Evidently, I’ve been calling these small bits of bread by the wrong name for my entire life. I have always called them rolls, but now I’m told that the rest of the world calls them buns. When I crowd-sourced it, consensus was that if you put meat on it, like for a sandwich or a burger, it’s a bun. Otherwise, it’s a roll. I honestly don’t know how I can be expected to keep that straight, so I’m just going to keep on calling them rolls, regardless of whether we use them as a meat delivery system. I am an old dog. Let me live my life.
I set a high bar for my son when it comes to homemade bread. I’ve been baking it for years, so he knows what’s good. On our recent trip to Germany, I became inspired to attempt making those delicious brötchen that we enjoyed on every breakfast buffet there. Eli happily made his daily ham sandwiches on the results of my experimenting – even the ones I deemed “failed.” Until last week, when we ran out of the homemade rolls. I bought some sesame seeded rolls – the mass-produced kind – at the grocery store. He turned up his nose and announced, I really prefer the ones you make, Mom.
SAY NO MORE, son. Mommy is here for you! While there are many ways to make buns or rolls, this one has always worked well for me. It comes from a book called Bread Machine Magic, which I got back when I had (and used) a bread machine, but I’ve since adapted it for use without a machine. I present to you:
Meg’s Sandwich Rolls (yes, rolls) (or buns, whatever)
3 cups bread flour (or a mixture: 2 cups white / 1 cup wheat, or 2.5 / .5)
2 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
¾ teaspoon table (or other fine) salt
¼ cup granulated sugar (sometimes I use 2 T sugar and 2 T honey)
¼ cup dry powdered milk
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup shortening, melted and cooled (I used Crisco here. I’ve also used butter, or some blend of the two)
1 large egg
1 cup water
Egg white for eggwash
A little wheat germ, or sesame or poppy seeds, for topping (totally optional)
In large bowl of stand mixer, place flour, 2T wheat germ, salt, sugar, powdered milk, and yeast. Stir well to combine.
In a measuring cup or other bowl, stir the egg and water together and place in bowl with dry ingredients, then add the melted shortening, and also add honey here if you’re using some in place of some of the sugar.
With your mixer’s dough hook attachment, mix on a medium (or medium/low) speed to combine dry and wet ingredients – say 30 seconds or so. Stop it once or twice if needed to scrape flour away from sides. Once flour is incorporated, dial back to low speed and let the machine knead it for 5 minutes – it should form into a ball. Add a little more flour or water if it looks too sticky or isn’t coming together.
Remove the dough, shape it into a ball, and place it in a lightly greased (spray is fine) bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour or so.
Punch dough down and remove from bowl. Cut into 9 equal pieces. (I weighed mine and each was around 3.5 oz – but you can just eyeball it, too.) Work each piece into a round, smooth ball by pinching the sides on the bottom of the roll. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, evenly spaced (but it’s OK if they touch once they rise). Cover with a clean tea towel and let ’em rise for another 30 minutes. If you have an oven with the proof setting, put it in there. (I do, and it’s a game changer.)
If you’re proofing in the oven, remove the tray, then preheat it to 400 degrees (or, if you have double ovens, preheat the other one). Put the bottom part of a broiling pan (or another metal pan you don’t care so much about) on the bottom oven rack, and adjust the other rack to the middle position.
Uncover the dough and brush each with egg wash (egg white + a little water). Then sprinkle with a little wheat germ, or sesame or poppy seeds (if you wish). With a sharp knife (serrated works well), make a quick, shallow slash on the top of each roll. This is also optional but it looks cool when they bake.
Place two handfuls of ice on that now-hot broiling pan – this will add steam to the oven that will help crisp the outsides of the rolls – then quickly place the tray on the other oven rack and close the oven door.
They’ll be done in 12-15 minutes, when they are deep golden brown. Remove from oven, cool on a rack. To freeze for later use, I let them cool completely and slice them before freezing in a Ziploc bag.