Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

Do you love Hawaiian rolls? We are big fans at our house. Whether served with dinner or enjoyed as the base for a sandwich, these sweet sourdough Hawaiian rolls will quickly become a family favorite. This version of Hawaiian rolls is made with 100% natural yeast sourdough. Though they require a tad more time (mostly hands-off) than conventional rolls, the resulting sweet and soft rolls are mouthwateringly delicious, and so worth it.

Ingredients in Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

Sourdough Starter: Use an active/ripe sourdough starter (doubled in size/bubbly/mild sour aroma) to mix the levain.

Potato Flakes: Use good quality potato flakes that only have potato in them. Potato flakes make these rolls extra tender and soft.

Milk: I prefer using whole milk in this recipe. You can use 2% milk in a pinch.

Pineapple Juice: Use any brand of pineapple juice or even drain the juice from a can of sliced or diced pineapple to use in this recipe.

Brown Sugar: These rolls taste fairly sweet, and the brown sugar adds an additional layer of flavor. If you prefer a less sweet roll, cut the sugar in half.

Egg: Eggs add a delicious richness to these rolls.

Salt: Salt enhances the flavor and helps the structure of the rolls. Don’t leave it out.

Vanilla Extract: These are sweet sourdough Hawaiian rolls. The vanilla extract enhances the sweetness of the rolls. You can leave it out if you prefer.

Bread Flour: I almost always use a 12.5% protein bread flour for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten results in a lighter/springy baked good.

Sourdough Sample Schedule for Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

Note: This schedule assumes the dough temperature will be maintained at 78-80º F throughout the process.

7:00 AM – 10:30 AMMix Levain (1:1:1)
Cover and let sit for 3-4 hours until bubbly and ripe
10:30 AM10:45 AMMix Dough
10:45 AM – 2:45 PMBulk Fermentation
2:45 PM –
3:00 PM
End Bulk Fermentation
(Optional: Cold Bulk Fermentation overnight)
Shape Rolls
3:00 PM – 7:00 PMLet rolls rise in a warm (78-80+ degree F) place for 3-4 hours until puffed up and touching. Do not bake unless dough has puffed up and risen.
7:00 PMPreheat oven at 400ºF.
Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes until baked through.
Brush with melted butter if desired.

How to Make Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

Mixing the Levain

I use a levain method for making sourdough. You can read more about that here.

For this recipe I use a 3-4 hour levain (1:1:1) ratio.

  • 55 grams ripe/mature sourdough starter
  • 55 grams all purpose or bread flour
  • 55 grams water

Before mixing, take the temperature of the sourdough starter and flour. If it is colder than the 75-80ºF range, use warm water to mix the levain. If the ingredients are warmer than 75-80ºF, use cooler water. The goal is for the levain to be in the 75-80ºF temperature range. After mixing, cover loosely and let sit for about 3-4 hours (at 75-80ºF ). If you want to mix levain overnight instead, mix a 1:10:10 levain with 8 grams ripe sourdough starter, 80 grams flour and 80 grams water. Let sit for 10-12 hours until bubbly, doubled in size and barely beginning to fall back down.

Mixing the Dough

Set the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale. Add the ripe levain and all the ingredients to the bowl. If you want to reserve a little of the flour to add in as you mix, you can to help account for excess liquid or humidity. Start the mixer and knead the dough together for about 8-12 minutes until smooth. Add a little extra flour as needed. This dough will be tacky, not super sticky. For an extra check that the dough is ready, the dough should pass the windowpane test before moving on to bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation

Move the dough to a container for the “bulk” (unshaped) fermentation. Do your best to keep the temperature of the dough at 78-80 degrees F. I use a bread proofer in the winter to help the dough develop at the right temperature. Cover the container. The entire bulk fermentation will take about 4 hours (depending on the temperature). By the end of bulk fermentation, you may notice the dough is more cohesive, strong and aerated. It will have risen a little, maybe as much as 20-30%.

Cold Bulk Fermentation Option

If you want to split this recipe up into multiple days, you can refrigerate the dough after the 4 hour bulk fermentation. Place the covered dough in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. When you’re ready to shape the Hawaiian rolls, pull the dough out of the refrigerator and shape into rolls according to recipe directions. The dough may take a little bit longer to rise as it comes up to the 78-80 degree F dough temperature.

Shaping Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

After the bulk fermentation, it’s time to shape the Hawaiian rolls. Dump the dough on a countertop and use a bench scraper to separate the roll dough into 9 pieces. Take each piece of dough and pull/pinch up the sides until it forms a ball. Roll the ball on the counter, holding your hand in a cupping shape (see video here) to seal the balls and create tension. Place the buns in an 8 by 8 pan, snuggling each next to each other in a 3 by 3 grid.

Proofing Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel and let rise for three to four hours until puffed up and very soft. Keeping them in a warm place (80-85ºF) is best for optimal fermentation and rise. After a few hours, take a finger and press into one of the rolls. If the roll springs back immediately with no indentation left, the rolls need more time to rise. If the indentation springs back just a little, it’s time to bake. The rolls will be aerated and risen. They will not feel dense. Don’t bake them if they haven’t risen. Give them a little more time. I often place the pan in my oven with the light on. This provides a pseudo-proofing box for my rolls that keeps them warm and encourages a rise.

Baking Super Soft Sourdough Rolls

Once the rolls have risen, are touching and feel light and airy, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a baking stone or baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to prevent the bottom of the rolls from burning. You can brush some heavy cream or egg wash on the rolls if you like. I also brush the tops of these rolls with melted butter for more shine and flavor. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until baked all the way through. Top with melted butter if desired and enjoy!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store leftover sourdough Hawaiian rolls?

These rolls taste best warm. I recommend freezing them in an airtight container or ziplock after they have cooled. Re-heat when you’re ready to enjoy them again.

Do these taste like store-bought Hawaiian rolls?

Not really. I think they taste better than the store-bought version! Store bought Hawaiian rolls have a lot of preservatives and “extras” (dough enhancers) in them, which is difficult to replicate at home. I prefer this homemade version using sourdough/natural yeast, which gives added health benefits to a yummy roll.

What do you like to pair these rolls with?

I love eating them warm with a little bit of butter. They are also delicious with ham and cheese as a sandwich.

Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

Amy
Sweet sourdough Hawaiian rolls are delicious made with 100% wild yeast. These rolls are sweet and make the best sandwiches or dinner rolls. Sweet sourdough Hawaiian rolls will quickly become a family favorite! They take a little bit longer than a traditional roll, but are well worth the extra (mostly hands-off) time.
4.25 from 4 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rise Time 11 hours
Total Time 11 hours 50 minutes
Course Appetizer, Bread, rolls
Cuisine American, Hawaiian
Servings 9 rolls

Ingredients
  

Levain (1:1:1 ratio, ready in 3-4 hours)

  • 55 grams ripe and bubbly sourdough starter
  • 55 grams all purpose flour
  • 55 grams water

Sourdough Sweet Hawaiian Rolls

  • 150 grams ripe and bubbly levain
  • 113 grams pineapple juice about 1/2 cup
  • 60 grams milk
  • 1 large egg about 50 grams
  • 5 grams vanilla extract
  • 70 grams brown sugar
  • 20 grams potato flakes see recipe notes
  • 8 grams salt
  • 400 grams bread flour 12.5% protein

Instructions
 

Levain (1:1:1, 3-4 hours until bubbly and active)

  • Mix together 55 grams of ripe and active sourdough starter with 55 grams flour and 55 grams water. Cover and let rise for 3-4 hours until levain has doubled in size, peaked and is airy and filled with bubbles.

Sweet Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer add levain, pineapple juice, milk, egg, vanilla extract, brown sugar, potato flakes, salt and bread flour. Mix until completely combined and the dough feels tacky (not super sticky) and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. I like to reserve about a cup of bread flour and add it in as the dough kneads together, making sure that I'm not adding too much flour to the dough.
  • Knead together for 8-10 minutes, adding the rest of the flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth. The dough should be tacky to the touch, not overly sticky. If it is very sticky, add a little bit more flour, about 20-30 grams at a time.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Put the dough in a container and cover. Set the dough in a warm, 78-80ºF place for 4 hours. Take the temperature of the dough as needed to maintain the dough temperature right around 78-80ºF (I use this bread proofer to keep my dough temperature consistent). If the dough is colder than this temperature, fermentation will move slower. If it's warmer, fermentation will move faster.
  • At the end of about 4 hours, the dough should be puffed up and feel elastic. If it doesn't feel this way, let it bulk ferment for another half hour and check again
  • Overnight Option: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, you can cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Proceed with the recipe the next day, shaping and proofing the rolls before baking.
  • Shaping: Dump the dough onto a countertop. Cut the dough into 9 equal pieces. Take each piece of dough and pull/pinch up the sides until it forms a ball. Roll the ball on the counter using your hand in a cupping shape (see video here) to seal the balls and create tension for the roll to rise. Place in an 8 by 8 pan, fitting the rolls snuggling next to each other in a 3 by 3 grid.
  • Proofing: Cover the pan with a dish towel and let rise in an 80-85ºF place until puffed up, doubled in size and risen, about 3-4 hours. Do not bake these rolls if they have not risen. Warm the dough up and let them rise longer.
  • Baking: Place a baking stone or baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to prevent the bottom of the rolls from burning. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the rolls with heavy cream or egg wash if desired. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until baked all the way through. Top with melted butter if desired and enjoy!

Notes

Update: Originally this recipe called for only 25 grams of milk. This was incorrect. It should be 60 grams of milk.
Pineapple Juice: You can use any kind of pineapple juice or drain the juice from a can of sliced or diced pineapple.
Potato Flakes: Use good quality potato flakes that only have potato in them. Potato flakes makes these rolls extra tender and soft. You could also use softened potato, but may need to decrease a little bit of flour if you go that route.
Bread Flour: I almost always use a 12.5% protein bread flour for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten results in a lighter/springy baked good. If you don’t have bread flour on hand, you can add a Tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to all purpose flour to increase the protein content.
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4 Comments

  1. I made these and the flavor was great but the rolls were very dense. What did I do incorrectly?

  2. 2 stars
    Taste is good but very dense. Starter was extremely active. Proofed as directed. Seemed like way too much flour used 2x recipe

    1. Sorry they didn’t work out for you. They may have needed more proofing time added to them. If they are baked too early, they can turn out dense.