Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Nobody in Germany thinks of baking regular, plain white rolls at home. You get them freshly baked everywhere, in bakeries, supermarkets, and even in gas stations.

Every German region has them, called "Rundstück" in Hamburg, "Schrippe" in Berlin, "Semmel" in Munich, or simply "Brötchen" (= little bread).

The typical Brötchen has a crackly crisp crust and a fluffy, soft, easy to pull out crumb. It has nothing in common with its soft, sweet and chewy US cousin, the dinner roll. And American Kaiser Rolls are just Kaisersemmel wannabes, they share only the pretty star cut with their Bavarian or Austrian ancestors.

Brötchen crumb should be soft, fluffy, and easy to pull out

One of the greatest woes of German expats is the total lack of this everyday staple in the US.

No Brötchen to be found anywhere - perhaps bad imitations, but never the real thing.

And worse: no cookbook would even list a recipe!

In those days I had no clue about the differences between European and American flours.

I only knew they were categorized in a different way, European flours by their ash content (meaning what is left if you burn it) and American ones by their protein level.

One day we were shopping at our favorite Italian grocery, Micucci, in Portland. I saw Italian flour Tipo 00 on their shelves, and bought it, more out of curiosity then anything else. I remembered it listed as an ingredient in one of my most favorite bread baking books from a bakery in South Tyrol, Italy.
Different toppings to choose from

In Ploner's "Brot aus Südtirol" I had finally found a recipe for Brötchen. I tried them several times, just assuming "Tipo 00" would be the same as all-purpose flour.

Frustratingly, every time the rolls turned out lean and chewy, more reminiscent of French bread.

But when I used the Italian flour, I finally nailed it: my rolls had the soft, fluffy, "pull-out" crumb typical for Brötchen.

Wikipedia told me why: US wheat has much more protein compared with European wheat.

Protein rich flour develops a strong gluten structure, so that the crumb is airy and chewy. Soft, low protein flours, like German Typ 405, or Italian Tipo 00, have much less gluten and bake into breads with a denser, fluffier crumb.

For an American/European flour "translation", click here.

I like a crunchy seed topping (as shown in the photos), but you can also give your rolls or a simple shiny, crackly glaze, so that they look like Rundstücke.

WEIZENBRÖTCHEN    (adapted from Richard Ploner: "Brot aus Südtirol")
 (12 rolls):

500 g/17.6 oz Italian Tipo 00 or pastry flour
8 g/0.3 oz instant yeast
4 g/1 tsp. sugar
270 g/9.1 oz water, lukewarm
40 g/1.4 oz olive oil
10 g/0.4 oz salt

Seed Topping
1 egg, slightly beaten, for brushing
sesame, poppy or sunflower seeds, for topping


Shiny, Crackly Glaze
 2 g cornstarch, boiled in
100 g water, and cooled to room temperature 

In the evening, stir yeast into lukewarm water until dissolved. Mix all ingredients for 1 minute at lowest speed (mixer or wooden spoon). Let dough sit for 5 minutes.

Knead on medium-low speed (or with hands) for 2 minutes. Dough should be supple and still a little bit sticky (adjust with water if needed). Continue kneading for 4 more minutes, increasing speed to medium-high for last 30 sec. Dough should be very tacky, bordering on sticky.

Fold the dough like a business letter in thirds

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. With wet or oiled hands, stretch and fold dough like a business envelope in thirds, then turn it around 90 degrees, and fold from short sides the same way.

Gather dough ball, sides tucked underneath, and place it in lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat these stretches and folds 3 more times, every 10 minutes (40 min. total time)*.

Place dough in oiled bowl or container with lid (I divide it at this point in halves, and use 1-qt plastic containers). Roll dough around to coat all over with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or lid, and place in the fridge overnight.

*This technique is described in detail in Peter Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Every Day".

The dough is full of gas bubbles and has doubled

DAY 2:
Remove dough from refrigerator 3 hours before baking, to de-chill and double their original size. Prepare egg wash and three bowls with sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds for topping. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape dough into 12 little rolls.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, and shape them into rolls. Brush each with egg wash, then dip in seeds. If you prefer a shiny, crackly crust, skip egg wash (apply cornstarch glaze after proofing.)

Place dough balls seam side down on baking sheet. Let rolls rise ca 2 - 2 1/4 hours, or until grown 2 times their original size (remember to preheat oven after 1 3/4 hours.)

Ready for the oven

Preheat oven to 428º F/220º C, including steam pan.

Brush proofed rolls with cornstarch glaze (if using). Place rolls in oven, pouring 1 cup boiling water in steam pan.

Bake for 9 minutes, then re-brush with cornstarch glaze (if using), rotate baking sheet 180 degrees for even browning, and continue baking for another 9 - 10 minutes, or until golden brown (internal temperature at least 200º F/92º C).

Leave rolls in switched off oven for 10 minutes more (leave door a crack open), before taking them out to cool on a rack.

BreadStorm users (also the free version) can download the formula:

Freerk of BreadLab made a very nice video clip of how to make these rolls - view it at YouTube.

And check out Joanna's Brötchen post at Zeb Bakes, one of my favorite blogs with great breads and lovely photos. 

Ian, from Mookie Loves Bread made the rolls with fruit yeast water and a toasted onion, black sesame, Asiago cheese and flaxseed topping.

Monday, June 14, 2010


50 g rye meal
100 g water, at 122 F/50 C

77 g all-purpose flour
100 g rye flour
2 g salt
108 g water

284 g all-purpose flour
5 g sugar
1 g/1 tsp. blue fenugreek (Brotklee, Schabziger Klee), ground *
2 g/1 sp. caraway, ground
3 g/1 tsp. anise seeds, ground
8 g salt
6 g instant yeast
170 g water

* substitute: 1 tbsp. dried, ground nettle leaves + 1/2 tsp. of curry. Don't use regular brown fenugreek! (It's bitter and much sourer)


For the mash: stir together rye meal and hot water. Let sit at room temperature (up to 24 hrs).


In the morning, add soaker ingredients to mash and stir to combine. Let sit at room temperature.

In the evening, stir yeast into lukewarm water until dissolved. Mix all ingredients with soaker, stirring for ca. 1 minute at lowest speed. Let dough sit for 5 min.

Knead on medium-low speed for 2 min. Dough should be supple and slightly sticky (adjust with water if needed). Continue kneading for 4 more min. increasing speed to medium-high for last 30 sec. Dough will be still somewhat sticky.

Stretch and fold dough 4 times, every 10 min. (40 min total time). Refrigerate overnight.


3 hrs. before baking, remove dough from refrigerator. Divide cold dough into 16 equal pieces and shape into rolls. Place in pairs, each pair touching each other, seam side down on parchment lined baking sheet. Dust with flour. Let breads rise ca 2 - 2 1/4 hrs., or until grown ca. 2 times their original size.

Preheat oven to 446 F/230 C, with steam pan. Place breads in oven, pouring 1/2 cup boiling water in steam pan. Bake for 10 min., rotate sheet and continue baking for another 10 min. (Internal temperature at least 200 F/392 C).

*if using convection (preferable) adjust temperature accordingly

Vinschgauer Bread - Vinschgauer Brot

On a trip to South Tyrol (a border area between Austria and Italy) as a student, I first tasted a sample of the spicy rye breads typical for the region. Hiking up the mountains to a "Huette" (a small rustic inn) we were served Vinschgauer Paarlen with homemade butter and smoked ham (Suedtiroler Speck). The flat bread was quite spicy. I didn't know what herb was in it, but it smelled and tasted wonderful.

Later I found out that there were more than one type of rye bread from Vinschgau. Vinschgauer, Vinschger Paarlen, Vinschgerlen or Vintschgauer comes in different variations, some with, some without sourdough, some flat, some rolls, and also with different seasonings, but all of them spicy and delicious.

A typical, very unique spice in some Vinschgauer breads is blue fenugreek (Brotklee, Schabziger Klee), it develops its special aroma from growing in the mountains with lots of sunshine. When I baked a batch of Vinschgerlen some days ago, the whole house was filled with the smell of Brotklee.

Unfortunately I couldn't find a source for Brotklee/blue fenugreek in the US - I bought several boxes in a health store during my last trip to Germany. But the German Wikipedia had at least a suggestion for a substitute: dried nettle (burning nettle) with "a good pinch of curry". The other possibility would be using regular fenugreek instead. I haven't tried either, yet, but I plan to make two batches using those substitutes, and compare their taste to the original.

Waehrend eines Urlaubs als Studentin in Suedtirol habe ich das erste Mal eins der wuerzigen Roggenbrote probiert, die so typisch fuer diese Gegend sind. Auf einer Bergwanderung servierte man uns in einer Huette Vinschgauer Paarlen mit frischer Butter und Suedtiroler Speck. Das Fladenbrot war sehr kraeftig gewuerzt. Ich kannte das Gewuerz nicht, aber es roch und schmeckte wunderbar.

Spaeter erfuhr ich, dass es mehr als eine Sorte Roggenbrot aus dem Vinschgau gibt. Vinschgauer, Vinschger Paarlen, Vinschgerlen oder Vintschgauer kommt in verschienen Variationen vor, einige mit, einige ohne Sauerteig, einige als Fladen, andere als Broetchen, und auch mit verschiedenen Gewuerzen, aber alle lecker und herzhaft.

Ein typisches, sehr einzigartiges Gewuerz in manchen Vinschgauer Broten ist Brotklee (Schabziger Klee). Er entwickelt sein besonderes Aroma dadurch, dass er in den Bergen mit viel Sonnenschein waechst. Als ich vor ein paar Tagen ein Blech mit Vinschgerlen gebacken habe, war das ganze Haus von Brotkleeduft erfuellt.

Leider habe ich in den USA bisher keine Bezugsquelle fuer Brotklee finden koennen - ich habe waehrend meiner letzten Deutschlandreise mehrere Dosen davon im Reformhaus gekauft. Aber das deutsche Wikipedia schlug wenigstens einen Ersatz vor: getrocknete, geriebene Brennesselblaetter mit "einer guten Prise Curry". Eine andere Moeglichkeit waere Bockshornklee. Ich habe bisher weder das eine noch das andere ausprobiert, aber ich will zwei Partien mit diesen beiden Ersatzgewuerzen backen und ihren Geschmack mit dem Original vergleichen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

They've Killed The Croissants! - Sie haben die Croissants ermordet!

In Quebec the one thing I'm always really looking forward to is, of course, French cuisine. For Francesca's graduation in Montreal we put up in a fairly nice hotel near campus, and went down for breakfast with pleasant expectations.

Heading straight for the croissants I noticed their lack of crispness, cold and tired they were sitting in the display. Well, there was the toaster, and innocently pretending not to understand the warning: "Pas des croissants" ("Nix comprengg!") I revived my lackluster pastry (no smoke alarm).

Back at our table I garnished my croissant with some butter and jam and took my first bite. At once red lights started flashing as my taste buds yelled: "Beware of cardboard!!!" In utter disbelief I took a second bite, and there it was - a total blandness and the faint but unmistakable taste of shortening!

In two days we will be home in Maine, and next time we visit Portland we will go to our favorite breakfast place: "Mornings in Paris", where they have the most wonderful, buttery, crisp croissants...

Wenn wir in Quebec sind, freue ich mich, natuerlich, immer besonders aufs franzoesische Essen. Fuer Francescas Examensfeier in Montreal uebernachteten wir in einem recht netten Hotel in Campusnaehe, und gingen mit freudiger Erwartung hinunter zum Fruehstueck.

Als ich auf die Croissants zusteuerte, bemerkte ich gleich, dass sie nicht kross waren, kalt und schlaff lagen sie in ihrem Schaukasten. Na gut, es gibt ja immer noch den Toastroester. Unschuldig tat ich so, als ob ich den Warnhinweis: "Pas des croissants" nicht verstehen wuerde ("Nix kompreng!"), und frischte mein laffes Gebaeck auf (ohne Rauchalarm).

Wieder am Tisch verzierte ich mein Croissant mit Butter und Marmelade und biss hinein. Sofort leuchteten rote Lampen auf und meine Geschmacksknospen protestierten: "Vorsicht, Pappe!!!" In unglaeubiger Verblueffung biss ich ein zweitesmal hinein, und tatsaechlich - totale Geschmacklosigkeit bis auf einen schwachen, aber unmissverstaendlichen Hauch von Margarine!

Uebermorgen sind wir zurueck in Maine, und wenn wir naechstes Mal nach Portland fahren, besuchen wir wieder unser Lieblingsfruehstueckscafe "Mornings in Paris", wo es die wunderbarsten, butterigsten, knusprigsten Croissants gibt...