Cook the Book: Buttermilk-Onion Pull-Apart Rolls

Sadly, I’ve never made my own homemade rolls—always just opting for the rolls-in-the-can Pillsbury method (the leap of excitement when the tube bursts open just never gets old). But after seeing the buttermilk-onion pull-apart rolls recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics, I’ve been convinced to break it off with my Doughboyfriend and start a torrid love affair with breadbaking. Every facet of the name induces instant salivation: the buttermilk that lends a slight tang and fluffy texture, the savory golden brown onion bits, and the penultimate "pull-apart" that conjures images of gently prying apart a roll that’s just out of the oven, trying not to burn your fingertips because it’s almost too hot, until the mini clouds of steam are released. Lay on a fat pad of butter and say goodbye to the tubed stuff for good.


  • 11 tablespoons (1 3/8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the bowl, plus 5 tablespoons melted
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon warm water (105°F to 110°F )
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface and pin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 pounds sweet onions, such as Rio (1 1/2 pounds cut into 1/4-inch slices, 1/2 pound finely chopped)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


  1. 1.

    Butter a 9-inch cake pan using 1 tablespoon softened butter. Butter a large bowl; set aside. Stir together the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl; let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved. Stir in the buttermilk and egg.

  2. 2.

    Mix 2 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Make a well in the center. Pour in the buttermilk mixture; mix to combine. Add 6 tablespoons softened butter; mix on medium-high speed until a soft dough forms, about 10 minutes.

  3. 3.

    Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the buttered bowl. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

  4. 4.

    Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons softened butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions; raise heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let cool.

  5. 5.

    Punch down the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 17 x 10-inch rectangle, and brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spread the onions evenly over the dough. Starting on 1 long side, roll the dough into a log. Press the seam to seal.

  6. 6.

    Cut into about 12 slices, about 1 1/4 inches thick each. Arrange the slices, cut sides up, in the buttered pan, and brush with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.

  7. 7.

    Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Immediately invert the rolls onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

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