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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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

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

  1. Made brotchen for my German friends who have been missing it terribly since moving here to the states. The first thing out of the 17yr old boy was “oooohhhhh this is soooo good – you did good Cheryl don’t change a thing!!! I sooooooooo miss this!”
    It does a girl’s heart good. Guess there will always be a bucket of brotchen either in the fridge or some frozed for use with German style Frustuck.

    Thank You So very much Zoe and Jeff

  2. We used to live on Long Island where the bread was just fantastic. My husband always had his sandwich on a regular deli hard roll which he loved so much. Now we live in North Carolina and there is no good bread down here. I love your recipes . That basic dough makes the greatest bread so fast and now I can tolerate living in NC but I was wondering if you could tell me how to make that deli hard sandwich roll.

    • Hi Dee,

      How do they differ from the Brotchen that are in this post? I would have referred you to these, but you seem to be looking for something different.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. I just tried making brotchen and the rolls after 25 minutes were not dark brown? Any suggestions? Also, I have them on a silpat but didn’t know how to get the silpat onto the baking stone? It is hard to move off of the cookie sheet that I had it sitting on. It seemed to flimsy to pick up and move without anything under it.

    • Amanda– you can’t slide things off a Silpat– too much friction. Even though the Silpat seems flimsy, you can just pick it up and drop it on the stone. Those are meant to leave the items right on the pad and bake them that way, at least until they set when you can pull the Brotchen off and sit them right on the stone, or a bare baking shelf. That can help with browning. If you’re nervous about moving a fully-loaded Silpat, put a cookie sheet under it and move the whole thing.

      Most likely, your oven temp is too cool– check with something like http://bit.ly/czmco2 That explains why they’re gummy and under-browned. Till you get that worked out, you can always just bake longer.

      Also, bread and rolls made with wet dough need to be allowed to completely cool before breaking in to them– or they’ll be gummy.

  4. Just broke one of the rolls open and it is not light and airy…kind of dense and gummy. Not under cooked kind of gummy, though. I baked them for 25 minutes and they weren’t dark brown so left them in for about another 5 minutes but it didn’t make them more brown.

  5. I would like to try your Brotchen, but I am wondering if it is still OK to leave on the counter for 2 hours because of the eggs. And then is it still good for up to 14 days? Thank you, Always a Fan

    • Hi P,

      The Brotchen in this post is made with the master recipe and has no eggs in the dough, so I am not sure I understand the question? The egg wash is brushed on just before baking, is that what you are referring to?

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Zoe,

        This recipe has egg whites added to the warm water. That and the cornmeal is the difference between the brotchen and the master recipe. Happy Baking, Michele

      • Michelle: Sorry we missed your followup. Yes, two hours is OK for egg doughs, beyond that and USDA recommends finishing the rise in the fridge. As we say in the book, this becomes a five-day dough with the addition of the egg.

  6. “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. “

    • Hi P,

      My apologies, with the addition of eggs in the dough we generally say to save the dough for about 5 days and then freeze the remainder.

      Thank you! Zoë

  7. i just made this and here’s the result:

    made the 32oz flour recipe and then about 17-18 three oz breads – have a scale and measured everything.

    batch 1 – forgot to slice the tops. put them in 450 convection broil and they were ready in 12 mins. i stuck a Thermapen in them and it showed 210 degrees. the tops were darker than this picture, almost too dark for my taste. almost burned them. luckily i took them out before the tops burned.

    batch 2 – sliced the tops, put them in 400 convection (so the temp shows 375F), with water bath. kept them for 23 mins to get to 211F. look perfect.

    batch 3 – same as batch 2. but it took only 20mins and 30 secs to get to 211F. still looked like batch 2

    all 3 were were sticking to the parchment paper after they were baked. i have a stainless steel pizza peel and have hard time sliding anything off of it. but this time the rolls even stuck to the parchment paper. i will try to oil the paper next time around.

      • hi jeff,

        my oven is new and it gets calibrated each year i dont think that was the problem. they turned out great at 400F convection. My wife thought they were not salty enough and she is not a salt lover.

      • Hi George,

        What brand of parchment are you using? If oiling the paper creates smoke in the oven, you may just want to dust it with a little cornmeal under the bun.

        You can add more salt to the next batch to suit your tastes.

        Thanks, Zoë

  8. I’m thrilled that you have posted this recipe! I have made one batch and loved the results. However I was wondering instead of using the whites from 3 fresh eggs, can I use egg whites only that come in a carton? I hate wasting the yolks :-) Thank you!!

      • Thanks for your quick response Jeff. I am referring to Egg Beaters 100% Whites and other similar brands. I will give it a try and let you know how it works.

  9. I miss my Brötchen so much as a German. I made them this morning and loved the outcome! I live above 7,200 feet and so far I have been making your recipes from both bread books with great success and no modifications. Thanks for bringing this joy into my life!

    • Hi Melanie,

      Thank you for the note and it is interesting that you need no modification at that altitude!

      Thanks, Zoë

  10. I can’t believe you have a recipe for brotchen! I’m anxious to try it. Do you think that I can get good results with a whole wheat version? Or perhaps with KA white whole wheat? We eat so little “white” bread and I know my, originally German, husband will love these, so I want them to be as healthy as possible. When we went and spent a month in his Oma’s little home town in Germany he would go out to the bakery every morning and bring brotchen back for our breakfast. Wonderful memories. This would be a great treat for us.

    • Hi Lynn,

      You can certainly make this with our whole wheat doughs, but the texture will be a bit more dense. You may want to try it with the master recipe from HBin5, which is mostly whole grain, but has some all-purpose. Which book are you using?

      Thanks and enjoy! Zoë

  11. My daughter and I went to Germany in January 2013 and LOVED the brotchen! I was very eager to find a recipe to make it when I got home and found yours!
    The first time I attempted this I made a third of the batch and baked it on a cookie sheet because I didn’t have my flat stone yet. I didn’t like how the bottom turned out (very pale and biscuit looking) and handling the fresh dough was sticky and difficult. But everybody liked the taste.
    The second third of the batch had been refrigerated and this made it MUCH easier to form the shapes and also cut the tops with a serrated knife. Too bad I had been baking something else and forgot to up the temperature from 350 to 450! When I realized my error I bumped up the heat and cooked them a little longer. This time I used a silicon mat on top of a baking stone and I liked the crust even better but it still was not right due to my temperature error. But we ate it!
    So third time’s a charm I did everything correctly and it turned out great! I still would love to have that tiny waffle print on the bottom of my rolls instead of them being flat like a biscuit. I’m going to research mats and see if I can get a textured one like the above pic.
    So today I started another batch and have done everything right! We will be trying to also make a bigger loaf using my stone bowl I’ve had for ages. I will post an update later!

  12. Question: Do you use yeast or baking powder? I actually have not found the detailed Broetchen recipe on the website.

  13. I made these for Christmas Eve tonight as we have a traditional german meal on Christmas Eve. I also made the Bavarian bread but haven’t cut into it yet. The brotchen are good– better than we could have found anywhere locally, but it wonder how it would work with pastry or cake flour? I read on another website that the protein content in American flour is much higher than german flour. So….with that in mind, I may try this method with a lower protein content flour and see what happens! But they are good good good!! They will go well with our meal!

    • So glad to hear. Honestly, I think you may have trouble getting them to hold their shape with pastry or cake flour, but I could be wrong (with something this small). You will have to adjust the water downward or the dough will be too wet.

      You’re right in general about Euro flours, definitely lower. Though my guess is: not as low as pastry or cake flour.

    • I mix flours together to get the effect you’re looking for.

      I mix 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour with 3/4 cup cake flour to make biscuit flour. This has a lower protein content than all purpose but more than cake flour.

      I can’t get biscuit flour overseas but mixing AP and cake gets me very close to what I need.

      In the US, White Lily flour (found in the South and available through mail order) makes a biscuit flour that’s probably close to the protein level of the European flours you want to reproduce.

      • The only thing I would have been concerned about is whether the mixture has enough gluten to maintain structure during storage, assume you’ve been able to store this dough?

  14. You don’t know how happy you’ve made me! Loved and missed brotchen terribly since our time in Germany 20+ years ago! They always served schwenkbraten on them–found the recipe for schwenk years ago, but never found one for brotchen. Feeling ever so grateful right now! Thank you!!!

  15. I’m making the brotchen tonight, trial run for Thanksgiving. In the book, pg 88 you say decrease temp to 350 and up cook time 25% with egg enriched dough. But in brotchen recipe page 89-90 you show 450 temp while using egg enriched dough. First go and I’ve cooked nearly 40 minutes at 350 and no browning. Can you clarify which temp for egg enriched brotchen.

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