Mix together and set aside until foamy:
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar
In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup warm water (or milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening (or butter)
2 tsp salt
Add yeast mixture and stir together well.
Gradually add 3 cups flour, mixing well as you add it. When dough is holding together well enough to handle, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, adding more flour as you work the dough until it has reached a soft, smooth consistency. (I used a total of about 4-1/2 cups) It should be quite soft, but holding together well and not sticky.
Place dough in a greased bowl and turn over. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch down.
Cut or break dough into pieces. Shape into smooth balls by bending the dough down over two fingers and folding the bottom together. For cloverleaf rolls, tuck three small balls into each well of a muffin tin. For dinner rolls, arrange balls on a baking sheet (lightly greased or covered with parchment paper) so that they are touching if you want soft sides, separate if you want them to be more crusty. Allow to double again, about 45 minutes.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes until golden brown (bottom should be just lightly browned). Cool on wire racks.