Sweet & Soft Sourdough Hawaiian Rolls

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I never invent recipes or bake stuff for the sake of blogging or posting on social media. My contents are purely, what I make for us to eat on a daily basis. All the food and bakes that I post on IG or on Facebook get eaten right after the photo shoot (‘during’ in some cases) even the trial batches. Most of the time, the motivation is either finding some beautiful produce or a special request or the necessity to use up leftovers. I am an advocate for “zero waste”. So the motivation behind this recipe is half a can of pineapple chunks that was sitting in the fridge. (The other half was used in a Thai Red Curry)

Hawaiian rolls

We love crusty bread at our house. Even the burger buns got to have a bit of a bite to it! But occasionally, we like to munch on soft, sweet, indulgent stuff too. When I want soft, I go all in. This recipe is one of those, where you will end up with a super soft, ultra light, melt-in-your-mouth kind of crumb.

See for yourself!!! Check the video below

Supper soft buns

Pineapple juice:
The brand of canned pineapples I used, has pineapple chunks in 100% pineapple juice. So I used this juice from the can and later some chunks too. I find the juices contain more flavor than the actual chunks. (I grew eating real, juicy, tropical pineapples, so obviously, I don’t think the canned ones can even come close..but it is convenient ) Feel free to use any pineapple juice you like for the recipe or juicing a ripe pineapple is an option too.

proofed rolls

The water based Roux:
I am sure most of you have made a roux before or at least have heard of it. A traditional roux is flour cooked in oil. This is used to thicken sauces like béchamel. There is also a technique where you use water and flour to make a thick roux. And this is used to make soft bread and buns. You can replace water with milk to increase the richness. That is exactly what I did here. I made a roux with flour, water and milk (1:1:1) to make these rolls extra soft.

You can completely skip this step and still get perfect soft Hawaiian rolls, but this is my little twist to getting them irresistibly 🙂 soft

Hawaiian rolls

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You need a fed, ripe sourdough (100% hydrated) starter to make this. So make sure to feed it ahead of time and have it ready.

Remember! A well fed (refreshed) starter ( that is not starving) is the key to less sour flavor in the end product!


Let’s make the roux next. Mix 1/2 cup flour(use all purpose or a mix of all purpose and bread flour) with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk, in a heavy bottom saucepan. Whisk to combine and get rid of all lumps. Cook this on low heat whisking slowly, for about 5 minutes. The mix will start to thicken. When you can draw a path on the bottom (like shown in the picture) it is ready. This consistency is closer to that of a pouring custard.

Take off the heat and pour into a dish. It will continue to thicken further as it cools.


Weigh/measure all the ingredients and have them ready.

  • Starter
  • Roux
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • An egg
  • Pineapple juice
  • Softened butter
sticky dough

Mix everything except the butter using a stand mixer. It is very sticky at this point and just mix until everything is kind of mixed and cohesive.


Add butter, 1 or two pieces at a time and mix until all the butter is incorporated. You will have to aid this process, with a spatula. Scrape the sides and push butter in the dough to encourage mixing.


Once the butter is fully incorporated, the mixture will look slightly glossy and yet sticky. Let this sit/rest for 5 minutes. And then mix on medium-low speed ( speed 2 on a kitchen aid) for a bout a minute. You will start to feel the resistance.

If the dough is too sticky let it rest for 15-30 minutes before mixing.


At this stage, bring the dough out on to a floured surface. It will be sticky, but if you flour your hands, you should be able to handle it pretty easily. Use slap and fold to bring the dough together. Every slap and fold will change the dough. Use a bench scraper to release and gather dough as you go. Use flour to stop sticking.

If you don’t want to handle the sticky dough, use the mixer with hook attachment and mix for 10 minutes of until you get a smooth dough.


The dough should look like this, after about 10-15 slap and folds. It is still slightly sticky on the inside, but fairly smooth and less sticky on the outside. Very soft and would spread out, if left for too long.


Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and bulk in a warm place. I create a warm place in my oven by placing a bowl of boiling water inside. (change water with fresh boiling water every hour)

It is roughly 90 °F (32 °C)

proofed dough

This is after 3.5 hours in to bulk fermentation and the dough has grown 1.5 times its original size. I would stop fermenting here and going to retard this dough ( for extra flavor)

For same day Bake: leave the dough in the warm place for another hour or 1.5 hours until it is doubled in size and continue from dividing onward.

Use a tall container, so you can see the growth easily. I always eyeball.

proofed dough

See how plump the bulked dough is. The dough is not as sticky as it used to be.

proofed dough

Tip the bulked dough on to a floured surface. Notice the sponge like texture.

proofed dough

Shape the dough to a tight ball, releasing some of the air trapped in. You will notice the dough has gained strength and elasticity. It is not as sticky anymore and is very soft and pleasant to handle.

proofed dough

Place the dough in a plastic container and close the lid tightly. Place this in the refrigerator to slow-ferment (retard).

I did retard for 18 hours. Anywhere from 10 – 20 is fine.

Retardation might adds a bit of sourness, meaning the less time you retard, the less sour it will be. So you can stretch the bulk and shorten the retardation to balance out

proofed dough

Retarding will slow down the fermentation, but there will still be a considerable rise. Let this dough soften up a bit, so we can shape. Took 3.5 hours at 90 °F (32 °C)

Leave at room temperature for not more than 20-30 minutes. Do not let it thaw completely, a colder dough is much easier to shape.

proofed dough

Tip the container and drop the dough on to a lightly floured surface.

I posted this picture to show you how the bottom of the dough show signs of fermentation, so you will know what to look for.

divided dough

Divide the dough in to 9 (3 by 3 rows) or you can do 12 for 3 by 4 rows), depending on the baking dish you use. I’m using my 8. 1″ X 8. 1″ X 2. 1″ (2 quart) Pyrex dish.

To make dinner rolls divide into 60g (or 58g) portions
If your dough is too sticky, place in the fridge for 2-3 hours or until it firms up so it’s easier to handle

shaped rolls

Shape them into nice, tight, dough balls. Just like making other rolls.

Video of shaping buns

shaped rolls

Place them closer to each other, so they will rise upwards, giving the rolls a great height. This will keep the crumb softer too.

8. 1″ X 8. 1″ X 2. 1″ (2 quart) Pyrex dish.

Cover these and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Roughly about 3 hours at 90 °F (32 °C) but check every half an hour to see how they are doing

proofed rolls

The risen rolls. Top view

proofed rolls

A view from an angle, so you can see how high they are. They will be higher with the oven spring.

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (170 °C)

Convection 300°F (150 °C)

Lightly egg wash the top and bake for 20 – 30 minutes. 20 minutes is often enough, unless your oven is like mine (doesn’t heat up evenly/conventional)

baked Hawaiian rolls

Have your glaze/syrup prepared, while the buns are being baked.

Once the tops are golden brown like this, it is ready to come out.

baked rolls

Apply the glaze while it is still hot. Brush the top with syrup generously and leave to cool. This prevents the rolls from drying out, gives extra pineapple(tropical) flavor, adds extra sweetness and moisture too.

You can use a normal sugar syrup instead of this pineapple coconut syrup.

baked Hawaiian rolls

The syrup will be absorbed as it cools. Serve warm.

Skip the syrup if you plan to make sliders with these buns

Hawaiian rolls

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  1. hello, i don t like pineapple so do you think i can do with lemon instead of pineapple ? do i have to apply the sames steps ? tks you

    1. Yes, you can skip pineapple and still make this. Replace pineapple juice with milk or water and 2 tbsp of extra sugar.
      For the syrup, just use sugar, water and a squeeze of lemon

  2. Hello, I made these over the weekend and they were fantastic! I wasn’t sure what was happening because I probably didn’t reduce the roux enough so my dough wasn’t as thick as the yours in the picture but I slapped and folded for a while and then it fermented perfectly. The rolls were very fluffy tasted delicious! Thank you

    1. Wow really happy they turned out great and that you loved them! Good job on saving the dough, I would have done the same!

  3. These are dangerously good! The dough was not cooperating well during the slaps and folds, but it was worth it for the end result. I made some extra syrup for the side just in case. 🙂 Thank you for this recipe!

  4. Hello! I am making these today for the first time love the step by step instructions ! However my dough was super sticky the entire time during the slap and fold I eventually got it ok enough to get into a lightly greased bowl. I was wondering if there’s an alternative for slap and fold method I could use or it has to be that specifically ? Thanks you!

    1. The dough is supposed to be a little sticky. Slap and fold is the method used to handle sticky/wet doughs. Check out the video in the post. Lubricate your hands with water to stop the dough sticking. After the bulk, the dough will be not as sticky. Also refrigeration hardens the dough ( just like in brioche)so it will be easier to shape. Hope this helps

  5. Awesome I didn’t know the water trick ! I will try it again that way – I am baking same day can I pop in the fridge for like an hour to be able to work it better or avoid that ?

    1. Yes. That’s exactly what you should do. If one hour isn’t enough, make it 2. You will know when you touch the dough that it is not too hard (rock hard dough is difficult to shape) but firm enough to mold into little rolls without sticking or melting.

  6. Hello Vindi! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I’m going to try this after I study your recipe some more. May I ask did you use coconut milk from the can or the carton for the syrup?

    1. I have not tried myself Juliana, so I am not sure. However, any baked product (bread/rolls/cookies/cakes) freeze well. Wrap tightly (should be air-tight) once cooled, place in zip-lock bags before freezing.
      Bread and rolls can be thawed and refreshed in a moderate oven when you want to use them. But they might feel a bit on the dry side.
      Hope this helps!

  7. I want these to work so badly, so I will try again. But the dough so just so sticky that I couldn’t work with it at all. So I added more flour and then they became too dense and had trouble raising. Ugh, I will definitely give them another go.

    1. Hi Tina,
      Yes this dough is extremely sticky. Don’t add any more flour, it will only worsen it. Use wet/oiled hands to handle the dough. After the bulk, the dough becomes way less sticky. Also the cold retard will firm up the dough. If you are baking the same day, still place the dough in the fridge to harden it, which will make shaping of the buns a lot more easy.
      Good luck!

  8. Thank you so much for this recipe! Took me from Friday ’til Sunday to make this, haha. It came out delicious. My only thing is I left it to rise twice for too long. First bulk for probably over 8 hours and then the second time I did not put in the fridge but let it ferment overnight for 12 hours. Needless to say it was pretty sour. I didn’t mind, but my husband did. So next time I’ll do as you said and extend the bulk and lessen the retarding. However, it is still edible and delicious. Thank you again! xoxo

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes a quick proofing in a warm place will give you less(almost none) sour flavor.
      Also Pineapple juice adds some tartness too.
      Tip: use a starter which is fresh & strong (feed 1:5:5 – ready in 4-6 hours)
      Hope it will all work out next time!

  9. Hi Vindi,
    Your flour must be of a finer grain or have a higher protein percentage than mine. What brand AP flour are you using? I followed the recipe, and the dough was just way too sticky to handle. I had to add an extra half cup of flour to even get it to the stage where I could slap and fold. Even then, it was difficult to work with. I am bulk fermenting now. Love many of your recipes, but I have had to add quite a bit more flour to many of your enriched dough recipes. Your potato and ale hamburger buns and the orange scented fruit bread are family favorites!

    1. I use all purpose(white bleached) flour available in the super market(generic brands and nothing special). The roux has to be reduced to a thick (paste like) consistency if not the dough might be sticky. Also roux has to be cooled not warm as this might melt the butter later and that could be a reason too. If the dough is very sticky, just let it sit for 15-30 minutes and it will fix itself. Adding extra flour will only make it worse at this stage. Also, let it knead for 10 minutes(2nd speed) in the mixer, this will also induce gluten production and will make the dough less sticky. Use wet hands to handle a sticky dough and use fast movements when slap and folding.
      Hope these help.

  10. Sadly, these didn’t work out at all. I followed the instructions exactly but the dough was almost a liquid, they took much longer than stated to bake, and the taste was not good.

    1. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Good luck trouble shooting your process and hope you’ll get it right next time

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