls
Place soft, yeasty dinner rolls on a plate. Do not use this method for crusty rolls, as microwave heating will make them rubbery.
Cover the plate of soft rolls with waxed paper or cheesecloth. Place them in the center of the microwave.
Set the time to allow about 10 seconds per roll. In other words, program 20 seconds for 2 rolls, 30 seconds for 3 rolls and so on. Press "start."
Open the microwave and touch the rolls once the microwave stops heating. If the rolls have the right texture, remove from the microwave and serve. If not, place them back into the microwave.
Run the microwave for 10 more seconds at a time, checking between bursts for the right texture. Be careful not to heat too much, as this can cause the rolls to become rubbery. When ready, remove from the microwave and serve.
Oven Method for Crusty Dinner Rolls
Set the oven to 350°F. Allow about 10 minutes to preheat.
Wrap crusty, European-style dinner roles, such as ciabatta, in individual pieces of aluminum foil. If you prefer a crusty outside and a soft inside, you may also use this method for soft dinner rolls in lieu of the microwave.
Place the wrapped rolls directly on top of the oven's middle rack. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
Open the oven, and remove a roll. Unwrap, and check its texture. Use a knife to cut into the center. If the roll has the desired texture, remove the remaining rolls from the oven. If not, wrap and return it to the oven with the others.
Set the timer for 5 more minutes if the rolls are not ready, and wait. When the timer sounds, check 1 roll as above, and repeat at 5-minute intervals until your rolls reach the desired texture. When finished, remove the rolls from the oven.
Unwrap all of the rolls to prevent sweating. Serve right away.
If you choose to heat soft rolls in the oven, recognize that they will develop a crusty outside quite unlike their original texture. As with any crusty bread, the inside of the bread remains soft.
If you want the crusty outside of the roll to become even crunchier, you can use the oven method without aluminum foil. If you do this, start with 6 minutes of heating instead of 10 minutes.
If you like, you can use this process with frozen rolls. Set them out for about an hour to allow them to defrost and reach room temperature, then heat.
Never put aluminum foil in your microwave, as this causes fires.
Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.