Broetchen questions - Semmel, bread rolls

Recipes and flour substitutions for US baking

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h.koehn
I'm trying to make Brotchen (small breakfast bread rolls) in the USA and I can't get them to look anything like the ones from Germany.

Here's my questions:
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  • What flour do you use in Germany and do you know if there is a close equivalent in the US?
  • I'm trying to make the rolls pictured in this Wikipedia article ("some bread rolls"). Do you have a recipe for this type? (Are the rolls in this picture from a specific part of Germany? I know we had this kind in Southern Germany, Bavaria when we visited there.)
  • Do you score the top of each roll before they raise/rest or right before you put them in the oven? How long should the rolls rest before you bake them?
  • Do Germans use an egg wash on top of the roll before putting it in the oven? If yes, is this just an egg white with water or does it also include the egg yolk?
  • I understand that steaming the rolls while baking is what makes the crust hard and flaky. What's the best way to do this? Should they have steam on them the entire time they bake?
  • Katrina
    For that type of roll, a German 550 grade flour would be used and this Wikipedia article has the US conversion.

    This page on baguettes (my gent is currently *obsessed* with making the perfect one) has all you need to know about steaming, spraying and how to get that crust.
    The Fresh Loaf has loads of advice and tips, they've been a great help to us, that recipe would be what you want, you'd just leave off the poppy seeds and the comments are a goldmine of information.
    RainyDays
    Here's a recipe for Brötchen that seems to turn out well going by the commentaries.

    Ingredients:
    1 kilo flour (all purpose or bread flour)
    fresh yeast for 1 kilo of flour (in Germany it's one package = 42 g yeast per kilo of flour), but you can use dry yeast as well
    600 ml lukewarm water
    20 g sea salt (less for a more neutral taste)
    1 Tbsp. honey or maple sirup

    mix and knead all ingredients, put the dough in a recipient covered with a wet towel, then let it rise at room temperature. Dough should grow to double amount. You can also place it in the oven after having turned it on for a few minutes on lowest setting, then off. In any case it shouldn't be warmer than 40° Celsius, otherwise the yeast cultures are destroyed and it won't rise. Knead dough again, then form balls (you should get about 16 rolls). Place them on a tray and let them rise again. They can be stored in a cool place overnight and are ready for baking in the morning.

    Optional: Brush them with a mix of 1 egg yolk + 1 Tsp. water + 1 Tsp. olive oil for a nice colour; sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds

    Bake at 200° Celsius (circulating air, preheated oven) for about 20 min.

    ------------
    For the flour, you may also mix all purpose with spelt flour or with whole grain (might have to add some more water then)

    Happy baking!
    h.koehn
    I'm having problems with the shape and the crust. Here's the deal.

    I live in a high-altitude valley that has a very dry climate. We are at 7,500 feet above sea level and our relative humidity usually runs somewhere between 15% and 30%.

    I'm pretty sure I'm getting the consistency of the dough correct but after I put the rolls on my baking sheet they form a hard "crust" on top. This happens within two to four minutes. This crust affects the way they raise. They tend to raise out the sides instead of going up which makes them big and flat. It also has a really bad affect when I try to score the tops of the rolls. The knife catches that crust and I cannot make a nice score. If I work at it too hard it looks to me like the rolls start to deflate.

    I attached a picture of the last three rolls I baked tonight. I had the crust problem I was talking about even though I sprayed water on the rolls before and during raising. Apparently I didn't keep them wet enough and they still developed a crust. I did put them in the oven to raise (with the heat off) and I put a pan of water below the rolls to keep the oven moist inside. It helped a little bit but it didn't solve the problem.

    The other problem I had is that I sprayed water on the rolls about one time every minute during baking. This actually worked quite good but the side that was away from me developed a real hard brown crust. The middle was perfect. The side closest to me never did get hard because it was too wet from me spraying water in there.

    Just so you know, I'm currently using a different recipe I found online but I might try the recipes you've listed here. In all the recipes I've looked at I've never seen one that calls for malt until today. I actually made a spreadsheet with all the different recipes I could find so that I could compare them to try to figure out what the common ingredients and methods are. I have 18 recipes in there but I need to input the two above now. Here's the ingredients I'm using:

    1 cup warm water
    1 teaspoon oil
    1 package of active instant yeast
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2-1/2 to 3 cups of flour

    I'm not going to list all the instructions but I'll list a few of the important ones.

    I'm only allowing my dough to raise twice; first time as a big lump and then the second time is after I form the rolls and put them on the baking sheet.
    I'm weighing out my rolls to make sure they are all the same size by weight.
    I'm not using any egg wash. I'm only using water on the tops of the rolls.
    I'm baking at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Any suggestions on how to solve that problem where my dough dries out on top? It happens so quickly that it is almost impossible to prevent.
    Orla_inka
    How about covering the dough/buns with a (damp) cloth while waiting to rise?
    Katrina
    Spray cling wrap with Pam spray and cover the rolls with that or use Orla's damp cloth.
    The malt is a sugar replacement, while the taste will be slightly different, it shouldn't affect your crusting.
    cjmunch
    Julia Child faced the same problem making french baguettes. She experimented to create an environment like a bakers oven

    "Bakers’ Oven Versus Home Ovens: Bakers’ ovens are so constructed that one slides the formed bread dough from a wooden panel right onto the hot, fire-brick oven floor, a steam injection system humidifies the oven for the first few minutes of baking. Steam allows the yeast to work a little longer in the dough and this, combined with the hot baking surface, produced an extra push of volume. In addition, steam coagulating the starch on the surface of the dough gives the crust its characteristic brown color. Although you can produce a good loaf of French bread without steam or a hot baking surface, you will a larger and handsomer loaf when you simulate professional conditions".

    If you search on julia child and bakers oven you'll find some good advice, She also covers as well about what type of flour to use etc. Things have changed since Julia's time, so there are lots of uptodate comments on how this can be done following her ideas.....

    As an example:
    http://culinography.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/the-daring-bakers-take-on-julia-child-the-french-bread-challenge/
    RainyDays
    Those rolls in post # 4 look good, we can't test the crispiness through the internet, of course.

    I broke down the recipe in post # 3 to half the amount and converted it to cups:
    (1 cup of flour = 120 g; 1 cup of liquid = 240 ml)

    4 cups flour
    1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
    20 g fresh yeast (or less + longer rest)
    10 g sea salt (or less)
    ½ tbsp. honey or maple sirup

    ------------

    A couple of tips I got from a German cooking website:

    – amount of water varies depending on type of flour

    – cover dough with wet cloth to prevent dryiness

    – 450° F seems the right temperature at the start, but after a few minutes heat should be reduced to 400° F

    – you could try the wash (1 egg yolk, 1 tsp. water, 1 tsp olive oil) on half the batch

    – there are different methods of steaming. You could simply put a heat-resistant bowl filled with water on the bottom of the oven or spray the walls of the oven and the rolls before putting them in the oven. It's apparently not necessary to repeat this. A couple of minutes before the rolls are done, open the oven door slightly to let the remaining steam out.

    malt is used by professional bakers as a baking agent (which contains other stuff like emulgator, too)
    h.koehn
    Just a couple comments and questions here.

    I've read the recommendations to spray the walls of the oven. However, I think I'll need a spray bottle that puts out more volume than mine. It seems like I can't get enough water in the oven fast enough. Of course, the door has to be open to spray the walls which means the steam tries to escape out the door. It wouldn't be interesting to see a true, working demonstration (live or video) of this technique.

    If I cover the rolls with a damp cloth, will the rolls be damaged or flattened when I remove the cloth?

    The rolls don't appear to have much, if any, "push" during baking. If the rolls go in wide, flat and ugly, they come out wide flat and ugly. Is this typical of this type of dough? Maybe my yeast is pretty much used up by the time I put the rolls in the oven.
    westvan
    The other problem I had is that I sprayed water on the rolls about one time every minute during baking. This actually worked quite good but the side that was away from me developed a real hard brown crust. The middle was perfect. The side closest to me never did get hard because it was too wet from me spraying water in there.
    I would spray once when you put the rolls in the oven and then about every five minutes after that. If you spray every minute you're going to let too much heat out and the steam won't have a chance to do its work.
    westvan
    If the rolls go in wide, flat and ugly, they come out wide flat and ugly.
    Are you perhaps letting them rise too long? I've had bread over rise and then start to flatten out and go all funny. In your picture the rolls seem to have little bubbles in them which could indicate too much yeast or over rising.

    And defintely cover them when they're rising. I think someone already mentioned vegetable oil and plastic wrap to keep them moist. A dishcloth works as well, as long as they are completly covered. If they form a dry crust, the inside of the buns that is still rising is going to look for a place to go and will most likely push out rather than up.
    h.koehn
    If they form a dry crust, the inside of the buns that is still rising is going to look for a place to go and will most likely push out rather than up.
    I think this is probably the primary problem I'm dealing with. I'm going to make some adjustments as per the recommendations you all have been giving me and we'll see what happens. I'll post a picture of my next batch assuming it's not a complete flop.
    h.koehn
    Just letting you all know that I'm going to be gone for about a week to visit some family in the South. As soon as I get back and have a chance to bake another batch of rolls I'll post back here with the results. Thanks again for all your help.
    Rebecca
    In my experience Broetchen have quite a hard crust but how about putting a bowl of water in the oven at the same time as the rolls or even before while the oven is warming up.
    RainyDays
    As soon as I get back and have a chance to bake another batch of rolls I'll post back here with the results.
    Please do. I baked some rolls with wheat and whole grain spelt flour in the meantime, and while the crust and taste was good, they didn't rise completely – so I found out as well that it's really not as easy as it may sound to bake rolls.

    Do you speak German? Here's a video about the topic, and even if you don't understand what they say, it gives a good idea of the handling of the dough. Timeline: Ingredients (yeast, salt, water, flour) are mixed together, kneaded until all the flour is absorbed and you've got a homogenic mass – takes about 2 to 3 min. with a mixer and a little longer if done by hand. Don't knead too long, as then the dough will get tough at some point. Let dough rest for half an hour, then form rolls (jump to 5:00 min. in the video). For that, either take a dough ball and use the "stretch and tuck in" method or roll the dough ball in circles on the work surface, pushing the dough from sides of the ball underneath the top. The objective is to get a smooth top with "tension" as they say in the video. This will contribute to nicely shaped end products. After forming, let dough rest another half an hour or so. Then bake in preheated oven, starting at 430° F, then reducing to 400° F. In the video, the rolls turned out a bit pale because the oven hadn't been preheated properly.

    About steaming: The lady in the video explains that one could spray the rolls before putting them in the oven, then again after about ⅓ of the baking time, and once more, for a bit of gloss, right after taking them out of the oven.
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