The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread roll brick wall

mutantspace's picture

Bread roll brick wall

im been driven crazy by bread rolls. 4 days of tinkering and no joy. I can make great loaves of bread but seem to have hit s wall with Bread/sandwich rolls. i think Ive been overthinking it but need some advice.

Ive been asked to make sandwich rolls for a place in cork, Ireland where I live. They love my bread loaves so want me to make them rolls for their sandwiches. they have to be vegan friendly, and relatively quick to maKe. The idea would be to make up a 50% poolish using a rye starter early in the morning and that evening go into their kitchen and make 50-60 rolls to order; with/without seeds, etc....for the following day.

l use this method to make pain rustique, an olive and sesame bread and a polenta and pumpkin seed bread. All goes well. They taste great and are light. Since looking around the internet and this forum  I’ve noticed people generally making enriched low hydration rolls. I cant use dairy, want to keep costs down on oil (especially as salads are full of oil (I think lean Bread better for rich salads), I like using a variety of flours and generally make doughs in the 72-77% hydration  mark. 

my question is should I simply make baby versions of my bread. They already buy it to eat (I have a market stall) and enjoy it and they’re really into having earthy breads with character....any thoughts - should I lower hydration for rolls as I don’t have bannetons to help with shape?....should I shape in batards and boules same way I do for loaves? What size should they be? Around 185g? Most importantly should I stick to my signature of slow!

Rake_Rocko's picture

If i were you, a good starting point would be to just go back to what you know and do best. Start by making mini versions of your signature bread. Since you are in the tinkering stage, start there and then tweak. Also, since you are not enriching the dough, I would advise against lowering the hydration because when you lower the hydration, you are taking the tenderness and moistness out of the final product. With a lean roll, I would be willing to bet that they would dry out rather quickly. 

Seems to me that if you have enough strength, they should hold their shape relatively fine since each roll has significantly less mass than a boule or a batard of a regular loaf. The more dough, the more weight, and the more volume that gravity can pull down. I don't know if thats actually true, but that's my logic speaking there haha.

Anways, these are just my thoughts and like i said, take that with a grain of salt since I just bake as a hobby and only bake a few loaves at a time. Hopefully it helps though and steers you in the right direction.... away from the "roll brick wall" Good Luck!


mutantspace's picture

Good to get an opinion thanks a lot. Seems to me it’s all ratios so should work big or small with the only difference being the proof and bake I’m going back to my newbie style...its taken me over a year to find a ‘style’ and rhythm that suits me so I should play with that rather than going back to the drawing’s a pity I can’t use butter and milk - especially irish Dairy products...but that’s the challenge...thanks again 

tracker914's picture

Hi, not sure if this would help but I use this very simple recipe for Baguettes as well as rolls. Something that looks very similar to what you would find in a commercial bakery.

4500 grams Sir Lancelot white flour

500 grams fine semolina

95 grams fine table salt

20 grams IDY

500 - 700 grams sourdough starter

3500 grams water

mix everything together, 3 S/F spaced about 30 minutes apart, into the fridge overnight to bulk ferment. Then next day if i'm making baguettes makes around 21 at 400 grams or so, and I scale my rolls anywhere from 150 - 200 grams(200 being a pretty big roll) . 

you can mix and match the amount of white flour and semolina and replace it rye if you like, but personally I probably would not go more than 1000 grams total in non white flour. I tend to like to keep things light with these at it appeals to those customers that don't like the thicker crusts(crazy I know, lol).

hope this helps a little and good luck.



mutantspace's picture

ive been using 5% rye and 95% white flour with a hydration of 72%, rye starter of 2%, IDY of 0.4%  and 2% salt (which in American is about 76% i think as your lfour is more absorbent). All poolished at 50% for 10 hours if that makes sense. Ive been dividing dough into 175g approx.  

IceDemeter's picture

that is why they've asked you!

Have you tried just making smaller versions of your loaves, without changing the hydration at all?  What did you feel was right about them, and what did you feel iffy about?

For sizing, I'd scale them at no more than 120-135g raw dough weight, and I'm a fan of the demi-baguette shape (like in docdough's slashing video here:, where you're basically doing 1/3 size regular baguettes.  Making the "belly" a bit fatter for baby batards looks and works great, too, and you can basically tailor the shape to be your "signature" style.

My thinking on the size is that this should work out to be no more than 250 calories (give or take, depending on what you've got in there), which is about right for the bread portion of a healthy meal.  Patrons who want more can ask for it, but going too large is just going to create food waste from the majority.

Your polenta option will likely have a softer crumb than the pain rustique, but I still feel like the straight pain rustique just might not translate well in to a roll...  Please do try it, but maybe consider using a lower protein flour to soften the crust and the chew (check out Hanseata's blog here about her "daily" rolls: 

Getting the softness can also be done just by getting some non-glutenous starch in there, and using a fattier option will help, too (think flaxseeds, hemp seeds, oats, corn).  Another option is to use the tang zhong method for a portion of the flour (which is nice since you can do it the day ahead and just have it ready to add in along with the poolish). 

Let's see some of your "mini breads" and your thoughts on them --- and all of us "wish we were close enough to be customers" will confuse you even more with all of our conflicting opinions ;-)

Looking forward to seeing what is on the other side of that "wall"

Best, Laurie

mutantspace's picture

thanks all for that - i havent tried mini versions of 'my' bread yet just had enough of trying to make soft baps without butter and milk...ive been using 12.6% protein flour and it seems fine but the tang zhong method looks like a good idea too...ecepting my sourdoughs many of my breads are basically a 50% poolish with sourdough starter which is added to final dough with a little IDY the following day...ill try that tomorrow and if it works keep it otherwise move onto the  tang zhong method. Ive also found well floured rolls and a damp tea towel do wonders to soften a crust....its all learning though and ill be a better baker for it :) ill let you know how it goes...i think lower hydration is affecting rise and lightness so i think ill go back to my usual hydration and take it from there....      

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I make a couple of different buns and rolls. Couple of things I've learned:

  1. For enriched vegan buns, I like to use coconut milk and coconut oil, as well as an egg substitute consisting of about 15 grams of milled flax seed (linseed) mixed with 35 grams of water for each egg. These add flavour and softness
  2. Mashed vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) or whole potato flour (not potato starch) add softness and flavour too
  3. I do keep the hydration a bit lower (say, 65% - 67%) as they are much easier to shape that way. I make them into balls and proof them either on parchment on baking sheets (with space in between them to rise) or nestled into a cake pan so they are nearly touching (for pull-apart buns). Then I bake them in the same pan; no need for bannetons or transferring the proofed buns
  4. I use around 85 grams each (wet dough weight) for dinner rolls and 125 grams for things like burger buns and sandwich buns.
mutantspace's picture

cool @lazyloafer thanks for that info I think i might try the mini loaves with a slightly lower hydration so theyll hold their shape without bannetons etc. I have been proofing them in the baking pan...

thing is i like what ive made tso far hey just seem a bit heavy (theyre floury baps with relatively low hydration - very popular in Ireland and Scotland) and i want something lighter - ive tried swapping out flour for a bit of cornstarch (cornstarch inhibits protein) as well as replacing some of the flour for lower protein flour to lighten the crumb but I think the use of 8% oil (instead of milk and butter) is creating a denser crumb. Im not sure. Perhaps its just me. The taste is good the density isnt. Perhaps a higher hyration?

I personally like a wholegrain sourdough or a light lean french bread for my sandwiches....thats why making mini vesions of my breads makes sense - it also propogates my style as such....having said that i like the idea of the tang zhong method but im not sure how it would work using a poolish? is best thing to do to take 5% of overall flour and do the 1:5 ratio and remove water and then reconfigure poolish from there ie.:



225g bread flour

225g water

10g rye starter



All poolish

225g flour

72g water

3/4 tsp instant instant dry yeast

9g salt




175g flour

175g water

10g starter



All poolish

zang zhong (22g flour + 110g water)

Flour  253g

water 12g

salt 9g


Would that be right?

mutantspace's picture

i tried doing mini loaves and hanseatas German  weizenbrochten as suggested by @IceDemeter. Both completely different. One French in style with good chew and aeration the other light as a cloud. Wow the german rolls are really something so thanks for the tip. I made them with a '00' substitute i.e. swapping in some corn starch to soften the protein. Im going to do another 2 batches over the weekend one with a little sourdough in it and the other mixed flours which is what i generally doin my breads. So thanks for the help, advice everyone. The brick wall has been smashed. 

clazar123's picture

Congratulations! It is wonderful to hear! I knew you could do it!

I know you talked about roll shaping recently, in one of your posts and I finally found a wonderful video by one of our former posters. Mark (mcs) is an interesting guy who started a bakery on wheels and did wonderful videos for our enjoyment and learning. Watching him, I learned a LOT in just a few minutes about shaping and rolling rolls. If you enjoy it, search for his other posts and videos.


IceDemeter's picture

Isn't Hanseata's blog great?  I'm so glad that you found a way to get the same flour softness for that soft-as-air texture.  Along with the flavour / texture of your "signature" bread in roll-form, I'm betting that your customers will be thrilled.

In the meantime, I'm sitting here noshing on a strange and delightful 15cm long baguette-like roll (I'm going through an "everything is baguette shaping practice" stage apparently) made with both a porridge and tang zhong, and just sourdough levain, and it is soft and chewy and delightful - so might be an idea for when you want to offer other options:

I've also got my version of the "banana light rye" from here: which I do as 35% rye --- it's been split in to a loaf and 6 x 120g rolls and is just about proofed and ready to go in to the oven - so I'll let you know whether that might be a tasty occasional option as well.

My husband isn't sure whether to be angry at you (since there is far more bread wandering around the kitchen right now than usual) or to thank you for making me curious (cuz he's really, really liking those porridge rolls)... I'm gonna go with THANK YOU --- and I'm looking forward to hearing what your customers think!

Best, Laurie