German-Style Rolls: Brotchen (the crusty secret is an egg white glaze)

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Many people have been writing to ask for German-style hard rolls.  The most common are Brotchen (little breads).  They’re made from egg white-enriched white dough, and brushed with more egg white before baking at high temperature with steam.  In the book, Zoe and I concentrated on French-style crust techniques, which tend not to use egg white for high-temperature crisp crusts on lean breads.  Turns out that the egg white creates an incredible crust and crumb.  First off mix up a batch of our plain white-flour Master Recipe but make one variation:  Put three egg whites into the bottom of the measuring cup before you measure out your three cups of water– so it’s three cups of liquid, including the three egg whites.  Everything else is the same. 

On baking day, preheat the oven with a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 450 degrees F for at least 20 to 30 minutes (place a broiler tray in the oven on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread).  Cut off 3 ounce balls of dough (like a small peach) and briefly shape them (as in our videos), finishing by squeezing to form an oval.  Refrigerate the rest for up to five days before freezing in one-pound packages (there’s raw egg in here).  You can also form a perfect little oval by using the letter-fold method, though I didn’t do it here (too lazy!). 

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Allow to rest/rise for at least 20 minutes or as long as 60  minutes.  Then use a pastry brush to cover with egg white.  If you want seeds or salt, now’s your chance:

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Now slash with a single cut the long way, using a serrated bread knife.  Slide quickly so the knife doesn’t catch:

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     I spaced my brotchen on a silicone mat, but you could also do them on a greased cookie sheet, or a piece of parchment paper.  It’s best not to do these on a cornmeal covered pizza peel; that’s just not the effect you’re going for.

Put the cookie sheet, silicone mat, or parchment paper on the preheated baking stone and pour a cup of hot water into the broiler tray just before closing the oven door.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  The result is incredibly crisp, shiny, and richly browned.  I’m guessing that home bakers with problem ovens will find this method to be a miracle charm for getting a great crust on small breads.

I haven’t tested it on large loaves but I’m guessing that there might be trouble with over-browning if a loaf need more than about 35 minutes.  More on that later.

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149 thoughts on “German-Style Rolls: Brotchen (the crusty secret is an egg white glaze)

  1. Thank you for this new treat! I’m looking forward to experimenting with egg whites. Also – I appreciate so much your dedication to continuing development & conversations. I got your book on my birthday last year – all year I’ve had the website – and now a new technique!
    PS – for kitchen logistical reasons, I stretched out the olive oil dough in a large double baguette pan for pizza toppings – and despite my rough handling and no significant rise time, the bread STILL expanded into lovely cylinders, insisting on its identity as french bread with topping, not pizza (function follows form, perhaps).

  2. Hi! These Brötchen turned out really great! I just came back from my trip to Germany and I had Brötchen everyday for breakfast..I love love them! I’d want to try these at home, but I don’t have a baking stone and i don’t know if i can get one here in Finland.

    Thanks!
    Laura

  3. Perfect timing! I’m definitely going to give these a try. I just made some rolls shaped like that (with the letter-fold method; it really does work well) last night. I was wondering how I could make them have a crisper crust.

  4. that lovely spreading (ear, bloom) whatever its called, is exactly what ive been trying to get with my bread but haven’t got there yet. is it because im not slashing fast enough?
    thanks

  5. Katie: Those baguette pans really encourage the dough not to spread out…

    Laura: Don’t absolutely need the stone, just do them on a cookie sheet or silicone mat.

    Di: Let us know if you think it’s crispier.

    Nads: The quick slash is important, yes. Also, especially if you have something like egg white on top, you can “encourage” it to spread a little if you see that it’s gluing itself back together again. Just move the knife from side to side if you see that happening, spreading the opening.

  6. I’m still stuck on pita breads (oh, my, are those good!) and English muffins, but when I do try these, do I understand that there is no rising time once shaped? Keep these ideas coming….I haven’t bought bread in over a year!

  7. Marcia: Full directions for English Muffins http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=497

    CJ, Elle, and Glen: Thanks for the kind words. About laugenbrotchen, mainly, I just like to say that word! But that crust, contrasting with the white interior exposed by slashing, almost looks like a pretzel technique, with whole egg wash brushed on top but high temp (like 450). You need a small bread or roll which gets baked quickly, or whole egg will totally burn at that temperature– usually we do a whole egg-brushed loaf at 350. See my pretzel post http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=489, but bake longer so it gets really dark. May take some trial and error.

  8. Hi
    I feel dumb but for some reason I cant seem to get this part–Put three egg whites into the bottom of the measuring cup before you measure out your three cups of water– so it’s three cups of liquid, including the three egg whites—Does that mean you still have to put in 3 cups of water and 3 egg whites or what? I know this is a really dumb quesatain but I hope you will help me

    Lynne

  9. Hi Jeff and Zoe —

    I’ve been following the blog for a while now and have been doing your recipes for a few months. I’m a US expat living overseas and I have to ask…is there any enriched bread ideas for making homemade croissants? I know that in the US its pretty easy to buy store-made ones or bake the pilsbury kind from a tube, but I’m sadly far away from cheap and easy buttery croissants!

    Any thoughts or ideas?

  10. Jessie: It’s working in my browser (Internet Explorer 7). Anyone else having trouble?

    Lynne: No, you put in 3 egg whites plus the volume of water equal to 3 cups minus the volume of 3 egg whites. Easiest way to get that is by filling to the three cup-line but start with egg whites and then top off with water. Total volume of liquid (including egg whites) is 3 cups.

    Erin: Croissants are “laminated,” meaning that yeasted dough is layered with softened butter and rolled out, then folded, then rolled again annd again. That gives those flaky layers. We tried that with our stored brioche dough and found that it didn’t maintain the definition of the layers— seems you need fresh dough for that. So we made various pastries in the 2nd half of the book from brioche dough, rolled out, but not laminated. Check out http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=357

  11. I made these this afternoon. They were great! They reminded my husband of the fresh bread that they would get daily from the corner bakery in Brazil when he was growing up. These seemed a little dense though. I’m wondering if I should have let them rest some before baking? Thanks again for all of the fun/fabulous bread recipes.

  12. If you’re finding it dense, then yes, give a longer resting time than we specify in the Master Recipe (40 minutes). Try 60 to 90 minutes and see what you think.

    Or did you mean that you did no rest at all? That’s the problem– it needs some resting/rising time.

  13. German Laugenbrötchen get their dark crust from the same chemical reaction as Pretzels: the surface is brushed with lye (“Lauge” in German) prior to baking. There is no eggwash on Laugenbrötchen! The shine comes from water that you mist on the baked rolls immediatly after they come out of the oven.
    Sadly, I don’t have a recipe, because it is so easy to buy delicious ones if you live in Germany…

  14. Have any ideas of what I can sub for the egg whites? I’m allergic. I found this out recently AFTER I fell in love with your brioche, challah, panetonne. Talk about misery!

    I love the book. We are a family of 7. My 9 year old is responsible for refreshing the bucket when emptied (we use the master dough). We have the bread EVERY night for dinner. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Oh – will your new book cover soaking whole grains before baking? I’m curious because I need to soak the whole wheat I mill fresh for two of my kids who get GI distress from whole grains.

  15. Anna: Lye isn’t a favorite ingredient for most of our readers, so we haven’t gotten quite that authentic! About the Laugenbrotchen, that was just my guess after looking at the photo sent by Glen. Some of our readers who’ve lived in Germany but can’t buy the real article are finding this to be a reasonable substitute.

    Cathie: It won’t be quite the same, but you could try brushing with cornstarch wash (on page 51 of the book). You can’t substitute anything that I can think of for the egg white in the dough, but this is a reasonable glaze substitute.

    Thanks for all the kind words. Our new book talks about keeping the dough in the fridge for certain high-grain recipes where the grain needs to soak up some water. You could do that for all your fresh-milled whole wheat.

  16. This is my fourth try at making rolls with the boule dough and they’ve all turned out like small rocks.
    What am I doing wrong??

  17. Elizabeth: Are your boules OK? Or are they rocks too? Have you checked your oven temp with a thermometer? Are you using the right flour (unbleached all-purpose, not pastry flour, not bleached flour, not White Lily or other low-protein flour)? Letting them rest after shaping for the usual time in the book (at least 20 minutes or as much as 60)?

    Basically, tell me what you’re doing and I bet we can figure out what’s going wrong. Jeff

  18. Laugenbrötchen : google pretzel roll recipes; that’s what i did and i got a great recipe on-line. The look is caused by boiling the rolls in 8 cups of water with 1/2cup of baking soda added. You boil the rolls for 30 seconds turning once. No lye is necessary and the look is the same. They are a big hit.
    Here’s the recipe: from start to finish they take about an hour. We freeze them because they only stay fresh for a day or two.
    Ingredients
    1 1/3 cups warm water
    2 tablespoons warm milk
    2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1/3 cup light brown sugar
    2 tablespoons butter, melted
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    kosher salt or pretzel salt
    2 quarts cold water
    1/2 cup baking soda
    Directions
    1
    In a small bowl if using a bread machine, or in the bowl of a standing
    electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix a 1/3 cup of the warm water
    (105-115 degrees) with the yeast and let stand until foamy.
    2
    Add the remaining cup of warm water along with milk, sugar & melted butter
    and swirl to dissolve the sugar. (If using a bread machine add mixture to
    bread machine at this point and continue). Add flour and mix on dough cycle
    or med-low speed. Remove dough from bread machine once it forms a nice a
    firm, pliable dough ball. Add more flour if necessary.
    3
    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured table and knead for 2 minutes. Roll
    into a 2 foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces. Cover dough with plastic
    and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.
    4
    Pat dough into rolls or form knots and arrange on a lightly floured surface
    about an inch apart and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let the
    pretzels rest for an additional 30 minutes.
    5
    Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets.
    6
    In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking
    soda.
    7
    Drop two rolls into the boiling water and boil for no more then 30 seconds,
    turning once. Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and hold above
    pot and let drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining
    rolls.
    8
    Arrange rolls on the oiled baking sheets and bake on the upper and middle
    racks of the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over; shift
    pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through, for even baking.
    9
    Let rolls cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them
    to a rack.
    10
    Serve warm or at room temperature

  19. Well I got the book. Before it came I made the boule recipe..It was dense(didn’t see the note about longer resting) and I noticed a bit too late some dry bits of flour. Today I tried a dsecond one, baked not on a stone but in the Sullivan St pot and after a longer rest..It looks much better.

    I started a pot of your deli rye recipe. To assure a good rise I added several TBls of wheat gluten ..I used KA rye flour and KA unbleached all purpose dough.
    Making it in a pot creates some logistical changes in the glaze. I think I’ll let it do the final rise on a large Wilton cake lifter I bought from KA, I’ll glaze and score it and pop it in the heated pot bottom down (not up as in Sullivan’s method. Because the lifter is smaller than the peel, I should have more control.

    I notice that KA says they let the Sullivan recipe do the final rise in a cold pottery pot and then popped the entire thing in the heated oven. If my cake lifter idea doesn’t work,I may try that technique.

  20. Hi Jeff and Zoe,

    Do you have any recipes at all that use NO wheat? I know what the book says about the need for gluten, but I was hoping maybe in the year since the book was published you might have developed a wheat-free recipe. I have searched your archives for “wheat free” and “gluten free” and cannot find anything. Can you help? We have a wheat-intolerant niece who would love to be eating yummy fresh-baked bread.

    BTW, we discovered you guys in Mother Earth News in December, heard you on The Splendid Table a week or so later, fell in love with the recipes and recently bought your book. I feel like an evangelist for your technique — I am telling everyone! :-)

  21. Clarice: Let us know how your experiments work out…

    Karen: Our 2nd book will have about 10 gluten free’s but nothing for now! Stay tuned, released in fall ’09, or by Christmas the latest.

  22. Experiment 1: Boule with Longer rise and baked in covered cast iron pot –Superb crumb, crust and taste.

    Experiment 2: The rye is now on the large Wilton cake liter (it’s surface is slightly less than 8″ by 8″. I have it on cornmeal. I’ll let is rise for about an hour, heat up the oven and pot, slash, glaze and seed it and bake it–and let you know how it went.

  23. Clarice: Happy experimenting!

    Beth: 100% WW has lots of wheat germ oil in the crust, which tends to soften it. But the egg white might help. Problem: If you do a large loaf (not rolls), the long baking time might over-brown the egg white. Stick with smaller loaves or rolls, or lower temps.

  24. Just wondering something… I’ve made 3 batches of master recipe now, and I’m curious about something that’s happening with my stored dough. When I mix fresh dough, and leave it out for the initial 2-hour countertop rise… it doubles as it should to nearly fill my container. But after I put it in the refrigerator, it shrinks back down again. My bread is coming out fine – I’m still working on the glossy crust– but I’m wondering if this is normal or if there is something wonky about my stored dough.

    Thanks for your help — we’re having bread with dinner tonight, and I’m branching out to pitas tomorrow night!

  25. The cake lifter worked beautifully in allowing me to transfer the bread to the pot right side up. The rye looks good,tastes good, has a perfect crust and a very dense interior. I think next time , I will do what I did with the boule and allow for a 90 minute rise to get a bit more loft..I used some vital wheat gluten thinking that would do it, but I still think 40-60 minutes out of the refrigerator is insufficient for my taste.

    In any event for those who like me really like the Leahy hot pot baking method, the large Wilton cake lifter is a big help..other things like a plate or tray covered with cornmeal might work, too.

  26. Julia: That’s normal, just exactly what we see.

    Clarice: 90 minutes is the rest that some of our more experienced testers have asked for. The short rest is a trade-off… so go with your taste.

  27. Thanks for the confirmation, Jeff. I also think the bread tastes a great deal better if it is allowed to sit in the refrigerator for some hours after it’s first mixed.

    There was a marked improvement in flavor in the second versus the first loaf of boule and the only differences were the lengthier rest and the 90 versus 40 minutes rise before baking.

  28. Hi all! I’ve had your book since this summer and only recently tried it. Why oh why did I wait so long? I, too, feel like an evangelist because I’ve been preaching to anyone who will listen!!

    Looking forward to the next book,
    Barbara

  29. Hi Jeff!

    You will have many portuguese readers soon when I put the bread recipe on my blog :) I am from Azores Islands.

    The bread is amazingly easy to do. It’s in the oven right now :)

  30. On another site, Clarice suggested your method for Brötchen which I started yesterday and baked this morning. They were just great. My only concern was that the crust seemed to crackle a bit. I don’t see that in your photo. Did I let the rolls rise too long?
    My real love is rye, and I look forward to trying your recipes with rye flour. Till now I’ve been using the La Brea sourdough method/recipes and the Sullivan no knead. BTW Clarice, Cooks Illustrated used parchment paper as a “cradle” for the Sullivan bread. It’s suggested to put the paper in a skillet or bowl, put in the bread to rise, covered with plastic. When time to bake lift out and bake the bread *on* the parchment in the covered pot. It’s a great improvement for me over a flour covered baker and kitchen.

  31. Frau Jedöns: To me, crackling is the sign of a perfect crust. If you were to tell me that authentic brotchen aren’t supposed to get that way, I’d defer to your better judgement!

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