The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Norm's Onion Rolls

dawkins's picture

Well this is my first batch of baking to be posted to this site, and having read so many rave reviews, I knew Norm's Onion Rolls had to be the recipe to start me off. I used the variation posted by Ehanner (which was really clear and easy to follow, so many thanks)

As mentioned, the dough was really stiff andif I hadn't been following the recipe so closely, I would definitely have added more liquid. After a quick initial knead, I left the dough to sit for about 20 minutes, then got stuck in and kneaded for about 10-15 in total. i'm still recovering from a back operation, so I have to do this kind of thing in stints.

After the first rise, shaping and the recommended relaxing time, I squished the rolls into the onion mixture, as advised, and it stuck really well. I was a bit nervous of flattening them too much, and squashed them to about .5 inch, but as they rose so beautifully later, I'd be less ginger next time.

My fan oven isn't that efficient, so I knocked the temp down by just 5 degrees, and once the rolls were proved ( judged by finger poking), I did the thumb poke in the middle of each and put them in the oven with a splash of hot water in the tray at the bottom. I turned and rotated the trays after 10 minutes, and thanks to a call from my Mum mid-bake, they were ina bit longer than I'd planned - just over 25 minutes. Some of the onion got a little singed, but it still tastes good, but I'd cook them for less time next time around. And there certainly will be a next time, because despite my botching, these turned out incredibly delicious - I see what all the fuss is about! Thanks to Norm and all of you who've posted about this recipe for inspiring me to try it.

One question I have, is that although I imagined these we going to be more bagel-like in terms of density, they actually ended up quite light and fluffy (I'm always startled at how much white flour bread rises). I don't know if that's the correct consistency, but I'll post some pics once I've figured out how. but here are some pics of the results:

xaipete's picture

I really like Norm's method of using re-hydrating dried onions. They tasted fabulous on the rolls. The dough was very stiff and tight when I removed it from the mixer for bulk fermentation, but when I went to shape it was amazingly light and easy to work with. I don't know why I expected the finished product to be bagel-like. These rolls are light, tender things with a mild onion and poppy seed flavor, and nothing like bagels! I couldn't help myself and gobbled one down before they were even cool. Thanks, Norm, for sharing this terrific recipe with us at TFL.

I think these rolls would also make great hamburger buns too either with or without the onions.

The original thread is here:

Ready to proof

Out of the oven

Being eaten

My interpretation of Norm's formula and method:

The onion mixture

Rehydrate 1/3 cup dried, minced onions in about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. When the onions have absorbed all the water that they can, drain them (I pressed them with a spoon when they were in the strainer to make sure I got most of the water out), and add a little salt (I added 1/2 teaspoon kosher), 1 tablespoon of canola oil (I forgot to add the oil so I just dapped a little on the top of each roll before baking them), and 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds to the mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use. Norms says that you have to used dried onions to get the authentic taste of these rolls.

The roll dough

21 g sugar
7 g malt syrup (I used 14 g by accident because I was pouring from the bottle and it got away from me)
7 g salt
21 g egg, beaten
21 g vegetable oil
454 g bread flour
227 g water
7 g instant yeast

Place all ingredients in the bowl of your mixer and mix with the paddle until everything is incorporated, about 1 minute. Let dough rest 5 minutes to hydrate. Change paddle to dough hook and knead on speed 2 for 10 minutes until dough is quite smooth. Norm cautions that this is a very stiff dough and that you should keep an eye on your mixer so that you don't overheat it. I think this dough might knead very well in a food processor; of course it would probably only require a couple of minutes of kneading.

Place dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until double, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Gently deflate dough and cut into 2 to 4 ounce pieces (I used 3 ounce pieces for my rolls), form pieces into balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dump the onion mixture onto a lipped cookie sheet and spread it out.

When the 10 minutes are up, pick up the relaxed dough balls, turn them over onto the onion mixture, and press them flat with the palm of your hand. You want to balls to be flattened to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Place the rolls onion side up on a baking sheet, and preheat your oven to 450º.

Cover the onion rolls lightly with plastic wrap and let fully proof, about 1 hour. Just before they are ready to go into the oven, press down in the center of each roll with your thumb to make an indentation.

Bake for about 20 minutes on the middle oven rack until nicely brown and crisp, spritzing them with water once a minute during the first 5 minutes of baking and rotating the pan 180º after the first 10 minutes. Watch them closely near the end of the 20 minutes because they can burn fast--I caught mine just in time. (Next time I make these I might try 425º for 25 minutes.)

Makes 9 three-ounce rolls

dmsnyder's picture

Norm's onion rolls and kaiser rolls

Norm's Onion Rolls and Kaiser Rolls

March 3 should be a TFL holiday. That's the day in 2008 that Stan (elagins) asked Norm (nbicomputers) if he had a recipe for New York style onion rolls.  Norm did, and he posted the recipe the same day

I just know there are some here who have yet to bake these. No one's perfect. It's not the end of the world. On the other hand, it would be a terrible thing for the end of the world to happen, and you haven't gotten around to baking these rolls. You shouldn't be depriving yourself. You never know ...

It should be noted that the same dough that is used for onion rolls is also used for kaiser rolls (aka "hard rolls," "Vienna rolls," "bulkies"). The only differences are in the make up (how the rolls are formed), the proofing and the topping. Well, there is also a slight difference in the recommendation for steaming the oven.

I am posting Norm's recipe together with tips he contributed in response to various questions and problems others posted.

So, without further ado ...

 The Dough

(Makes nine 3-oz rolls)

  • High Gluten Flour 16 oz
  • Water                  8 oz
  • Yeast                  0.3 oz Fresh or 0.1 oz Instant
  • Salt                     0.25 oz
  • Sugar                  0.75 oz
  • Malt                    0.25 oz (diastatic malt powder or malt syrup. If you don't have either, just add an additional 0.25 oz of sugar.)
  • Eggs                   0.75 oz (a little less than 2 Tablespoons)
  • Oil                      0.75 oz (a little less than 2 Tablespoons 
  1. Combine flour, salt, sugar (And malt, if using malt powder. And crumbled fresh yeast, if using fresh yeast.)
  2. Pour water in a bowl. (Add instant yeast, if using it, and mix. Add malt syrup, if using, and mix it.)
  3. Mix egg and oil together.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, preferably the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the flour mixture. Add the egg and oil mixture and combine. Last, add the water mixture and combine.
  5. Using the dough hook, knead on Speed 2 (for a KitchenAid mixer) or equivalent for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and silky. (This is a very stiff dough, so your mixer may "walk." Keep an eye on it!) Depending on your flour, you may have to add a bit more water, but the dough should be rather dry. Not sticky or even tacky. It should clean the bowl sides and not adhere to the bowl bottom.
  6. Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover tightly. Let it ferment until doubled in volume. (About 90 minutes, depending on the room temperature.)
  7. Turn the dough onto a dry, un-floured work surface. Divide it into 2 to 4 oz pieces, depending on the size rolls you want to end up with. (For reference, a 3 oz piece will result in a 4 inch onion roll or a 3 inch kaiser roll.)
  8. Pre-shape each piece into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and/or a towel and let them rest for 10 minutes. (This is to relax the gluten, not to rise.)
  9. If making onion rolls, spread the topping on your work surface, a cookie sheet, a pie tin or whatever.
  10. Flatten each piece using a rolling pin and/or the palm of you hand. They should be 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
  11. Press each flattened piece firmly into the topping mixture, then place it topping side up on a baking pan lined with parchment paper which has been sprinkled with coarse cornmeal (polenta).
  12. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to fully proof. This may take 60-90 minutes. (Failure to allow the rolls to fully proof will result in more oven spring than is desirable. These rolls should not end up spherical, but rather flat, like a discus.)
  13. Pre-heat your oven to 450F and prepare to steam it using your method of choice.
  14. When the rolls are fully proofed, press a finger deeply into the center of each roll.
  15. Bake them for 5 minutes with steam. Then remove the steam source and continue baking until the rolls are well-browned - 10 to 15 minutes longer. (The tops may remain white if the onions were too wet or you had too much steam in your oven.) If desired, you can bake a bit longer to crisp up the tops.
  16. Remove the rolls from the oven and cool on a rack.

The Topping for Onion Rolls

(Makes enough for a double recipe)

  • Dehydrated onion flakes ¼ cup
  • Poppy seeds                  1 T
  • Salt                              ¼ tsp
  • Oil                                1 T
  1. Put the onion flakes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.
  2. When the onion flakes are fully re-hydrated, pour off the excess water but save it for use in the dough or in your rye sour or other good use.
  3. Mix in the other ingredients and put aside.

If anyone has additional tips, please submit them. Collectively, we have quite a bit of experience with this recipe. I'm hoping to collect it all in one place.




holds99's picture

I finally got the ingredients I needed to make Norm's onion rolls.  I made them for Thanksgiving dinner and they turned out great.  Everyone enjoyed them very much.  These are the REAL THING!  Thank you, Norm for the great recipe.  I'll be making these regularly.  And thanks to Eric Hanner for his detailed description, in his post, of how to make these rolls and the very helpful pictures.



Floydm's picture

Norm's Onion Rolls

October 13, 2008 - 7:38pm -- Floydm

Norm, AKA nbicomputers, is a retired professional baker from New York City. He has been sharing his recipes and his baking wisdom with us for close to a year now.

Norm's NY Style Onion Rolls have become a favorite on The Fresh Loaf. Below are the list of posts I could find that contains pictures, tips, and comments about this recipe.

Floydm's picture

I too have baked a batch of Norm's Onion Rolls. They are wonderful.

I added 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds to the dough as well as an extra quarter cup or so of rehydrated dried onions. Otherwise, I followed his recipe.

I may have gotten a little too carried away with the poppy seeds and onions, but they were awfully tasty.

Eli's picture

I made Norm's Onion Rolls back in April and wish I had posted them then. That bunch seemed to be a little more aesthetic. These were great tasting and Norm's Onion Rolls, along with Henry's Scones have made me quite popular with the neighborhood.

Burger with Norm' s Onion Roll and Mr. Stripey tomatoes! Delicious!!

Thanks Norm and Henry!! ehanner's made me covet that onion poppy seed explosion again!

Thanks for making them look so good again!


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