Today’s post is about some delightful Milky Cloverleaf Rolls that I baked a while back. I have been making them on and off since in various avatars, mostly savoury. A Cloverleaf Roll is an American pull apart bread roll consisting of three separate sections. It takes its name from the three leafed clover plant. Three small balls of bread dough are placed in a muffin tin/ cup to shape these rolls. They rise on proofing and expand when baked to form a three lobed bread roll. This makes them easy to pull apart while eating.
The rolls are typically the result of a somewhat enriched dough with an egg, milk and some butter. This makes the rolls very soft and buttery. Some people tend to make these rolls a bit sweet while others prefer them on the saltier side. Cloverleaf Rolls are usually served on the side, in the US, with a meat based gravy dinner. Cloverleaf Rolls are made with milk but this version is milkier as there’s also some condensed milk in it. This gives them a richer and milkier flavour.
Cloverleaf Rolls are considered very American. However, there’s not much information on how or where they originated from. The earliest recipes for these rolls are from the early 19oos. The earliest printed recipe is probably the one in the Janesville Daily Gazette from November 15, 1913. Another early recipe is in American chef and author Ida C. Bailey’s book, Mrs. Allen on Cooking, Menus, Service from 1929.
Cloverleaf Rolls were probably first baked by someone who got creative with enriched bread dough. It also probably helped that it baked faster as it was small, and more convenient to eat as a pull apart bread.
You can make these bead rolls quickly with a couple of rises or leave the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. This produces a more flavourful bread and also means you have rolls for breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, you can also make them savoury by adding herbs, garlic, cheese, etc.
The classic Cloverleaf Rolls have three “leaves” but my Milky Cloverleaf Rolls have four. Why? Just for fun. It’s the same dough in different shapes. The dough is put in standard muffin tins for the regular Cloverleaf Rolls. I happen to have square muffin trays and the four “leafed” version sits better in those. So my rolls have four “leaves”. Aren’t four leaved clovers supposed to special and lucky?
Milky Cloverleaf Rolls
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp sugar more if you want sweeter rolls
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup condensed milk
- 25 gm butter melted
- 1/2 cup milk more if necessary
- Lightly warm 1/4 cup of milk. Proof the yeast in 1 tsp sugar mixed with 1/4 cup lukewarm milk.
- You can mix and knead the dough by hand or with a machine. As usual, I use my food processor and finish the kneading by hand. Put all the ingredients in the processor bowl, including the remaining sugar and proofed yeast, but not the remaining milk.
- Start kneading, adding as much milk as necessary, to obtain a soft, smooth and elastic dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl. Turn the dough around to coat completely with oil. Cover loosely and let it rise till double, about 1 1/2 hours or so depending on ambient temperature.
- Gently flatten the dough and pat it out into a circle. Cutting it like you would a pizza, divide the dough into 12 equal sized wedges. Shape each wedge into a ball and then flatten it slightly. Again, cut like a pizza, into four equal quarters. Shape each quarter into a small ball.
- Lightly grease the wells of the square muffin tins. Place the four small dough balls into one square muffin well. Repeat with remaining 11 pieces of dough. And fill all the 12 wells of the muffin tray. If you’re using round muffin trays. Divide each of the 12 wedges into 3 portions and place three small dough balls into each well.
- Cover loosely and let them rise till almost double in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Brush the tops of the risen dough with milk. Bake at 180C (350F) for about 15 to 20 minutes till done and golden brown on the top. Do not over bake. Cool on racks and serve slightly warm.