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Brötchen (German Bread Rolls)

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My Crusty German Bread Rolls AKA Brötchen are crusty on the outside and so soft on the inside. Perfect for breakfast with butter and jam or filled with your favourite sandwich filling.

Learn how to make Brötchen, just like the crusty rolls from a German bakery, with my easy to follow step by step instructions.

You’ll find German breakfast rolls in every traditional bakery in Germany. When I stayed with my brother, I relished walking down to the local bakery and buying Brötchen for breakfast.

Bread rolls in a basket and on a cooling rack.

I’ve loved crusty German bread rolls since first eating them as a teenager on a school ski-ing trip. We ate them with butter and jam for breakfast and then with ham and cheese for our packed lunch. I never tired of them.

Food memories are so special and if you’ve tasted Brötchen you’ll know they have a flavour all their own. It’s a malty taste from malt extract, the ingredient that’s also responsible for the golden crust.

To recreate Brötchen made in a bakery you need a practical recipe which consistently delivers every time. You need the right ingredients and an easy method to get the flavour and the essential golden crispy crust.

Brötchen German Bread Rolls piled on a cooling rack.

This is my take on authentic Brötchen. I’ve kept with using a starter and used my Poolish from my Artisan loaf recipe. Don’t be worried, a Poolish really is easy and makes all the difference to the flavour and rise. All you have to do is stir up some flour and water with a touch of yeast and leave overnight. When you wake in the morning, the yeast will have done its magic. From start to finish hands on time with these crusty bread rolls is just 25 minutes.

Malt extract is the key to success with crusty German Bread Rolls. It gives a strong rise, great texture, a golden crust and a wonderful flavour. Malt extract really does make the difference and is readily available to buy online.

Crusty roll being torn apart to show soft bread inside.

The secret to making the best Crusty German Bread Rolls involves a spray of water and a burst of steam. These two basic steps make for an extra crispy crust. It’s a tried and tested method I use for my Crusty Farmhouse Bread and my Tiger Bread Rolls.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Here’s why this is the best Brötchen or German Bread Rolls recipe with outstanding results every time.

  • Easy – Suitable for beginners or seasoned bakers. Step by step instructions to recreate your favourite German bakery breakfast bread at home.
  • Authentic Taste and Texture – Malty flavour, crispy golden crust and a soft inside.
  • Versatile – Not just for breakfast. This homemade bread is perfect when served with soup, stews or your favourite sandwich filling.

What equipment do I need ?

  • I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to knead the dough. Simply add the ingredients and mix on a low speed. But don’t worry if you haven’t got a stand mixer. All you need is a bit of elbow grease and you can easily knead by hand.
  • A large mixing bowl – I used my Pyrex bowl.
  • A large baking tray or baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • A water spray bottle – for misting the rolls just before they go in the oven.
  • A shallow baking tin – placed in the bottom of the oven to receive a cup of boiled water. Do not use glass, even if it says it is ovenproof, as this might shatter after the shock of adding boiling water.

What ingredients do I need ?

You only need 6 ingredients to make this recipe.

White bread flour, salt, butter, diastatic malt and instant yeast.
  • Bread Flour – I like to use Marriage’s Very Strong White Bread Flour, which is 100 % Canadian flour. This flour has the advantage of being high in protein and so produces more gluten. As a result, the dough holds together well but is also very elastic – perfect for making German Crusty Bread Rolls.
  • Yeast – I’ve used instant yeast in the recipe, often called fast action or quick yeast. This yeast has the advantage that you can add it directly to your flour.
  • Diastatic Malt Powder- readily available online, this is the secret ingredient used in bread making to give your rise a boost. Also, it makes for a great texture, promotes a golden crust and adds a malty flavour. Soft brown sugar can be substituted which will give you a brown crust but it will affect texture and rise.
  • Salt – I like to use sea salt as it contains less sodium than regular salt but any fine salt will work.
  • Butter – I used softened unsalted butter
  • Water – use cold water for the starter and lukewarm water for the final dough. You should be able to comfortably dip your finger into lukewarm water.

How to make Brötchen (German Bread Rolls)

For full instructions see the recipe card at the end of this post.

Adding yeast and water to flour and whisking with a fork followed by frothy starter in a bowl.
  • Prepare the night before baking by making a Poolish starter. But don’t be put off, it’s so easy to make. All you do is whisk flour and water with half a teaspoon of yeast and leave overnight.
Flour, butter and yeast being added to bowl and mixed in a Kitchen Aid.
  • The following day, add the rest of your bread ingredients to your bubbling starter and knead until smooth and elastic.
  • I use my trusty KitchenAid stand mixer. All you have to do is set on a slow speed for 6 to 8 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, check it using the window pane test.
  • Equally, the dough can be hand mixed together in a bowl and then kneaded on a counter top. You will get the same results.

The windowpane test is a consistently reliable way to check your dough is ready. Pinch off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it apart, pulling and rotating the dough into a thin membrane, or window pane, which is translucent when you hold it up to the light.

First prove

  • Place your dough in a large greased bowl and cover.
  • Leave to rest in a warm place for at least one and a half hours or until doubled in size.
Freshly made bread dough in a bowl next to a bowl with risen dough.

How to shape Brötchen

  • Transfer the dough to an oiled work surface and stretch out into a log shape. Divide into 9 equal pieces.
  • Shape each piece into a smooth ball by rolling in between the cup of your hand and the work surface.
  • Place on a baking tray, cover and leave to rise for around 45 minutes.
Stretching bread dough, cutting and weighing dough pieces followed by shaped rolls on a baking tray.

Baking Instructions

  • Place a shallow baking tin in the bottom of the oven before preheating oven to 240°C. You add hot water to the tin when you put your rolls in to bake.
Shaped rolls being cut with a lame and sprayed with water before putting in the oven and water being added to the tin at the bottom of the oven.
  • Carefully score each roll with a lame or sharp knife.
  • Give your rolls a quick mist with water from a spray bottle.
  • Place your bread rolls in the oven and then quickly pour a cup of boiled water into the baking tin. Gently close the oven door and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes.
  • Then turn your oven down to 220°C and continue baking until golden brown.
Crusty bread rolls baking in the oven, followed by bread on a cooling rack and a roll being pulled apart.

How to Serve

These crusty bread rolls are perfect for breakfast with plenty of butter and homemade jam.
Equally delicious with sandwich fillings, your favourite burger, pulled pork or served with a warming soup.

Brötchen in a basket with butter and jam with a buttered split roll.

How Long Do They Keep ?

Like most homemade bread, fresh is best but crusty German bread rolls will keep for a couple of days.

Can I Freeze Them ?

These crusty Brötchen freeze well. Make sure your rolls are fully cooled and place in a freezer bag before freezing for up to three months.
I recommend baking from frozen for 5 minutes at 200°C. This way you’ll be enjoying crusty bread rolls just as good as if they were freshly baked.

More Bread Recipes You Might Like….

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Brötchen German Bread Rolls in a basket, followed by a tray of rolls in the oven with water being added to a baking tin.
Bread rolls in a basket and on a cooling rack.

Brötchen (German Bread Rolls)

My Crusty German Bread Rolls AKA Brötchen are crusty on the outside and so soft on the inside. Perfect for breakfast with butter and jam or filled with your favourite sandwich filling.
5 from 6 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: German
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 14 hours
Total Time: 14 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 9
Calories: 243kcal
Author: Sarah James

Equipment

  • stand mixer – I use my KitchenAid or knead by hand.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Water spray bottle
  • large baking tray / sheet lined with parchment paper
  • Shallow baking tin DO NOT USE GLASS, even if it says it is ovenproof. The shock of adding boiling water is likely to shatter the glass.

Ingredients

Poolish or sponge starter

  • 150 g strong white bread flour
  • 150 ml water at room temperature
  • ½ tsp instant yeast – I use Dove’s Farm

Final Dough

  • All of the Poolish
  • 225 ml tepid water
  • 500 g strong white bread flour
  • 1 ½ tsp fine sea salt / kosher salt
  • 2 tsp diastatic barley malt powder or soft brown sugar
  • 15 g softened unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Instructions

Make the Poolish starter

  • The night before you’ll be baking the Brötchen, use a fork to mix the Poolish ingredients together. Use a large bowl, I used my KitchenAid bowl, and make sure there aren’t any pockets of dry flour.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and let it sit and ferment overnight.

Make the dough

  • By hand: Add the water to the bowl of Poolish to loosen it, followed by the rest of the final dough ingredients.
  • Mix thoroughly until you have formed a ball of dough.
  • Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Check your dough is ready by using the windowpane test.
  • KitchenAid: Add the water to the bowl of Poolish to loosen it, before adding the rest of the final dough ingredients. Attach your bowl to your stand mixer and mix with a dough hook for 1 to 2 minutes on slow speed number 1.
  • Increase mixer speed to number 2 and mix for a further 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Check your dough is ready by using the windowpane test.

First prove

  • Place your dough in a large greased bowl and cover.
  • Leave to rest in a warm place until doubled in size: about one and a half hours.

Shape Your Dough

  • Transfer the dough to an oiled work surface and stretch out into a log shape. Divide into 9 equal pieces, approximately 112g each.
  • Work each dough piece into a ball, pinching it together to seal. Then roll the dough between the cup of your hand and the work surface to produce a smooth ball.
  • Place each dough ball on a baking tray lined with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 240°C / 220°C fan / 475 °F / 425 °F fan with a shallow baking tin placed in the bottom of the oven.

Baking Instructions

  • Carefully score each roll with a lame or sharp knife.
  • Apply a light mist to your rolls using a water spray bottle.
  • Place your baking tray of bread rolls in the oven and then quickly pour a cup of recently boiled water into the pre-heated baking tin. Gently close the oven door.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 240°C / 220°C fan / 475 °F / 425 °F fan.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 220°C / 200°C fan / 425 °F / 400 °F fan and continue baking for a further 10 minutes.
  • Tip your rolls onto a cooling rack. Tap the base of the bread to check it is cooked; it should sound hollow.

Notes

  • Makes 9 large rolls.
  • For best results, rather than using measuring cups, weigh your flour using scales.
    If you prefer to use a cup, gently spoon flour into it and then sweep off any excess. Do not pack down.
  • Diastatic malt powder – you can use soft brown sugar as a substitute. This will give you a brown crust but you will lose out on texture and rise.
  • Don’t be tempted to add too much water to the baking tin. One cupful is enough to create steam at the beginning of baking which is all you need. Too much steam throughout baking and you can end up with a tough thick crust.
  • Like most homemade bread, fresh is best but Brötchen (German Bread Rolls) will keep for a couple of days.
  • These crusty bread rolls freeze well. Make sure your rolls are fully cooled and place in a freezer bag before freezing for up to three months.
  • To keep the bread rolls crusty after freezing I would recommend baking from frozen for 5 minutes at 200°C / 180°C fan / 400°F / 350 °F fan.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Calories: 243kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 402mg | Potassium: 88mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 42IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 3mg
Recipe Rating




Lisa

Monday 8th of April 2024

I love the crispy outside texture of these rolls. They are great served warm with butter. So good!

mikayla

Sunday 7th of April 2024

I really liked the soft rolls with a slight chewiness to the outside. The brown sugar added just a tiny hint of added flavor.

Sarah James

Sunday 7th of April 2024

Thanks for taking the time to comment Mikayla. Pleased to hear you liked my crusty rolls, Sarah.

Colleen

Saturday 6th of April 2024

Thanks to your excellent instructions and tips, my rolls turned out perfectly. I'll make these again and again.

Sarah James

Sunday 7th of April 2024

Hi Colleen, glad to hear my instructions were useful and helped towards you making the bread rolls.Happy to hear you'll be making them again, Sarah.

Alexandra

Wednesday 3rd of April 2024

These rolls are just wonderful - I love how crunchy they are on the outside. We filled with smoked salmon and cream cheese and they were ideal for brunch.

Sarah James

Sunday 7th of April 2024

Hi Alexandra, I'm happy to hear you enjoyed my crusty rolls. Smoked salmon and cream cheese sounds a delicious brunch, Sarah.