Tennis rolls are a staple in Guyanese cuisine. They are very similar to a Hawaiian rolls but are eaten mostly as a snack or for breakfast or lunch. Tennis rolls are typically paired with a thick slice of extra sharp or aged cheddar cheese. Although I've eaten tennis rolls with butter, peanut butter, jam, eggs and mouth (plain).
I am not sure how tennis rolls got their name. Some say it is because of the size of the rolls that are similar to tennis balls. These rolls are very similar to Portuguese sweet rolls but with the addition of lemon zest. Giving it, its signature sweet and citrus flavor.
Step by Step Tennis Roll Recipe Guide
Over time I've found that the best way to make the dough is in your stand mixer if you have one. But if you don't have a stand mixer you can still make tennis rolls using your hands and a trusty kitchen tool––the whisk. I use a whisk for the beginning part of the dough when doing it by hand. I add the liquids to a bowl, just like I would with my stand mixer and I whisk in the flour, a little bit at a time, until I get a pancake batter like consistency.
I then follow-up with handfuls of flour until the dough is smooth. Next, I turn the dough unto a floured surface and knead it to a smooth dough ball. It takes some time (about 10 minutes) to knead the dough by hand, but it is so worth it.
This dough ball should be smooth but also soft and bounce back when touched. If the ball is too stiff the tennis rolls will be hard. When I am done kneading the dough into a smooth ball, I place it into a greased bowl, cover it and let it rise.
Shaping the Tennis Rolls
Once the dough doubles punch it down, then knead it back into a smooth ball.
Then divide the dough into 8 to 12 pieces. Do 8 if you like large tennis rolls (like the Bakewell ones from Guyana). I knead each piece of tennis roll dough into a smooth tight ball. Then I cover it and let it proof for 45 minutes.
Then bake them up to golden brown tennis rolls. Immediately after baking, remove the tennis rolls from the oven, brush them with butter and cover them with a kitchen towel to let them cool. Alternatively when they've cooled off a bit, I sometimes put the tennis rolls in a large ziplock or bread bag, that helps to keep the tennis rolls nice and soft (since it is extremely dry where I live in Denver, CO).
Full Step by Step Video Tutorial
Printable Recipe Card
- ½ cup warm water
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
- ¼ cup butter melted + 1 tablespoon of butter for after you're done baking
- 1 cup evaporated milk or regular milk
- 4 cups of sifted flour plus more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest about 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
- 1 egg white
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Add the warm water to a small bowl, then dissolve the brown sugar in the water
- Next add the dry active yeast and mix together well, then cover and set aside in a cool warm place to allow the yeast to activate
- In another bowl, combine the butter and milk and set aside
- When the yeast has activated and is nice and frothy combine the yeast and the butter and milk mixture. You can do this in your stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl
- Then add the lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract and mix together
- Start to make the dough by adding ½ cup of flour to the liquid mixture and using a whisk or the whisk attachment of your mixer mix together to form a smooth pancake like batter
- Continue to add small amounts of flour until the batter becomes too thick to whisk
- If using your stand mixer switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour
- Then mix on low speed until a smooth dough forms
- If mixing with your hands continue to add the flour ½ a cup at a time until all of the flour is mixed in to form a smooth dough
- Turn the dough unto a floured surface and knead it into a smooth tight ball
- Place the dough ball into a greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let proof until it doubles in size
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and knead the dough again. At this point you can allow the dough to proof again or you can cut the dough into 8 pieces and begin to work on your tennis rolls
- Knead each piece of tennis roll dough into tight smooth balls
- Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel
- Set dough balls aside and let them proof for 30 to 45 minutes until they doubles in size
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F
- Finally, make an egg wash using an egg white and 2 tablespoons of water
- Brush the egg wash over the top of the tennis rolls
- Bake tennis rolls for 25 minutes
- Remove the tennis rolls from the oven and brush with butter then cover with a kitchen towel and let cool
- After the tennis rolls cool down a bit, place them in a large ziplock or bread back to help keep the tennis roll from becoming stiff
- Enjoy with a nice slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese