Bread is simple. Or, at least, it should be. A good loaf of bread is truly hard to resist. The smell that emanates from the kitchen as it bakes, even more so. Bread is meant to be shared, to be broken at the dinner table. These tear-and-share bread rolls prove that in a simple way.
If you haven’t baked a loaf before, you might want to try my simple recipe for a classic white loaf (from which, this recipe is adapted). Bread is so versatile. Once you have mastered the basics, it requires almost no effort to create–especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook!
Snipped to create a wheat-sheaf design, these batch rolls (so called because they are baked in connected, batches) are made to be torn apart at the table and served with food. They have a little butter and sugar in them to make them soft and to promote browning; these bread rolls are the perfect match for a hearty stew. They also make a great ploughman’s lunch, with a sharp cheddar cheese.
To make these tear-and-share bread rolls even more exciting… If you skip to the end of the recipe, there are suggestions for fillings which would compliment the rolls really well. So, if you don’t want a crusty roll to compliment your soup, give one of the variations a try!
Top Tip: If you want these rolls to be less ‘crusty’, wrap them in muslin (or a clean tea towel) as soon as they come out of the oven. The steam and heat will help keep the bread soft!
Tear-and-Share Bread Rolls
- 500 g strong white bread flour
- 7 g instant yeast
- 7 g salt fine/table
- 20 g caster sugar
- 20 g butter softened
- 330 ml water tepid
- Weigh out your flour in a large mixing bowl. Next, add the yeast to one side of the bowl, and the salt and sugar to the other. It is very important not to let the salt and the yeast touch at this stage; this will retard the effectiveness of the yeast.
- Mix the dry ingredients together with your hands ensuring everything is fully combined before making a well in the centre.
- Next, add the butter together with most of the water into the dry ingredients and mix with by hand; your hand should be in a claw-like position with your fingers spaced evenly apart (a bit like if you were holding an apple upside down).
- Add the remaining water if you need it, otherwise discard. It is important to remember that the amount of water needed can very each time you bake so you will need to feel the dough and adjust accordingly—it all comes down to the absorbency of the flour and the external environment it’s in. You want your dough to be wet but not so wet that it’s basically flour soup. It should be sticky; if it comes off your hands easily, it’s probably too dry.
Kneading and proving
- Next, it’s time to knead. You’ll want to knead the dough until a noticeable change has occurred. It should no longer be sticky but rather it should be smooth; the dough should resist the kneading. If you press a finger into it, the dough should spring back slightly (although not necessary all the way). Under-kneading is one of the biggest mistakes people make—it’s better to knead for 5 minutes more than 5 minutes less. As a rough guide, you should knead for about 20 minutes. (If you have a stand mixer, knead with the dough hook for about 10-12 minutes.)
- Smooth the dough into a ball by placing both hands on top of it and pulling down and under (as if you were going to pick it up from the bottom.) Turn 90° and do the same; repeat this ‘tuck and turn’ movement until the top is smooth and a nice round ball is formed.
- Place your dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel (or, as I do, a plastic shower cap such as the ones you might pick up from a hotel stay).
- Leave to prove in an airing cupboard, a draught-free part of the kitchen; or, if you oven had a proving setting or a low temperature, say 50°or below, in there for at least an hour (anything up to about 4 hours is great.)
Shaping your rolls
- Firstly, knock the air out of your dough and halve it. Roll each half into a ball like we did earlier when preparing the dough for proving.
- Take each ball of dough and roll it under your hands to form a long sausage that is about 2 inches wide and 18 inches long (approximately).
- Place the shaped dough on baking sheets and cover with damp towels. Leave to prove again for another hour, preheating the oven to 200°c after 30 minutes.
- Once proven, snip along the length of each roll with kitchen scissors at a 45° angle every 2 inches or so. You want to go almost all the way through but not quite cut the rolls apart (they need to be connected at the bottom).
- Alternate each cut section (to the left, then the right, and so on) to form the wheat-sheaf design.
- Place the trays in the oven on the middle shelf to bake. At this point, I usually chuck a couple of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven to create steam—this will help the dough to rise enough before the beautiful crust is formed.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when knocked on the bottom.
- Cool on a wire rack and serve with your favourite dish (or simply with bread and butter!)
- 75g cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp thyme and 1 tbsp rosemary
- 2 tbsp cinnamon and 75g sultanas
- 75g of cocoa powder and 4 tbsp milk