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    Soft Rolls from a 1928 Baking Book

    This recipe is adapted from one in Treatise on Baking by J. E. Wihlfahrt, published in 1928. I bought this book several years ago in a secondhand book shop and have treasured it ever since. In 2006, we received permission from the successor to Fleischmann Yeast Company, ACH Foods, the owner of the copyright, to scan the book and post it as part of the FAQ for the newsgroup

    In the book, the recipe is given in weights for using 100 pounds / 45 kg of flour. I have adapted the recipe to use 1000 grams / 35 ounces of flour, with the other ingredients scaled accordingly. This makes dough for 24 rolls when scaled at 70 grams / 2 1/2 ounces. I’ve added a biga, which I fermented on the counter overnight. This biga contains part of the flour and water and a bit of yeast. It adds a nice additional flavor. I also added a 20 minute autolyse before adding the salt and a fold after 1 1/4 hours.

    The book said nothing about the method of handling the dough, so I’ve developed the process below. The frequent resting periods during dividing and shaping just about guarantee great loft and rise and a good crumb. The egg wash and the shortening give the crust a nice soft feel.

    The recipe says to bake in a “brisk” oven. I have no idea what that means, but I’ve experimented at various temperatures and 360F / 182C works well when baked for 22 minutes. The crust stays soft and the center bakes properly.

    The result of these changes is that the rolls have a nice flavor and incredible loft and rise. I made these in slightly elongated shape, but it you were to make them in rounds and flatten them quite a bit, they should make great hamburger or sandwich rolls, like for turkey or ham sandwiches for the holidays.

    If you’ve worked with some of my other recipes on this site, you’ll recognize what I’ve done. I’ve taken a commercial recipe and adapted it to use some of the artisanal – artisan techniques: autolyse, folds, rests during dividing and shaping. These changes result is a bread that is true to the original recipe but has some of the feel and taste of an artisanal – artisan bread. Sort of the best of both worlds. It may be presumptuous of me, but I think Mr. Wihlfahrt would have approved.

    Make a Biga

    Ingred Ounces Grams
    Bread Flour 5 1/4 150
    Water 3 1/4 90
    Dry Yeast 1/4 tsp 1

    Mix up, put in covered container and let sit on counter overnight.

    Ingredients in addition to the biga

    Ingred Ounces Grams
    Bread Flour 30 850
    Warm water 16 1/2 470
    Yeast 1 Tbsp 10 g
    Sugar 1 3/8 40
    Salt 2 1/4 tsp 20
    Shortening 2 1/8 60
    Malt 1 Tblsp 20 See malt discussion here. Use diastatic malt if possible. If you don’t have diastatic malt, use regular malt. If you don’t have either malt, just use sugar.
    Non-fat dry milk 1/2 10 gms

    Make a wash of one egg and a tablespoon / 15 ml of warm water.
    Have poppy seeds on hand if you want to sprinkle the rolls with them.


    1. Make the biga, cover and let it sit on the counter overnight.
    2. The next day, place the water, malt, sugar, yeast, milk powder and shortening in the bowl of a large mixer and mix for a minute.
    3. Cut up the biga and add it a bit at a time, letting it mix with the other ingredients.
    4. Add half the flour and mix for a minute.
    5. Add the rest fo the flour and mix for a minute or two, until the flour is incorporated into the dough.
    6. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
    7. Uncover the bowl, add the salt and mix the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will be very smooth and more oily than sticky.
    8. Place the dough in an lightly oiled pot, cover the pot and let the dough ferment for 1 1/4 hours. The dough will at least triple.
    9. Remove the dough from the pot, flatten it out and fold it. Bring two sides over toward the center and overlap, then do the same with the other two sides.
    10. Place the dough back in the pot for 20 minutes. The dough will just about double again,
    11. Remove the dough from the pot, divide in two, place one part on the counter and let it rest for 10 minutes. Put the other piece back in the pot and cover it up.
    12. Divide the first piece into 12 70 gram / 2 1/2 ounce pieces. You may have to adjust how much dough is on the counter, either returning some to the pot or getting a bit more from the pot.
    13. Let the scaled pieces rest for 10 minutes. Then round them up and let them rest for 10 minutes.
    14. Roll each piece between your hands to elongate them a bit, then place them on parchment paper to rise. I place the parchment paper on the back of a large baking sheet. That way, I don’t have to worry about the rolls touching the edge of the pan as they rise during baking. And rise they will!
    15. Heat the oven to 360F / 185C.
    16. Let the rolls rise, covered, in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until at least doubled.
    17. When the first batch is about 10 minutes into its rise, start processing the second batch. This insures that the second batch is properly risen when the first batch is finished baking. You want the second batch to be about 30 minutes behind the first batch.
    18. When the first batch is finished rising, brush the rolls with the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds and put the baking sheet in the oven.
    19. Bake for 20-23 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. This is one of those times when golden brown is better than deep brown.
    20. Remove to a rack to cool.
    21. Repeat with the second batch.

    Here Wo Go

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    Soft roll ingredients on counter. Soft roll dough ingredients. Soft roll dough adding biga. Soft roll dough mixing wet ingredients.
    Soft roll dough mixing. Soft roll dough partly mixed. Soft roll dough all mixed. Soft roll dough ready to ferment.
    Soft roll dough fermented. Soft roll dough on counter. Soft roll dough partly folded. Soft roll dough finished folded.
    Soft roll dough finished folding and flipped. Soft rolls divided. Soft rolls rounded. Soft rolls ready to rise.
    Soft rolls ready to bake. Soft rolls first batch baked.

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