Baking with Heritage: Brötchen (German Hard Rolls) by Magnolia Days

My next introduction in the Baking with Heritage series is to the superbly talented Renee from Magnolia Days. Magnolia Days encapsulates what I imagine Renee to be: the loveliest, kindest Southern Belle. Born and raised, and to this date living in Georgia, with some jaunts around the world while she was young. I am so happy that social media allows us the luxury of meeting people that otherwise we might have never met in our lifetime. It also introduced me to the charms of Southern Foods and its people that will win your heart over. Renee is an avid baker and a gardener. I adore her Homemade oatmeal Wheat Bread and the heirloom German spaetzle she shared recently.

Hello! I'm Renee from Magnolia Days. I am honored to be here on Shulie's beautiful blog. When she asked if I wanted to contribute to her Baking with Heritage series, I jumped at the opportunity. I believe it is important to preserve family heritage through traditions and food. I am half-German and the culture has been a part of my entire life. My dad met my mom when he was stationed in Germany during the Korean war. He fell in love with her and all things German, especially the food.
Shulie asked if I had any family bread recipes. Unfortunately none my German family members were or are bread bakers so I didn't have a family recipe to share. I thought of which bread would be a representation of my family. The first one that came to mind is Brötchen which are rolls. They have a hard outside and soft inside. My dad loved them. He really enjoyed the fresh baked ones my uncle would get whenever we visited him in Germany.

Brötchen is popular all over Germany and is often eaten for breakfast with butter and jam. It is also served with lunch and dinner. Thousands are baked every day and folks like my family get them hot and fresh at the bäckerei (bread bakery not to be confused by konditori which is for sweets).
This was my first time making rolls. It was a great learning experience. I channeled my German heritage and did my best. I do need to improve my roll shaping skills. All I need is more practice and I know I'll be making these rolls time and time again. With each batch I will think about my dad and my German family. That is what celebrating heritage is all about. You keep the memories alive and pass them along to future generations. Thank you very much Shulie for inviting me to be a part of your Baking with Heritage series. I cherished each moment of baking the rolls and thinking of my family in the process. Thanks to you I have baked the first of many German breads.  

Brötchen (German Hard Rolls)
Recipe adapted from About.com
Makes 24 rolls (or more if made smaller)

For the sponge:
2 cups bread flour (unbleached recommended)
1 1/3 cups cold tap water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

For the dough:
All of the sponge
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached recommended)
1 1/3 cups water, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

To make the sponge:
In a large bowl, mix the flour, water, and yeast until it is smooth and without lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let set on the counter overnight (8 to 24 hours).

To make the rolls:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the sponge, 4 1/2 cups flour, water, and yeast. Knead for 8 minutes at a low speed (as recommended by mixer manufacturer when using a dough hook). Add additional flour as needed until the dough "cleans" the sides of the bowl (doesn't stick to sides).

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead for an additional 3 or 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth but slightly tacky. Adjust with additional water or flour as needed.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat the dough with the oil. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough in half and form each into logs. Cut 12 pieces from each log. Let pieces rest for a few minutes. Shape pieces into balls and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Cover sheets with a damp towel and let rolls rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Position 3 racks equally in the oven. Place a metal pan on the lowest rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees F while the rolls are on the final rise.

Use a serrated knife or razor blade to make a small cut or slash on the top of each roll. Place rolls in the oven. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan on the lowest shelf and immediately close oven door.

After 2 minutes, spray the sides of the oven with water. Repeat spraying twice in 2 minute intervals.

Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes turning the baking sheets once for even browning.

Transfer rolls wire racks. Enjoy the rolls while they are warm and crispy.

Rolls can be frozen. Re-heat frozen rolls in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Baking with Heritage series:
A Romanian Flatbread with Roasted Tomatoes

An Argentinian Tortitas Negras - Little Black Cakes 
Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah