pull apart sourdough rolls
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Bread bakers are a fantastic community. The online fora, the FB groups, the Instagram lot who post lumpy dough resting on a bench (rather than pretty-pretty gluten free non comestibles) – passionate as anything, they ask relevant questions and offer pertinent comments. I love them.
Even if you post a shapeless lumpen loaf, squashy on one side and decidedly under proofed, you’ll get ‘well done!’s and good advice. And the elite, the crème de la crème, the sourdough aficionados, are not quite as snobby as they may appear to be.
They speak a peculiar lingo, for sure. It’s all autolyse this, window pane that; hydration percentages you’re unable to work out without a PhD (or a wood fired oven) and cryptic acronyms (RT, DO, S&F, WTF?). They scald, they retard, score and oven spring; and they aspire to slash perfect ears.
There is magic in bread making so no wonder the acolytes are a special bunch. Flour and water – and you get the best foodstuff on Earth. Seeing dough double or triple in volume is like watching a magic trick – albeit slightly less speedy. And the way you can enchant a loaf almost out of thin air – or yeast water – can truly take your breath away.
And here’s my bakers’ party bread: sourdough of course, although I’m still a dilettante who doesn’t calculate her hydration levels. It has four different flavours hidden in the rolls and they are to tear and share. Pity the supermarket sliced white eaters…
- For the ferment:
- 200g old dough or production sourdough (50g starter refreshed with 100g flour and 100g water)
- 350g warm water
- 250g strong white bread flour
- 50g light rye flour
- 50g wholemeal flour
- For the white rolls:
- ½ the ferment from above
- 125g strong white bread flour
- 6g fine salt
- For the brown rolls:
- ½ the ferment from above
- 120g wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp. black molasses
- 6g fine salt
- For the fillings:
- 2 cloves garlic
- a handful of basil leaves
- black pepper
- 50g mixed pitted olives
- 50g hard cheese, Gruyere or Comte
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- 1 tsp. honey
- For the topping:
- 1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. water
- black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds and oat flakes or similar contrasting toppings
This is cold proving sourdough made over two days.
Mix the old dough or the production sourdough with the water, leave it for a few minutes to disperse. Place the flours in a large bowl. Pour in the sourdough mix and stir to a rough dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.
Now divide the ferment between two bowls: you should have about 450g for each half. Add the flour and salt to the portion for white rolls and the wholemeal flour, the molasses, salt and cocoa to the other portion. Knead each dough in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment until smooth and elastic. If doing it by hand, flatten the piece of dough on a worktop and roll it up into a cylinder. Turn it 90 degrees seam side up; flatten it again pressing with your fingers and roll up in the other direction to form a shorter cylinder. Repeat this until the dough shows resistance to being flattened and rolled again, about 10 repetitions in all. Place both pieces in plastic containers or bags and leave them in the fridge for 24 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and bring it to room temperature, it will take at least an hour. In the meantime prepare the fillings.
For the garlic pesto, mash the garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar with a little black pepper and the basil leaves.
For the tapenade, whiz the olives in a blender or food processor to a paste.
For the cheese filling, cut the cheese into small dice.
For the tomato, mix the tomato puree with the honey.
Divide the white dough into 9 pieces and the brown dough into 10; each weighing about 60g. Flatten each piece and spread with the filling; be sparing with tomato and garlic as those are wet and the roll might not seal well. Roll up each piece into a little sausage, then roll it up again in the other direction; pinch the bottom to seal it and shape it into a ball.
Prepare a round tin or baking dish about 25 – 30cm (10in) in diameter; brush the sides with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.
Place 12 balls evenly around the outer edge of the dish alternating the white with the brown ones. Next place 6 balls in the inner ring and the final brown one in the centre. Cover the dish with cling film or place it in a plastic bag and leave to prove in a warm place for 90 minutes; until the rolls have doubled in size and are all touching each other. In the meantime preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Place a small container with water on the bottom of the oven for moisture release (or use a spray bottle when the bread goes in).
When the rolls have risen, brush them all with the egg wash and sprinkle the dark seeds on the white ones; and the lighter ones on the brown rolls.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and crusty. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack or keep in the dish if it’s nice enough.