While I’ve been diving head long into whole grain sourdough breads and have been baking loaves essentially every week for a few months now I have also returned to my Opa’s recipe for “crusty buns” or as I now call them Opa’s Crusty Bread Rolls. My first attempt at these a few years ago included trying to speltify the recipe, but, to be honest, spelt just does not have the gluten strength I needed to get these right.
So this time around I opted for regular (albeit organic) wheat flour. I tested it one way, then another, then another. It took me at least three attempts before I rolled right back to my Opa’s original hand written recipe and instructions which of course, when I followed it, produced the most amazing crusty bread rolls. Rolls that not only transported me back to my childhood, surrounded by family eating breakfast at the smorgasbord laid out on my Oma and Opa’s table and me chomping down into one of these rolls slathered with nutella, but the smell that emanated from my oven as these rolls baked to a delightfully golden hue made my heart ache for the amazing bakeries my hubby and I found inside every grocery store during our trip to Germany in 2019.
Any trepidation or hesitation I had felt about using commercial yeast (and quite more than I am used to) disappeared in those moments. There was just something about the warm, yeasty scent that filled my nose and my heart in the most absolutely perfect way.
These crusty bread rolls are not only amazing topped with anything sweet like nutella or jam, but are just as delicious to hold homemade hamburgers with all the fixings or a few slices of cured meats and a thick slice of strong cheese (also a very German thing).
The beauty of this recipe is it can easily be made into six large rolls for the aforementioned reasons or eight smaller rolls to accompany breakfast or dinner. The rolls can be baked close together so they are softer on all sides where they touch when baking (see image below) or placed further apart on a large baking sheet so they end up crustier all the way around (see image above). Top them with seeds or leave them plain. I have tested them many ways and these crusty bread rolls are delicious (and send me reminiscing) no matter what.
If you liked this recipe you are going to love these ones!
Opa’s Crusty Bread Rolls
- 1 tbsp instant yeast (12g)
- 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar (8g)
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (14g)
- 1 1/4 cups water (310g)
- 400 grams organic, all purpose wheat flour
- 1/2 tbsp sea salt (10g)
- 2 tbsp milk
- sesame and/or poppy seeds for decoration optional
In the bowl of a stand mixer measure out the yeast and set aside.
In a small saucepan, measure out the sugar, butter and water. Warm slowly and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, the butter has melted and the mixture reaches 115 degrees F. Pour this mixture over the yeast, then add 200 grams of flour on top. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine then beat on high for 3 minutes using the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
Add the remaining 200 grams of flour and the sea salt. Mix on low speed for 12 minutes or until the dough balls together around the dough hook, doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore and passes the window pane test (see note 1). Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled, puffy and full of air.
Lightly flour a work surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Lightly flour the top of the dough and then flatten it with your hands. Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces (for large hamburger sized rolls, approximately 123 grams of dough each) or 8 equal pieces (for smaller, dinner rolls).
Flatten one piece of dough into a rectangle. Fold the bottom up to reach the top, then fold each side into the middle, one over the other. Roll the dough over so the seams are facing down. Continue this shaping for each piece of dough. Lightly dust the tops of each piece with flour, cover with the tea towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Lightly flour a work surface again. One at a time, take each piece of dough and roll it over so the top is now facing down. Flatten with your hand and imagine it like a clock, tugging pieces of dough from the outer edge of each section into the center to tighten it. Turn the dough over so the seams face down. Cup your hand over the dough, press down gently and rotate quickly in circles to create a tightened, smooth ball of dough. Place it on the parchment lined baking sheet and repeat shaping for each piece of dough (see note 2). Lightly dust the top of each with flour and gently flatten them with the palm of your hand (flattening here is optional, but encouraged if you want wider rolls for hamburgers, etc). Cover with the tea towel. Allow to rise for 30 minutes or until nearly doubled. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the top of each roll with milk then sprinkle with sesame and/or poppy seeds (seeds are optional). Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow the rolls to cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
- For details on how to perform the window pane test see the YouTube video here.
- Here is a quick YouTube video that demonstrates the shaping technique I use.
- If doubling this recipe, note that the dough will need a longer kneading time, approximately 18 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl at the 6 and 12 minute mark. Use two baking pans, placing 6 rolls on each pan. Position the racks in the bottom and top third spots in the oven. Bake on the convection/fan bake setting at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, turning the trays half way through the baking time.
For One Loaf of Bread
- Follow the instructions above through step 5 without dividing the dough into pieces.
- In step 6 simply flip the dough over so the top is now touching the counter, flatten into a rectangle, roll the dough up and place in a greased loaf pan to rise. All steps and instructions after this remain the same.