Heat liquids: Whisk together the milk and water in a liquid measuring cup. Add slices of butter. Microwave for 1 minute, then whisk. Continue microwaving in 15 seconds intervals, until the mixture reaches 110 degrees F (I use a meat thermometer) *Can also be heated in a sauce pot.
Make the dough: In a large bowl or stand mixer, stir together the liquids, active dry yeast, white sugar, salt, and 1 cup of all purpose flour until a very wet, shaggy dough forms.
Add in the remaining 1 and ½ cups flour. Mix until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface to knead by hand for 8-10 minutes OR knead in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment for 6-8 minutes. The goal is smooth, elastic dough. Add remaining ½ cup flour as needed if the dough is too wet or sticky to work with.
First rise: Place the kneaded dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Let rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about an hour (it may take up to 2 hours in a cold kitchen).
Shaping the dough: Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. I use a kitchen scale for accuracy. To make round dough balls: Pinch the ends of each dough piece together in the center. Place seam side down. Use the palm of your hand to gently roll each dough ball until smooth and round.
Second rise: Place the dough balls in a lightly oiled 8x11 baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Baking: Bake at 350 degrees on the middle oven rack for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter for soft tops and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt. Enjoy!
Leftovers: For best quality, enjoy with 2-3 days. Best enjoyed warm.
Make ahead: You can make these up to 18 hours in advance of baking. Follow the recipe up to the second rise, then cover tightly and transfer to the fridge. When ready to use, let rise at room temp until doubled in size.
Freezing instructions: Can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To freeze the rolls before baking, follow the recipe up until the second rise. Place rolls in a lightly oiled baking pan and cover tightly. On the day that you plan to use them, let the frozen rolls thaw at room temperature for 4-5 hours, until doubled in size. Bake per recipe instructions.
To freeze after baking, let cool completely before freezing in an airtight container. When ready to eat, let thaw on the counter in 3-4 hours. The entire pan can be reheated in the oven at 300F in 8-10 minutes.
Dairy-free option: Choose unflavored non-dairy milk like soy, almond, or oat milk. Choose an unsalted vegan butter like Earth Balance buttery sticks.