Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Soft Bread Rolls

I openly admit that I have become a little evangelical (some may say obsessional) about bread making but this is largely because it is so much simpler than I could have ever imagined! Whilst some of my breads may not look perfect when they emerge from the oven, they always taste delicious and are eagerly gobbled up by my gang. Until recently, I felt that bread making was something that I just could not achieve and that what I produced could never taste as good as the loaves that I bought.

I am so thrilled to have been proved wrong on both these points. I have discovered that it is actually relatively easy to make your own breads at home and that, in fact, they taste so much better than most of the breads you can buy. Furthermore, you also have complete control over the ingredients that are used and can ensure that your bread only contains the things that you want it to. Another aspect of bread making that I particularly like is that it gives you the chance to be quite creative in flavour terms. I love to include fresh herbs, spices, dried fruits, nuts in many of my breads and have been thrilled with some of the flavour combinations that I have discovered. I really feel like a whole new world has opened up to me.
My children recently asked me whether I would bake some soft bread rolls for them. Their requirements were quite specific; they wanted bread rolls that were soft, but not too airy and dry; something that you could use to split and stuff a burger into but also something that would taste delicious just simply buttered. After doing a lot of research and trying out a few recipes, this is what I came with. I am absolutely delighted with these bread rolls and how tasty they were.
The key to success, courtesy of a tip I picked up from the wonderful Tales from the Kitchen Shed, lies in placing the rolls relatively closely together on a baking tray prior to the final prove. This is because you want them to touch each other during their second rise and as they bake. As you tear the finished rolls apart, the wonderful pillowy soft interior will be revealed. Whilst the rolls should be served after they have cooled, I defy anyone not to have one (or two) still warm from the oven.
This recipe makes about 18 rolls and although this may seem like quite a lot, they keep relatively well for a couple of days because they have been enriched with the rapeseed oil. Due to my purist approach to making bread, I mix and knead the dough by hand but feel free to use a sturdy free-standing mixer fitted with bread hooks if you prefer. Finally, to ensure even-sized rolls, I weigh each roll so that they are the same weight before forming them into rolls but if this all seems like too much bother, just do it by eye.


1kg strong white bread flour
15 g fine sea salt
20g fresh yeast
100ml rapeseed or vegetable oil (I use Donegal or Glen Field rapeseed oil)
600ml water


1. Place the bread and sea salt in a large mixing bowl and mix together with your hands. Crumble in the fresh yeast and mix this through as well.
2. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the oil and water. Mix everything together with your hands to form a dough and then tip out on to a clean work-surface. Resist the urge to flour your work-surface and be assured that as you work the dough it will become more manageable and won’t stick to the surface as much. I find a dough scraper invaluable at this stage.
3. Knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes until it is smooth and no longer clinging to your work-surface. Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, cover with cling-film and set aside for 90-100 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
4. Turn out onto a clean work-surface and knock back the dough expelling the air. Divide the dough evenly into 18 portions and form into rolls using your hand in a cupping motion. Place, relatively closely together (a couple of centimetres apart) onto a large baking tray lined with parchment paper and cover loosely with oiled cling-film. Allow to rise for about 50 minutes until doubled in size.
5. While the rolls are rising, preheat your oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6.
6. When the rolls are ready, place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes until they are golden brown and well risen. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before breaking apart.

Makes 18.