Recipe summary

Hands-on time:
10 mins. to 20 mins.
Baking time:
20 mins. to 25 mins.
Total time:
15 hrs 30 mins. to 21 hrs 45 mins.
Yield:
12 small rolls
These rolls have a delicious crackly/crunchy crust, partly the result of allowing them to proof in the refrigerator, partly from an egg white wash applied just prior to baking. Their texture is light and airy, rather than substantial, which makes them a wonderful mini-sandwich roll. Make them slightly larger, and they're perfect for hamburgers or grilled sausage. Or serve them at breakfast, with butter and preserves, as they do in Europe.

Notice that this recipe includes just over 1/4 teaspoon yeast. Why so little? Because of the extra-long fermentation, key to developing the rolls' flavor. As the dough rests, the yeast will continue to multiply; thus there's no need to "front-load" with lots of yeast initially.
Volume Ounces Grams

Starter

Dough

Egg wash

  • 1 large egg white mixed with 1-2 tablespoon cool water

Directions

  1. 1) To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients together until smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
  2. 2) Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface may still be a bit rough. It may also stick to the bowl just the tiniest bit.
  3. 3) Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and again after 2 hours.
  4. 4) Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 12 pieces, shape the pieces into balls, and firm them up by rolling them under your lightly cupped fingers.
  5. 5) Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover them, and let them rise for 1 to 2 hours, until they're puffy, though not doubled in size. They'll flatten out a bit as they rise; that's OK.
  6. 6) Cover the rolls, and refrigerate them for 2 to 3 hours. Towards the end of the rolls' chill, preheat the oven to 425F.
  7. 7) Whisk together the egg white and water until frothy. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, and brush them with the wash; you won't use it all up. Again, don't be discouraged if the rolls seem a bit flat; they'll pick up when the hit the oven's heat.
  8. 8) Slash a 1/4" deep cut across the top of each roll. Immediately put the rolls into the oven.
  9. 9) Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they're a deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack. Or, for best crunch, open the oven door, and allow the rolls to cool in the turned-off, open-door oven.
  10. Yield: 12 small rolls.

Tips from our bakers

  • For larger rolls, divide the dough into 8 pieces, rather than 12. Bake for a minute or two longer.