Soft and airy but full of wholemeal goodness, brown seeded bread rolls with molasses make me ponder on the dinner rolls conundrum: is one ever enough?
Bread roll: A roll is a small, often round loaf of bread served as a meal accompaniment. A roll can be served and eaten whole or cut transversely and dressed with filling between the two halves. Wikipedia
dinner roll | Definition, meaning & more | Collins Dictionary Definitions. noun. a small round piece of bread provided as a side dish as part of a meal.
Pitfalls of fine dining
Posh restaurants and business class give you bread for free.
That's how it goes: they’ve taken your order. The white tablecloth scrunches uncomfortably into the very low space between your knees and the edge of the table.
The napkin very much wants to go lie down on the floor after a struggle with the cloth and your skirt. The pre-dinner aperitif is finished and they’re dragging their feet with the wine order.
You’re having second thoughts about your choice of duck for the main course seeing as it comes with dauphinoise potatoes (so rich! so many calories!!!).
And you’re on the point of fainting with hunger not having eaten much all day in anticipation of the lavish dinner - when here it comes. A saving grace. A rescue from starvation. A diversion from waiting for the wine and the starter.
A dinner roll.
Do we get some bread?
The Weather Man and I love going out to eat and usually the first question we ask each other excitedly, in that post-order taken interval, is ‘do you think we get bread?’
Which is daft really because any fool can work it out. If there’s a pointless little plate set to the left of our cover, it means we do. If there is a small knife perched across that plate, wahey! it comes with butter!
Of course, that’s what happens in old-school restaurants. These days, more often than not, a wooden board with a whole albeit miniature loaf will be parachuted into the middle of the table, accompanied with a saucerful of olive oil and balsamic, marmite butter, chilli butter or bog butter.
An old-fashioned dinner roll
But I must confess to a deep fondness of the old-school style, round or torpedo-shaped bun, tonged onto my pointless plate from a napkin-lined, flat basket-tray.
They are dainty little things, often with seeds, often tomatoey, sometimes speckled with onions and sometimes plain and weirdly flavoured with cumin.
Of course you’d like both when asked which of the two available kinds, but you never go for it. Of course you’d like another when they come round again but you never dare. And there wouldn’t be enough butter anyway.
Which are perfect dinner rolls?
I do like them fluffy and airy, and I think that’s how they ought to be always. You shouldn’t be stuffed already before even the starter turns up.
I usually think a bridge roll type or a Japanese milk roll kind are the perfect dinner rolls. Those two, funnily enough, are also the best burger buns, but you’d never see a brioche served pre-dinner - which proves a burger in a brioche is WRONG, QED. I digress.
The seeded brown rolls spotted in NYTimes Cooking are naughty but nice. They are still quite airy, though not exactly very light and fluffy due to the added virtue of brown flour and seeds.
This recipe makes an awful lot of them, 18 at least and God knows how many if you should want to shape them smaller.
The making of seeded brown rolls
The best texture and the easiest handling is achieved if the dough proves overnight in the fridge. If, however, you want to get it all done in a day, that’s fine too. Just let the dough rise in bulk, in the bowl, for about an hour in a warm place.
Molasses adds delightful, slightly smoky flavour to the dough. It’s mixed into the initial sponge, also facilitating yeast activity.
Seeds need to be soaked in boiling water, especially linseed and millet. They are then drained and added to the sponge with the other dough ingredients.
As ever, a stand mixer with a dough hook is going to help a lot; this dough is very sticky. So much so that you might need to throw a little flour at it while kneading. Not usually recommended, but in this case the seeds might sometimes absorb enough liquid to upset the proportions and the hydration of the dough.
Once smoother, springier and more elastic, the dough can be packed away for cold overnight rise – or stand in a warm place to double in volume if you wish.
The next day it can be shaped into balls straight from the fridge, and prove warmly for a couple of hours. If it didn’t go into the fridge, an hour will suffice.
Two ways of shaping
You can make them perfectly round, shaping balls out of the dough, or go for slightly tapered shape – depending on your mood.
The round ones are sprinkled with a mix of small, fragrant seeds: sesame, cumin, nigella, caraway and fennel, or a similar combination.
The tapered ones are more homely: with a slashed dimple lengthwise and only a sprinkling of coarse salt crystals.
More dinner roll recipes
Classic stuff: bridge or finger rolls are fluffy and soft, rich and almost brioche-like. Fresh yeast, full milk, eggs and butter make them into the loveliest mini dinner rolls.
Original Parker House bread rolls, created in the famous Boston hotel, soft and buttery. It's a classic dinner roll, shaped like a folded half-round and brushed with lots of butter.
Out to impress? Nothing better than Chinese flower shaped bread rolls, buttery and spiced with za’atar and chives instead of traditional spring onions.
More seeded bread recipes
Seeded sourdough batons, perfect for bruschetta or even for rustic panini. Seeded bread with barley, oats and millet grain made at leisurely pace over four days.
Seeded light rye bread with linseed, sunflower and pumpkin. This light rye loaf is quite easy to bake and best sliced a day after baking.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeded rye sourdough, German style blonde Pumpernickel. Sourdough on rye starter with only a small addition of wheat flour which can be swapped for spelt.