Pao (unsweetened dinner rolls)

I never imagined I would be baking breads at home. But then as you know things happen and you end up really surprisingย yourself by doing things you never dreamt about doing in the first place. As intimidating as baking breads seem, it really isn’t, once you get past that initial fear ! I still consider myself an amateur in this area, and still have a long way to go ! The different kinds of flour, bakers percentage, hydration , bulk ferment, sourdough, artisan, Polish, biga to name a few are words that I’ve probably never ever came across before ! Now I know the words, but still have to know how to work with a couple of them. I have tried my hands at sourdough and I hope to do a post on that in the coming months too ๐Ÿ™‚

I recently got my hands on the Bread baker’s apprentice by Peter Reinhart, as advised to me by a fellow member of a bread baking group on Facebook. The book has a great depth of knowledge if you’re really serious about artisan breads and a variety of many other, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy.

So what is it about a home baked bread, when it’s available commercially ? If you do make breads at home, you would agree with me on the following points:
1. Baking is therapeutic. The whole process of kneading the dough and seeing it rise and transform to the finished product fills one with a lot of satisfaction.
2. The aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the kitchen is simply divine!
3. The most important factor for me : THE INGREDIENTS , yes bread consists of just 4 basic ingredients, flour, water, salt and yeast . When you bake your own bread you know what goes into it and are assured of the quality.
4. Finally the joy of biting into a piece of that bread, slathered with some butter !! Heaven ! The simple joys in life ?

I began my bread baking journey immediately after moving here to the US almost 3 years ago by referring various YouTube channels. I missed the pao’s that we would get in Mumbai and so had to try making them at home. My first attempt with making bread was a disastrous whole wheat sandwich loaf bread, until I realized and came across another word in the bread dictionary – ‘ gluten’!

As I’ve mentioned before I got my hands on my mum’s age old recipe book, and was elated to find this recipe there. I’m sharing with you the recipe for these dinner rolls straight from that book.

I’ve made slight changes in the recipe, instead of 450 grams flour which equals 3 & 1/2 cups flour, I’ve used 4 cups of flour. Also the recipe calls for block yeast, I’ve used the same quantity of active dry yeast. If you buy yeast in packets, then one packet (2 & 1/4 teaspoons) is more than sufficient to rise this quantity of flour. Also I’ve increased the salt to 2 teaspoons for more flavor. The quantity of milk is something that I have experimented with a lot in terms of hydration and for me 1 & 2/3 cups liquid yields the best results. You may require anywhere between 1 & 1/2 to 1 & 2/3 cups depending on climatic conditions.

These are light, fluffy and extremely delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a fail proof recipe that I have tried and tested many times. It is guaranteed to give you the perfect dinner rolls if you follow all the steps correctly. With experience and practice you will get a hang of how the dough should feel and everything else that comes along with bread baking, so it will only get better with time ๐Ÿ™‚

I have to tried to cover as many details as possible, keeping in mind all the experiences I have dealt with in making dinner rolls. Sometimes they would turn out hard, sometimes soft. But with practice, I no longer worry about the outcome. Hope all these tips and details will help you too ๐Ÿ™‚ Please do refer notes for more details.

Ingredients: Measuring cup used, 1 Cup = 250 ml, 1 teaspoon = 5 ml

4 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting, as required ( spooned and leveled)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt or to taste

2 & 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast*

2 tablespoons + (1 tablespoon butter for brushing the rolls after baking)

1 & 2/3 cup of lukewarm water/milk ( I prefer to use milk)

Oil spray/ 2 teaspoons oil to grease the bowl and the dough.


1.Add active dry yeast & sugar to 1/3 cup of lukewarm milk/water. Leave it in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes or until it is all frothy and bubbly. If the yeast is not frothy and bubbly, it means it is not activated, discard and start over again.ย Do not proceed without activating the yeast first.

Activated yeast.

2.In a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour, add in the salt, activated yeast mixture, and the remaining 1 & 1/3 cup lukewarm milk/water.


3.Mix the contents in the bowl using a spatula/ or with your hands.


4.Dust your work surface with very little flour, transfer this sticky dough, add butter, and start kneading until you get a soft & pliable dough.


5.This will take approximately 10-12 minutes, but the dough will definitely come together. You can use a bench scraper to scrape the dough off the work surface and keep folding to make it easier. Do not add more flour, as it will result in hard dinner rolls, add few tablespoons flour at a time, if it is still very sticky or simply grease your palms with more butter if required. The dough should be soft and tacky but not sticky* ( Refer notes for further explanation). Once the dough is done, poke it with your finger, if it springs back, it is ready for the next step.

If you are kneading in a stand mixer You want the dough leaving the sides, but you still want to see a blob of dough at the bottom under the dough hook. If ย it’s coming away completely from the bottom, the dough is under hydrated and dry, this will result in hard dinner rolls. Here’s a pic for reference below. This is another batch that was knead in the stand mixer, and that’s the right consistency of the dough – a bit tacky but not sticky. Transfer it to your work surface dusted with little flour, knead for another 1-2 minutes and follow the next step.

6.Tuck the edges of the dough towards the center to form a ball and transfer it to ย big greased bowl. Spray some oil spray on the dough or apply little oil over the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen napkin, and set aside in a warm place to proof or double in size.


7.After the dough has risen, deflate it and transfer to the working surface. Knead again for another 5 minutes at least, ย add very little flour if the dough is too sticky.



8.Cut the dough with a scraper/dough knife/ regular knife ( do not tear it by hand as it will tear the gluten strands ) into equal portions and shape them into rolls.How to shape? Tuck the edges underneath towards the center, roll the dough against your work surface or between your palms to form a smooth round ball. Please refer notes for a video by King Arthur on how to shape rolls for a better idea. If you have a precise weighing scale, you can divide the rolls equally. I just eyeballed it.


9.Place them in a greased 9 x 13 greased tray, leaving little space between each.Cover with a damp kitchen cloth and let it proof for the second time. This will take approximately 30 minutes depending on the weather conditions.

10.Preheat the oven to 400 F, Brush the risen dough balls with milk for a nice brownย colored crust. Bake for about 15 -18 minutes or until they are done and the top is golden brown.ย The top of the rolls will appear hard as soon as your remove it from the oven. When you tap on it you should be able to hear a hollow sound, that’s how you know it is well cooked. I remove mine at 18 minutes.

11.Remove the prepared rolls ย from the oven and brush with butter whilst still warm. They will soften once they start cooling down. Enjoy these, slathered with some butter or with bhaji or any curry of your choice.


1.The difference between sticky and tacky is crucial and an important factor to achieve soft rolls. You don’t want the dough to be over hydrated. If you touch the dough, pull back and find some residue sticking to your finger, the dough is sticky. If you touch the dough, pull back and find it leaves your finger easily without much residue, it is tacky and the right consistency. You can go ahead and proof the dough.

2.Remember, do not proceed if the yeast is not activated.

3.How to knead bread dough? Take a look at this quick video by King Arthur Flour.

4.Shaping dinner rolls require a technique, it is not simply just rolling the dough into a ball, refer this quick video to get an idea.

5.To store the rolls, place them in an airtight container or zip lock bag, they stay good for 2-3 days at room temperature.

6.If you buy yeast in packets, then 1 packet i.e 2 & 1/4 teaspoons is sufficient for this recipe too.

7.You may use half milk and half water.

I would love to hear from you , please feel free to share your feedback with photos and suggestions to me at

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    • Freda Dias says:

      Hi Diana, the recipe is more or less similar to this. You will have to add 1/2 cup sugar to this recipe, and for richness you can add in an egg yolk. You can add in raisins and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg powder. Finally after the second rise, pipe a batter of equal parts of all purpose flour and water ( 1:1 ratio) in the shape of the cross over the bun and bake at 375F until golden brown. You will have to place the buns some distance apart, so they don’t stick to each other after the second rise and on baking, in order to retain the shape. I hope to share the recipe in detail around Easter ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. sravanthi says:

    Freda , came across this post on foodgawker ๐Ÿ™‚ wow amazing and beautiful photos. Your pao recipe is so tempting.Adding this to my never ending to do list .Thanks for sharing your Mom’ recipe.

  2. hummingbirdthyme says:

    Bread baking has long been on my list of kitchen fears as well! Your bread is lovely, Freda! You are encouraging me to give it a go! Ive made a few but still have a lot of hesitation.
    Thanks for the great recipe and wonderful photos!

  3. Lina says:

    Omg! Thanks to you and your mom for this recipe! I always stay away from bread making, but the other day I was like maybe I should start with pav buns cause what’s there to not love about them…If you have the traditional bhaji recipe, please post that bhaji is okayish but pretty sure not like Mumbai streets’ pav bhaji. I’ve never been there so don’t really know how they taste?

    • Freda Dias says:

      Hi Lina! Thanks so much ๐Ÿ™‚
      Will definitely be posting the bhaji recipe, but probably in the next few months. If I can’t will definitely mail you my way of making it ๐Ÿ™‚ Well it is spicy and loaded with butter, if you must know ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Loretta says:

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again Freda. You really spent a lot of time on this wonderful post. Thanks for all those tips and tricks, it makes the tutorial so much easier to understand and replicate. Just as I was thinking of cutting out carbs from my diet, I see this flash on my screen…..I’ll just have to delay that thought now ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Evra D'costa says:

    Thank you Freda for the amazing recipe. i had tried making dinner rolls from some other recipe and it never really turned out the way they should & i was disappointed, had given up until i came across your recipe and decided to give it one more shot and i can’t explain the excitement as all was going as per your instructions & they turned out fab. Thank you so much…..

  6. curryandvanilla says:

    Beautifully explained Freda! You are tempting me to put on my baker’s hat and try this today ๐Ÿ™‚ They look gorgeous…

  7. Reach2Starlight says:

    When do we add the sugar? I have already starting making this recipe so I’m assuming it goes with the yeast? Also the list of ingredients doesn’t mention how much butter we need to add, so I am going with the pictorial and adding approximately 2 tbsps. Really great recipe but I would appreciate if you could update it with the couple details that I thought were missing. I’m sure you all can probably still make this recipe without those details but it will help a first timer like me!! Thanks from a fellow Goan..

    • Freda Dias says:

      Hi ! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess you’ve missed out step 1 where it’s mentioned to add sugar to activate the yeast, quantity of butter is already mentioned in the ingredient list.

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