What are Cloverleaf Rolls?
Cloverleaf rolls are attractive dinner rolls that can be easy to make if you are good with bread, or have a helpful bread machine to do the mixing for you. The rolls look like little clovers, with three sections to the rolls. This look is achieved easily, and the rolls require less forming and shaping than other types because they are baked in muffin tins. Some cloverleaf rolls have tiny crosses marked on each section. This is a matter of preference, meant to reference the Holy Trinity, which in Ireland is often compared to the clover. There’s no need to place the crosses on if you wish to make the rolls without them.
You can use any simple bread recipe to make cloverleaf rolls. Some people like to use brioche dough, which contains egg. It does provide a nice closed crumb. Once you have risen the dough, you break off small pieces and roll them into balls, placing three balls in each muffin cup. Some recipes suggest dipping the balls in butter first, which will certainly make for a rich roll. Others recommend adding an egg wash or clarified butter to the top of the rolls just prior to baking. You can also top the rolls with sesame, poppy or mixed seeds for a little variety.
Most recipes for cloverleaf rolls recommend you allow the rolls to rise for about 10-15 minutes prior to baking them. This will result in a lighter roll, and a bigger one, and it’s a good step to follow. If you’d like larger cloverleaf rolls to use as buns for sandwiches, it’s a little hard to keep the balls together without using a muffin tin. You can buy extra large muffin pans if you’d like to make bigger rolls.
If you want a quick cheat for making cloverleaf rolls, and don’t have time to prepare the dough at home you can find frozen and sometimes refrigerated uncooked bread dough at most grocery stores. You can use this to quickly form your rolls and still have that wonderful smell of bread baking and the sense of “homemade” rolls. Alternately, some recipes suggest using canned biscuit dough. These will produce a different kind of roll, much more crusty and harder than traditional cloverleaf rolls.
Since they reference the clover, these rolls are perfect with an Irish inspired dinner or on St. Patrick’s Day. Though, more accurately, Irish soda bread would be the authentic choice. Decorated with crosses, cloverleaf rolls can also be a wonderful accompaniment to a dinner or lunch celebrating a First Communion, a baptism or a Confirmation. They’re also an excellent choice at weddings that are strongly Christian and Trinitarian, or in celebration of an ordination. Without crosses, they're just plain delicious and good at any dinner throughout the year.
The best part about cloverleaf rolls is making cinnamon rolls out of the leftover dough! It's so easy, and the rolls are always the best -- much better than anything you can get at a store. I live for homemade cinnamon rolls!
My aunt always made cloverleaf rolls at Christmas and I was charmed by them. They were sort of her trademark. My mom also made homemade rolls, but she used a different recipe.
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