I’ve grown up listening to my German-born mother talk endlessly about german hard rolls, or brotchen. She’s not really able to travel back to Germany anymore, so I did a little research and found a recipe for brotchen. It’s a long, rather involved process but yet not really difficult. You just have to be patient! Mom said they’re about as close as one can get without going to Germany… but that’s not good enough for me! I’m going to tweak the recipe a bit, so be looking out for Round 2 of german brotchen baking!
Prep Time: 18 hours, 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 18 hours, 55 minutes
* ***Day 1***
* 2 c. (250 grams) bread flour (I used King Arthur bread flour)
* 1 1/3 c. cold tap water (300 ml)
* 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (2.5 grams)
* ***Day 2***
* 4 1/2 c. flour (725 grams)
* 1 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
* 1 1/3 c. water (300 ml) plus extra, if needed
* 1 tsp. (5 grams) instant yeast
* 1 1/2 tsp. (12 grams) salt (Morton’s iodized)
The night before you want rolls mix the flour, water and yeast in a bowl until smooth and lump-free. Cover with plastic wrap or plate (not airtight) and let this mix sit on the counter overnight.
The next day (8-24 hours later), mix the sponge (what you mixed on Day 1) with 5 cups of flour, the extra water and the yeast. Knead for 8 minutes, preferably with a stand mixer. Add up to another half cup of flour until dough clears the bowl (doesn’t stick to sides much-just a little).
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix for 4 more minutes (You may decrease the salt to 1 teaspoon, if you wish).
The consistency of the dough should be smooth but tacky, adjust with water, a teaspoon at a time, or flour, a tablespoon at a time.
Let the dough ferment for 2 hours at room temperature, or until doubled in size.
Turn dough out on lightly floured work surface and form into a log. cut 2 ounce pieces (50 grams) with a bench knife or spatula. This will make about 40 small rolls. If you want them a more normal size (for today’s portions), cut 2 1/2 to 3 ounce pieces (70-84 grams).
If you have a scale handy, weigh a few to be sure.
Let the pieces rest for a few minutes, then form into balls or any other shape you like. Coat in flour and place on parchment paper about 2 inches apart.
Cover with a damp cloth and let them rise for a further hour.
Preheat oven, preferably with an oven stone, to 450°F for 1 hour. Place an old pan on the bottom rack.
Slash rolls with a serrated knife or lamé or razor blade.
Place rolls in the oven on the next shelf up, directly on top of the stone if available or on a baking sheet if not. Pour 1-2 cups of boiling water into the old baking pan and close the door quickly. Spray sides of oven with water 2 or 3 times in the first 5 minutes using a regular spray bottle. Bake for 15 – 20 more minutes, turning the baking sheet if necessary for even browning.
Cool rolls on wire racks so that the bottoms don’t get soggy.
Rolls are supposed to be eaten warm and crispy. You may freeze and recrisp in a hot oven if you are not eating them the same day they are baked. To transport to a brunch or potluck, wrap them in a towel or fabric napkin in a basket.