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Vanilla Bean Cloverleaf Rolls

vanilla bean cloverleaf rolls

There is no aroma quite as comforting or as intoxicating as freshly baked bread. The art of bread-making dates back to the ancient Egyptians; grains were cultivated, and a simple mortar and pestle were used to grind the grain into a very course flour. The first bread was unleavened, similar to a tortilla or a naan bread. The addition of yeast to these breads began when wild yeast was attracted to the ground grains and "contaminated" them, and then the warm climate and the addition of water activated the yeast and caused the dough to rise.

Although the ancient Egyptians had no working knowledge of how the yeast microorganisms caused the dough to rise, each time the dough would rise they would remove a small piece to add to the next batch of dough. In modern times this would be considered the mother. Many bakers have one or two mothers that they start their artisanal breads from, assuring consistency in flavor from one batch to another. I have worked with many artisanal bread bakers that keep a storage container that holds the original mother from when they began their career as bakers. They feed and care for it as if it was more precious than gold.

I didn't have a mother to pull from to create these absolutely delicious vanilla clover leaf rolls, but I did have beautiful Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla. Madagascar vanilla beans are grown on the Island of Reunion (known as the Island of Bourbon), east of Madagascar. These vanilla beans are very distinct, with a flavor and aroma profile unlike any other vanilla bean. Madagascar vanilla beans are processed using the "Bourbon" curing method. This technique typically produces vanilla beans with higher moisture content. Our gourmet vanilla beans have a moisture content of roughly 33%. You'll notice that there are no breaks or splits within the vanilla beans; another indication of extremely high quality.

The Madagascar vanilla bean adds a sweet and buttery vanilla flavor to this soft, creamy and slightly sweet dinner roll. One bite and you'll wonder why you didn't make these sooner!

Vanilla Bean Cloverleaf Rolls

slightly modified from Bon Appétit magazine
Yields 12


  • 2/3 cup milk (2% or whole works best)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (cubed)
  • 1 Madagascar vanilla bean (scraped)
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • whole milk (to brush the tops of the dough)
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla sugar


Heat milk to 110 degrees. Place yeast and sugar in a small bowl and pour warm milk over top. Whisk to combine. Set yeast aside until it become soft and foamy, 5-10 minutes. Whisk in eggs until combined. Combine the flours in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, and slowly add the milk/egg mixture and vanilla bean scrapings to the flour. While the mixer is running on medium add the butter, one piece at a time. Continue until all the butter is incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat dough until soft. Once dough is done, gather dough into a soft ball.
Spray bowl with non-stick cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise 1 1/2-2 hours in a warm dry area. Dough will double in size.
Lightly brush 12 hole muffin pan with melted butter . Punch down the dough that has been rising. Divide in two halves, take the first half and place on lightly floured surface. Roll into a 12-15 inch log. Cut in 18 sections, take one section and roll dough on the lightly floured surface using the palm of your hand to form a ball. Continue this method with all 18 pieces. Place three dough balls into the bottom of the muffin pan, next to each other. Continue this method with the remaining dough. In the end you will have three dough balls in each of the 12 cups of the muffin pan.
Place a kitchen towel over the pan and let rise 1 hour until the dough is over the top of the cups. Remove towel and lightly brush with remaining whole milk, sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 18-20 minutes until tops are golden brown. Serve immediately with your favorite jam or preserves.

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