The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Italian Hero Sandwich Rolls

rcrabtree's picture

Italian Hero Sandwich Rolls

Fellow bread enthusiasts:

I've never posted before,  but recently I've become desparate. 

After scouring the net with several search engines, as well as examining my favorite bread sites, I can't find any information on how to recreate those wonderful Italian hero sandwich rolls they have down in NYC.  Anyone who has lived there knows what I'm talking about.  These are not the lifeless, heavy, soggy things most Americans know as grinders, hoagies, or submarine rolls.  What I'm looking for are the hard-crusted, feathery-soft, golden torpedos they use in Italian-style deli's in the boroughs.

Has anyone tried to make these or have any suggestions?

jm_chng's picture

First off. Italian bread tends to be lean. Don't use oil or butter or milk for that matter. Don't put suger in. Leaven, water and salt is all you need. Here's one of my recipes. If you don't have a sourdough starter make a yeasted starter about three hours before or the day before and put it in the fridge til you're ready.

Jim’s Basic Bread.

Makes two large loaves.

65% Hydration.

Take 1 teaspoon of active starter. (It should be ok if you used the starter up to three days ago.)

To this add 1.5 tablespoon water and 3 tablespoon of flour. Cover and allow it to stand for 12 hours.

Feed this a good cup of flour and 3/4 cups of water. Stir, cover and leave for 12 hours or so. 

You should have about 1 & 1/3 cup of starter which contains about 1& 1/3 cups of flour. To this you are going to add a further scant 8 1/3 cup of flour (1 cup of flour is assumed to be 4 0z or 120g), scant 2 & 1/2 cups of water and about 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of salt. This is just under 1 ounce of salt. Take care with salt when using volume. This is for free-running, fine table salt. 


Mix the salt to the flour then the water to the starter then add the flour and mix til the flour is wet. This doesn’t have to look smooth. Cover with film and allow to stand for ±45 minutes. 

Wet your hands and fold the dough in the bowl a few times until it looks a little smoother. Shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. Return the film and allow to stand for ± 45 minutes.

Now the bread should be looking more like you expect. You can tip it out onto a lightly floured surface now and fold a few times for the last time. Put the smooth dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Now allow the dough to double in volume. 

At this stage you can put the dough in the fridge over night. You don't have to allow the dough to return to room temp before working on it, but most recommend that you do, I rarely do with no ill effects. 

Once the dough has doubled it's time to shape. Prepare what you are going to proof you dough in for the final rise. Now tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and decide how you are going to portion the dough. For two large loaves cut the dough in two. If you are going to put the dough in a tin fold the dough into a rectangle and repeat until the dough is about the size of the bottom of the tin. Alternatively roll the dough adding a little tension. Now seal the seams and place in the oiled or non-stick tin. If you want a boule shape is a similar way to above but make the dough round. How you shape the dough isn't so important as long as you have a little tension and seal the seams.  

Now place the loaves in the oven with a bowl of warm water and let them double in volume. (If like mine your oven has a large hole at the back for the gas put a towel in the gap to keep the moisture in but remember to remove it before lighting the oven. : -) )

Once the loaves have risen remove the water bowl (and towel) and switch on the oven to 425F Gm 6, 215 C

Bake until dark brown and the internal temp is between 93-97C 200-207F or tap the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. Allow to cool completely on a rack. Don't be tempted to cut the loaves until completely cool.

(Alternative- Ciabatta

Add an extra 1/4 - 1 cup of water to the dough at the mixing stage. Rest the dough as above, don't try to knead this dough  it will be too sticky for the first 'fold' give the dough a good mix with a spoon. For the second fold, tip the dough out onto a well floured surface. Use dough scrapers or spatulas to fold the dough a few times. On the third fold you should be able to pick the dough up with two fingers, do this a few times until it won't fold anymore then return to the bowl. 

When doubled flour the counter well and tip the dough out onto the counter taking care not to knock the air out. Cut the dough into portions and fold each portion into rectangles until the dough is a little tight. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Now get the trays ready, either non-stick or cover the tray with cornmeal. You should be able to fold the doughs in half along the longer axis once more and seal the edges. Now pick the ciabette up holding them at each end allowing them to stretch as you go. Place them on the tray seam side down. 

Place the trays in the oven with a hot bowl of water and continue as above.  )


1/3 cup of starter fed as above. or you can do this on one step from 1tsp of starter into 1tbs of water and 2 tbs of flour

flour 4 1/8 cups 

water 1 1/3 - 1 2/3 cup 

salt 2 tsp


(Take 5 grams of active starter. (It should be fresh and active.) Use filtered or chlorine free water and ordinary bread flour ±11% protein.

To this add 60 g water and 60 g of flour. Cover and allow to stand for 12 hours.


Feed this 140 g of flour and 140 g of water. Stir, cover and leave for 12 hours or so.


You should have about 400g of starter that contains about 200g of flour. To this you are going to add a further 

1000 g of flour, 

580 g of water and 

24 g of salt.)


sewwhatsports's picture

These are my favorite rolls for subs. I got the recipe from My husband says they are as good as any we buy at the bakery.  I throw in a few ice cubes at first to moisten the air in the oven when I bake them.  Hope you like them as much as I do. 

Rena in Delaware

Prize-winning Crusty Rolls

These crisp on the outside, tender on the inside rolls and won a blue ribbon at the state fair. They have a great flavor! 12 small rolls or 6 large rolls1 1/4 C warm water1 egg white1 T oil1 T sugar1 1/2 t salt3-3 1/4 C flour2 t dry active yeast

Place ingredients in bowl. Mix until all ingredients are moistened by hand or stand mixer.

Knead by hand for 8-10 minutes by hand or 2-3 minutes by stand mixer until dough is slightly firm and springy.  Let rise for 1 hour until doubled. 

Degas the dough. Form rolls, place on a greased baking sheet.

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free location for 30 to 40 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Rena in Delaware

rcrabtree's picture

Thanks for the suggestions so far.  I suspect that Jim's procedure will yield the feathery texture I'm looking for, but Rena's recipe might be simpler to execute in a short timeframe.  I bought a perforated sandwich roll pan at a kitchen store which I hope will give the bottoms that crispness.  I'll start experimenting next weekend!

the blind meat cutter's picture
the blind meat ...

I grew up in Massapequa Long Island and have talked to Italian bakers. And they say Italian bread has sugar and shortning in it. I use butter instead but never have I gotten the feather lite bread. I really wish I could. I use a steam pan in the oven and it is very good but not feather lite and this is killing me. Has anyone gotten that fetehr lite bread?