German Brötchen (bread rolls)
Pronounced “broot-chen”, these classic hard rolls sport a wonderful crusty exterior with a soft interior. Ideal for soups, sandwiches, and many other wonderful meals.
For basic rolls:
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) of active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups of warm water
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 2 tbsp (1/4 of a stick) or butter
- 2 tsp of salt
- 7 cups of flour, plus extra if needed
- 3 egg whites, beaten
- Olive oil
- 2 dozen ice cubes
- 1 cup of seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax, pumpkin, poppy)
- 1 whole egg (for egg wash)
- 2 tbsp of milk (for egg wash)
- In a large mixing bowl (or your electric mixer bowl), mix the yeast with honey, sugar, and water.
- Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
- Add in salt, butter, and 3 cups of the flour.
- Mix the ingredients with a fork (or your dough hook attachment) for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the egg whites.
- While continuously mixing, add in the rest of the flour 1/4 of a cup at a time. If your dough is still very sticky, add in more flour beyond the four cups until the dough pulls away from the bowl.
- Turn the dough out on to a floured surface, and knead for 10 minutes. If using an electric mixer, just run at setting 2 with the dough hook for 10 minutes.
- Clean out your large mixing bowl and coat the inside with olive oil.
- Place your kneaded dough into the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and allow it to sit and rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Punch the dough down, and then leave it sit covered for 45 more minutes.
- Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, and divide into 16-24 pieces.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Form your pieces into oval-shaped, and lay on the sheet.
- Cover your formed rolls with the towel and allow it to sit (and rise) for another 40 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 425º. Set up your shelves with one at the very bottom and one in the middle. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf.
- Lightly brush your rolls with the egg wash or olive oil.
- When you're ready to bake, place 12 ice cubes on that lower pan in the oven, then place your sheet of rolls in on the middle shelf.
- Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until they gain a golden brown color.
- Place your hot rolls on a wire rack to cool.
For rolls with seeds in them:
- Mix your choice seeds into the four cups of flour that you have left before step 6.
- Place that combination into the mixture 1/4 of a cup at a time.
For rolls with seeds on top:
- Make your egg wash with the milk and egg as shown in the ingredients.
- Lightly brush the rolls with the wash as stated in step 16.
- Sprinkle your choice seeds on top and lightly press them in before baking.
If you have access to a standalone mixer, I'd strongly urge you to use it. It'll save you a lot of work.
Be careful with the type of yeast you use. If you're using Rapid-Rise yeast, then use 2 tbsp of it. If you're using Active Dry in the packets (as I do) then just use one packet or 2 1/4 tsp.
A damp towel over the rising dough will create moisture and allow the yeast to do it's work better.
If you add in the 4 cups of flour and still see your dough is still sticking to the sides, then add in more flour 1/8 of a cup at a time until you see it come loose. It doesn't have to be completely non-sticky, but you shouldn't have loads of trouble handling it.
You'll notice the rolls pictured above are smoother on the surface, while many German Brötchen have a slit or other pattern cut into them. It's entirely up to you if you wish to do that, as I've been experimenting with this as well. Simply take a knife and cut a slit lengthwise, or do a criss-cross, or whatever you wish to try.
If you're not putting seeds on your rolls and do not want to use an egg wash, I'd strongly urge at least brushing them with oil before baking. Just to get that nice harder exterior.
Don't overlook the ice. The steam generated in your hot oven is necessary for the rolls to bake perfectly, or else you end up with flour-based stones. Use about 10-12 ice cubes per batch you put in the oven, and don't use water as a substitute.
You can freeze these rolls (either as dough or fully baked), or even refrigerate them if you know you'll go through them fast enough.
I left the definition of "flour" up to you. If you want wheat rolls, then go with 4 cups of wheat flour and 3 cups of all-purpose. You can try fully-wheat rolls, but I'd advise using a lighter flour so your rolls do not end up too dense. Feel free to mix up flours, or try something totally different, like using spelt flour. I'll still advise if you're unsure if something will work, play it safe and use at least 3 cups of all-purpose flour.
Healthy It Up
Zuzana has been into spelt flour lately because of it's lower carb content. She also has been staying away from sugars, so I'll make her rolls with only spelt flour, and substitute Stevia in the Raw for the sugar, and agave nectar for the honey. Works beautifully.