Deli-Style Hard Rolls: a bit of crunch, a lot of chew


This blog has been focusing on buns a lot lately.  And I confess – I’m the culprit for the monotony (if you’re not a bun lover); or inspiration (if you are).

I happen to love buns. Fat, golden little loaves, one-serving wonders that baby your burger, harbor your hotdog, or simply serve as a base for melting butter.

And buns aren’t just for cookouts.

Imagine your favorite tarragon chicken salad on a soft, buttery bun. Stuff a bun with peanut butter, honey, and chunks of banana; or layer it with lunch meat to make a double-fisted Dagwood. Any and all sandwich fillings are just as tempting on a bun as between two slices of bread.

Trying to eat healthier, and add fiber to your diet? Try our 100% Whole Wheat Hotdog Buns. Deli Rye Rolls are perfect for one of my favorite sandwiches: liverwurst and onion; or think a fat Reuben. Harvest Grains Buns go especially well with cold cuts and cheese.

And when Thanksgiving rolls around again, don’t miss these Stuffing Buns: layered with leftover turkey and a touch of cranberry sauce, they’re the perfect Black Friday, on-the-go lunch.

Three weeks ago, we focused on Beautiful Burger Buns, golden-yellow egg and butter buns perfect for Memorial Day and the start of grilling season. Last week it was No-Knead Cheese Burger Buns, soft, tender buns scented with cheddar.

Today we’re following a slightly different path. These Deli-Style Hard Rolls are high-rising and light textured, chewier than the  typical soft roll, with a crunchy crust. They’re perfect for Sloppy Joes, pulled pork, and other moist/substantial fillings that might prove too much for a soft bun.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/3 cup Hi-maize Fiber*
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
3/4 cup lukewarm water

*No Hi-maize? We love the way it adds fiber to baked goods “invisibly;” but if it’s not in your pantry, substitute additional bread flour or all-purpose flour. Check the dough texture as you knead; it shouldn’t be “gnarly,” but rather should form a smooth ball. You may need to increase the water by a tablespoon, since flour is higher-protein than Hi-maize.

Mix until everything comes together.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead until the dough is smooth. This takes about 7 minutes at low-medium speed using a stand mixer.

You may also choose to use the dough cycle on your bread machine. Let the dough go all the way through the cycle, which will be through its first rise.

If you’ve kneaded the dough by hand or in a mixer, transfer it to a lightly greased bowl or other container, to rise.

I like to use an 8-cup measure – it gives me a quick visual as to the dough’s progress.

Cover the dough and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. It should just about double in bulk.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into 6 pieces (about 3 1/4 ounces each).

Easiest way to do this? A scale.

So, 581g divided by 6 = …

97g, more or less.

Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball.

Grease the wells of a hamburger bun pan, or lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.

Dip the top half of each roll into water…

…then into the seeds of your choice. I’m using sesame seeds here; golden flax seeds are equally pretty/tasty.

Place the rolls into the cups of the bun pan, or onto the baking sheet, spacing them evenly on the sheet and leaving a couple of inches between them.

Press gently to flatten.

The buns will shrink back a bit; see how they don’t quite cover the bottom of the pan? That’s OK; they’ll spread as they rise.

Xover the pan, and let the buns rise until they’re puffy, 30 to 40 minutes.

They won’t rise like crazy, but you don’t want them to. They’ll rise some more once they go into the oven, and you don’t want them TOO tall; these are sandwich buns, after all.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake the rolls until they’re a deep golden brown, 22 to 26 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

So, why use a hamburger bun pan, instead of just a baking sheet?

The sides of the bun pan impart immediate heat, allowing the roll to rise its highest. In addition, the pan contains the roll, forcing it to rise up, rather than out.

So is a bun pan necessary? No, not at all. Does it make a difference? Yes.

If desired, just before serving, reheat the rolls in a 375°F oven for 5 minutes or so, to crisp.

As I mentioned earlier, these rolls are perfect for pulled pork and other substantial fillings, fillings that might lay waste to a softer, more delicate bun.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Deli-Style Hard Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. The Café Sucré Farine

    These look just wonderful! I used to get something like this when I was growing up in the Midwest but can’t seem to find crunchy, chewy rolls in my area. Thanks, Chris

  2. sandra Alicante

    Yummy! I love any roll with sesame seeds on top, or poppy seeds, or sunflower seeds or…..:)
    We get black sesame seeds here too, so a combination would look pretty.

  3. wingboy

    PJ, once again, I gotta say your buns look great!

    If you substitute BF for AP would you get an even harder/chewier roll?

    Is it more a function of protein, fat or hydration? Or is it all technique?

    Well, the short answer is this: The rolls will be chewier, not necessarily harder. The four variables you mention, as well as a few more: fermentation time, amount of final proof, oven temperature, will all influence the final roll.

    Without getting too complicated, if you use bread flour in this recipe AND you want to end up with a similarly crunchy roll, you will need to slightly increase the amount of water, 1-2 tablespoons, and increase the amount of kneading time, about 9 minutes on medium-low speed. Why? Our Bread flour has more gluten than AP. When gluten develops, it takes up water, more gluten in the flour means more water to achieve a similarly consistent dough. Higher gluten flours, when properly hydrated, take longer to develop their full strength. Hope this helps. Frank @ KAF.

    WB – thanks, as always, for your “kind” comments! As for flour type, the recipe calls for bread flour. For a harder/chewier roll, you could substitute high-gluten flour, following Frank’s advice above. Cheers! PJH

  4. Michelle

    Those look great and I love anything with sesame seeds. Also do you think these would work with your white wheat flour as thats what I mostly use?

    To keep the texture crispy, I suggest no more than a 15-25% substitution of white whole wheat. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

  5. wjcumming

    Why is the egg yolk omitted?

    Because it adds fat and softens the roll’s texture, and you’re looking for chewy/crunchy here. It’s not a huge difference, so add the entire egg if you like… PJH

  6. sandra Alicante

    The comment by Wingboy and Frank’s answer have me confused – the recipe uses Bread Flour already, doesn’t it? That is what the recipe says or is it a typo and supposed to use AP flour?

    Yes, it uses bread flour. See my clarifying comment after Frank’s, Sandra – PJH

  7. wingboy

    Sorry, could have sworn I read AP rather than BF. (Must be the spots on my *&^% glasses)

    However, to continue with what Frank said after I led him down the wrong path, the protein content of the flour is just one of the factors that puts a roll on the soft to hard continuum?

    Yes, that’s right – another huge factor is fat. The more fat in the recipe, the more likely the bread/roll is to be soft and tender. Fat coats the gluten strands, making them less able to bond, which means a less chewy/more tender bread. So the chewiest/hardest bread will be one made with high-gluten flour and no fat. PJH

  8. powwaw

    I just made these without the added fiber and used plain old sugar. They came out fabulous. I learned a tip with this recipe about dipping the dough in water then in the seeds, I used Artisan Bread Topping mix I had on hand. Don’t be shy about pushing that dough into the seeds, they’ll still rise and still spring.

    Great one!

  9. dwighttsharpe

    What a fabulous yet easy recipe. Just the type of “hard roll” recipe I’ve been searching for in my couple of years of bread baking. Did not use the hi maize. Used only all purpose flour. Had to add maybe 1 extra tablespoon of flour.

    Very crisp and light, with just enough chew for me. Still got tremendous height, even after basically pressing each roll flat, repeatedly: 3 times over 5 minutes or so. They still rose to be almost high enough to use as bread bowls.

  10. Mini Oven

    I don’t buy the side by side comparison promoting the bun pan. Looks more like the smaller one was also baked in the same pan but with less dough. Sorry. Showing them on scales (with similar weights) might be more convincing.

    I do agree with all the aspects of the recipe and it is a great one!
    My only tweak: autolysis of the flour, soaking it in the water for 12 hours (23°C) before putting the dough together and reduce the malt/sugar by half.

    Actually, MO, the buns were exactly the same size by weight. We’re not into “fudging” our tests to give a desired result. As for soaking the flour for 12 hours – it does help release the sugars, allowing you to reduce the amount of sugar you use. Not sure what it would do to the absorption and flour/liquid ratio, so readers, if you’re going to try this, be prepared to perhaps tinker with the recipe a bit, OK? PJH

  11. jtdavies

    I just started to make this recipe in my Zo. The dough is very sticky. Is that what is expected?

    Also, what makes the crust so crunchy? I’d like to “crunchify” other recipes.

    The dough should have smoothed out by the time your Zo was done kneading. If not, perhaps it’s very hot and humid where you are, and you could have reduced the liquid a bit. Your best bet for a crunchy crust is a “lean” recipe, one with with little to no fat, baked at a high temperature, with water spritzed onto the crust just before putting the rolls into the oven. Don’t try to make a “crunchy” recipe out of one that includes milk, butter, eggs, etc.; that kind of recipe is designed to be soft. Good luck- PJH

  12. lishy

    I have had a lot of luck with the bun pan. I always weigh the dough for my rolls and when I am making a large batch and only some go in the bun pan there is an obvious difference. As far as soaking the flour for 12 hours, I seriously wouldn’t want to spend that much time thinking ahead for my baking. I would have to start soaking flour the night before as I am getting the kids ready for bed? Not so much, I think the recipe is awesome as it is. Thanks for another winner.

  13. glpruett

    Thanks, thanks, thanks for all THREE of the recent bun recipes! I guess I’m a “bun fanatic”, too. I made each recipe almost as soon as it was posted, and we’re having a hard time figuring out just which one is best! If pressed, I guess I would pick the “Cheese Burger Bun”, but they are all seriously good…and EASY!!! Thanks again, KAF, for giving us even more baking fun!

  14. cwcdesign

    I have the rolls in the oven as I write this. Spoke to Elizabeth this morning as my dough was very sticky. Added 1/2 tsp flour (only used BF in recipe) to mixer. Then did a little kneading by hand.

    I have an interesting question – I followed the recipe exactly weighing everything – used 11 ounces BF (added BF & Hi-Maize amounts together). PJ had 581 grams of dough – I had 527? Why the difference?

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for checking in. Small differences in weights are pretty normal due to factors like air incorporated during kneading, rising, slight differences in scales etc. If your weight was off by a lot, you may want to double check to see that all ingredients were added in, but for this small difference, I wouldn’t worry. ~ MaryJane

  15. "Dawn DeMeo"

    I’m so looking forward to trying these! I love hard rolls. I ordered the hi-maize natural fiber, and it arrived the other day. I’d originally planned on making some sour dough baguettes for Father’s Day since I need to feed my starter anyway, but now I’m thinking these instead. Or maybe both? My dad is a HUGE bread fiend, so I know he wouldn’t mind.

    Of course we’re fans of both recipes, and know that whatever you make for Father’s Day it will be a delicious and appreciated treat. Enjoy your baking adventure and the special holiday just for Dad. Happy Baking! Irene

  16. kd

    While you’re on a roll with buns, how about a pretzel roll/bun? These seem to be getting popular at fancy sandwich places lately. Would love a recipe to try at home!
    I’ve been dying to try pretzel rolls at home (and pretzel ice cream cones, different story). I’m definitely going to add this to the wish list. Great idea! ~ MaryJane

  17. maccourt

    I pulled these out of the oven yesterday just as my husband walked in the door from a long, very buggy day in the woods (the deerflies will just about carry you away in Northern Wisconsin this week). I was standing there with the tray in my hands and the look on his face was priceless. “You MADE those?” I just love that after 20 years, he’s still impressed with what I can pull from the oven. I followed the recipe exactly, used my bread machine to do the kneading, and they came out looking just like the picture. It doesn’t get any better than that.

  18. Jason A.

    I’ve made this dough twice now in the past two days, being very careful with all my measurements and I feel like it has WAY too much water in it. The dough wouldn’t come together, and stayed more like a batter, or a very loose ciabatta-style dough, until I added at least 75g more flour. I’m not sure what the deal is… It has been very humid and rainy recently and it’s normally VERY dry (I live in Colorado) so maybe that has something to do with it, but I feel like that’s a LOT more flour to add….

    That being said — I went by feel until I got the nice dough as you picture above, and the rolls are AWESOME, but, anyway, weird.

    Yes, Jason, the absorption in bread recipes can change a lot during the summer, and/or during hot/humid weather; it also changes at altitude. You’re right, though – 75g is a generous half cup of flour, and that IS a lot. I assume you’re using King Arthur Flour? Using a flour with a different protein level would definitely make a difference. Also, I’d suggest you see how this changes in the winter; and in the meantime – however you get there, enjoy the rolls! PJH

  19. rodibobcon

    I’m interested in using your hard roll recipe for making buns that will stand up to Italian Beef. How can I shape this dough for torpedo shaped rolls and how many should this recipe make? Thanks, Bob Rodenburg

  20. Chit

    Thank you PJ for this yummy hard roll recipe! I did it very well and am proud being an amateur home baker! So good with butter and cream cheese. I have a question though…if I want the crust harder and crunchier would adding another 5 to 10 minutes do it? What is a high gluten flour that will make this roll harder and chewier… Why do other recipes require spraying water? Thank you! Am so happy with this recipe!

    Chit from the Philippines

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Chit, spraying water on the rolls creates a type of steam, which will make the crust a bit shiny, and crisp. Before you try changing flour (which would involve amending the recipe to account for the flour’s higher protein content/higher gluten), try cooling the rolls in the oven, as follows: when they’re done, turn the oven off, crack open the door 3″-4″ or so, and let the rolls cool completely inside the cooling oven. This will make their crust crunchier/harder. Good luck – PJH

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