The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Need ideas for nutrition-packed rolls

clazar123's picture

Need ideas for nutrition-packed rolls

I'm not ready to embark on this journey,yet, but I have been thinking about how to prepare for it.I know there are many people from all over the world on this forum who have many different experiences.Perhaps someone can offer me some perspective on this project.

Someday in the near future, I would like to make rolls and drop them off at a center that acts as a winter shelter for homeless folks in our community.I've been told that pretty much anything is welcome but I would like to get the best bang for the buck. Some of these people are pregnant women and kids so I would like to pack as much nutrition as possible into that one little bun and need some thoughts on the ingredients,taste,shape and texture. I do need to consider cost as the pocket is not endlessly deep, so high cost nuts or seeds or additives may not be feasible. What are some cheap,nutrition-dense ingredients I should consider?

One of the most distinguishing things I've noticed when I work with this group of people is bad dental problems. This is a population that has more important things to worry about than brushing and flossing.That is why I added texture to my "need ideas" list. I don't think a tough,chewy roll (even if welcome compared to nothing) is a good idea.

So what can I add to a roll to make it a nutritional powerhouse, easy to eat by itself, portable but sturdy enough to withstand being in a pocket, appealing,tastes good fresh and stale? Can I come up with a recipe that will be versatile enough to inter-change ingredients/additives as they are available?

I chose to use bread because of what it represents to people- comfort.Bread is the staff of life. It travels well and a person feels good if they have bread to eat-at least at that moment.

G-man's picture

I'd look into whey as an ingredient for your rolls. It's got a ton of protein and water-soluble vitamins in it. Nearly all of the fat has been removed so if you're looking for lean that's something to consider. It's also tasty.

Of course if you do want it, fat would be a great source for softening the rolls but it's tough to find nutrient-dense foods that are high in fat, since foods are only considered nutrient dense if they happen to have a lot of nutrients when compared against their caloric content. Avocados have a ton of nutrients and are also high in fat.

Squash would add a little flavor and also some texture, most squash are fairly nutrient-rich and also very cheap.

For flavor consider using sweet potatoes/yams.

Also, most herbs and spices are fairly nutrient-dense, we just never use them in large enough quantities to reap a huge benefit. Still, they can't hurt.

Hope this helps.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I've given a hundred or so loaves to the Denver Mission over the past four years and never once considered that they might be too UnWonderbreadlike.

I just cannot believe my complete lack of foresight.

One idea: milk and eggs. Both will soften and are very nutritious and inexpensive, although unsure if that nutrition will survive the heat of the oven.

Another, but might be a bit unexpected: yam/sweet potato breads and rolls. I think Floyd has a sweet potato roll recipe on TFL somewhere. (Ooops, looks like G-man got to the yams first!)


I really wish shelter's would stop saying "anything goes". (They do so because the "beggars can't be choosers" mentality). I'll just quote something from someone who works with the homeless in Anchorage, Alaska. He said, "If you don't like to eat it, what makes you think a homeless person will?" He listed stuff that people 'donate' that you just wouldn't believe.

Yerffej's picture

Many years ago I watched my toothless uncle "chew" steak and more....I would not worry about the texture. 

If it is nutritious that you are after, I would use a sourdough starter made with organic whole grain, organic whole grain heirloom wheat and unrefined celtic sea salt. 


ssorllih's picture

You might consider muffins instead of yeast bread.They start out with eggs, milk and shortening. I like to add diced cheddar cheese and diced ham. You could add shredded carrots without making them wierd. Raisins and dried fruit with some sugar is nice in a separate recipe.Some whole grain flour doesn't hurt the texture or taste.If the fat content is high enough then people don't feel the need for butter.

clazar123's picture

Brainstorming and responses:

Proteins:milk,egg,whey,yogurt,cheese. Other nutrient rich foods: carrots,raisins,dried fruit,sweet potato,pumpkin(squash). Profile for both sweet and savory with herbs/spices.Whole grains  as a base or white with whole grain additions such as oatmeal,flax. Use sourdough for flavor and keeping quality.

What do beans do for bread? I have a mill and can get dried beans for cheap to mill but I have never used them in bread and don't have a clue as to how they behave. They are a great non-meat protein source.

Muffins are a good idea but not my forte. I like a bread based idea because it travels well without crumbling and keeps without spoiling (a good bread is good even when it's very old). Sourdough is a great idea for both keeping and flavor without big cost.

Older people with no teeth can develop "calloused" gums and eat anything. My dad had 2 teeth and ate everything.Amazing! Younger people with dental problems tend to have more painful conditions that give them problems with chewing-infections,abcesses,broken teeth. That is why I wanted to pay attention to texture. I think I want to go for a softer texture that is not crusty.

Whole grain is good but many people don't like the flavor.White whole wheat may be the answer but it is rather trendy now and hence more costly. I can do an oatmeal/flax addition to any dough for a reasonable cost. Organic flour would be welcome as a donation, when I get to doing this projetc, but it is likely beyond the budget at startup.


Good thoughts!

sphealey's picture

For super-nutritious breads, nothing can beat the recipes in the original _Laurel's Kitchen_.  Not the new _New Laurel's Kitchen_ or _Laurel's Bread Book_, but the original 1972 hippie-era paperback.  Not necessarily the lightest breads in the pantheon, but nutritious without a doubt!


Those recipes can be de-brickifed by just using a good AP flour (such as King Arthur) where they call for gluten flour, using preferments, increasing the hydration, and adding some oil (e.g. olive oil) or butter.  _Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book_ has recipies that are quite nutritious but not as extreme as their original versions as well.

ssorllih's picture

Lately I have been making a 75% hydration no knead  bread that I include cottage cheese in. I can think of no reason to stop there. The basic recipe is flour, 75 % water (could be milk) 50% cottage cheese yeast and salt.  Mix to uniformity and let rise for two hours  dump onto a lot of flour and cut into muffin tin portions  let rise for a hour and bake 375. Makes a coarse open crumb. I can see filling it with all manner of other foods. cooked meat cubes, cheese, dried fruits onions including eggs as part of the hydration would be an option. Cooked diced sausage would be nice. The dried fruits would have a longer shelf life than the meat/cheese fillings

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I've made very fluffy bread using mashed cooked beans in the dough.  Search turtle beans (or black beans) in the archives. 

adds fiber too!  Buns could be filled.

Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi Clazar from Australia,

First and foremost congratulations on your charity. There should be more like you.

Here are some ideas.

Wholegrain(not wholemeal) seeded flour would be one of the most simple and nutritional. Packed with Fibre, carbohydrates, protein and is Low GI. This takes the bread longer to break down in a person's system  causing the breads energy to be realised slowly. This means their feeling fuller for longer. Good for diabetics which some may be prone to.

Another healthy alternative is adding ground cornmeal also called Polenta to white bread flour. Could be more economical but just as healthy as a wholegrain bread. Check out low GI in your search mode and it will explain.

Recipes for both styles of bread can be found on this site. 

I know you would not be looking for any return gratitudes, but hey, may it come your way regardless. Thankyou on their behalf.

What goes around comes around.


clazar123's picture

Good to know. I'm assuming it is added as a small percentage, similar to the sweet potato recipe? I will check for recipes!

I haven't done anything yet but I have been thinking of this for a while. I want to move forward for this winter.

It always helps to see through someone else's eyes. I have a cousin that has lived in the bush in central Africa as a missionary for 40 yrs. She comes here (USA) every 3-4 yrs and she talks about her adjustment period. There is just so much here-visually,auditory,food....just STUFF. It takes her a few days to be able to just walk around without getting a headache from all the stimulation.A candy display in a grocery store (the size of a large car) was just incredible to her-it is such a discordant experience. It had enough calories to feed her small village for a year. I gained a new perspective after my conversation with her. She is the one deserving of gratitude. She is becoming elderly now and still lives in Africa but in a larger city.

I thought wholemeal WAS whole grain. Is it different? Do they remove some of the bran in wholemeal? My daily bread is a home-milled Honey Whole Wheat and my favorite is a variation of a 7 or 9 grain whole wheat (depending on what is in the cupboard) so I'm sure I will include a whole grain but the cost will probably determine which is used. Good to know corn is a good whole grain alternative as it is rather cheap here.

Have a good day,everyone, and thanks for the great ideas.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

1/2 cup of beans cooks up to a cup of beans.  With the black turtle beans they darken the crumb just a little bit and create such a soft crumb.  

also coconut flour contains a lot of fiber 

CelesteU's picture

"Cornell Bread" was developed in the '40s during war is nutritionally dense yet tasty, packed w/honey, oil, soy flour, wheat germ, and dry milk.  See the recipe on the Cornell U website:


ssorllih's picture

Drop biscuits are a good place to start. They can be loaded with sausage, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, fat rich seeds and they can be made with a blend of white and whole grain flours. They are quite high in fat compared to yeast breads and that is good. Experiment with using a pumpkin pie filling  preparation for the liquid in the recipe. Pumpkin pie filling can be made with sweet potatoes. Sundried tomatoes and olives would work well.

dabrownman's picture

for helping to feed the hungry who cannot feed themselves.

We have recently baked off a very nutritious whole grain knotted roll here;

You can substitute whole wheat for the rye if you want and drop the caraway seeds and get a very nutritious roll.  The knots are fun to tie, they look great-here is a pix or two.