On her Chef’s Table episode, legendary chef Nancy Silverton said, one must be obsessed with bread to be a baker. I thought that was a bit much, but what did I know? I did not bake bread then. Fast forward a few years and here I am baking Brötchen everyday, trying to learn the nuances of bread and keeping my mind open to what water, flour, salt, and yeast have to teach me.
The first thing I made with my new Kitchen Aid are Brötchen, small rolls typically eaten for breakfast, or anytime really, in Germany. On Day 1, I used this recipe and the result were crispy, soft, but dense Brötchen that could sustain the German army.
Markus said proper German bread is dense because it is supposed to fill you up. I am not going to war though and I prefer my bread lighter. I also thought it ate too much time in the morning: preparing the dough on a foggy brain and resting it for almost two hours, plus active working time, was a lot for me.
We found an overnight recipe instead and tried it on Day 2. The dough did not rise that much on our fridge. Could it be because I only covered it with a tea towel? They still baked wonderfully golden brown with that glorious crack in the middle, but more lift is required! So in the afternoon, Markus and I looked for a large bowl with a tight lid so I can try the recipe once more, hoping for better results.
I worked with the same overnight dough for Day 3 but fermented it at room temperature and inside my new airtight bowl. The volume definitely increased! The Brötchen were lighter yet remained crispy on the outside and pleasantly chewy on the inside. I noticed the top was not as brown though, and this gorgeous crack on top was minimal.
At first, I suspected it was because a lot of steam escaped the oven before I baked the Brötchen, but after much thought – and further experimenting – it was because I was using a different brand of flour!
Remember this kids: all flour are not created equal.
It felt like I was getting closer to a Brötchen that I would like. The inside from Day 3 was great and the outside from Days 1 and 2 was lovely. Maybe it would have been simpler if I just bought the first flour and tried again, but a more important question came to mind:
What would these Brötchen do if I used instant dry yeast instead of the fresh ones from the previous days? I have never seen fresh yeast in supermarkets in The Philippines, and if Brötchen would rent space on our kitchen, it must work with dry instant yeast, too.
This was the task for Day 4, and I was delighted that it worked! I did everything the same from Day 3 and simply switched the yeast. I added some cheese on top of the Brötchen for good measure.
The buns looked great but they came out salty! It could have been the cheese, but later I realized, I added the wrong amount of salt. I halve the recipe every time since I am not feeding the army, but on this day I forgot to halve the salt. Yikes!
For Day 5, my goal was to follow the halved recipe and not eat salty Brötchen for breakfast. I also used fresh yeast again. It is so nice to work with something that is alive, even if it makes the results unpredictable and hard to control.
Sixth day! I was feeling good about Brötchen-baking. The flour I am using is still less optimal for that crack, but that is easy to fix next time we go to the grocery store. The past days, I have put something on top of my buns and decided to have a basic one again. The bite was good, but it did not look as nice as the basic ones from the first day. I guess I would be sure once I get my hands on that brand of flour and experiment further.
The last Brötchen is a diffrent overnight recipe with no resting time in the morning. I placed the dough inside the fridge on my airtight bowl but it did not rise again! The yeast is new, so I really do not know why. Is there such a thing as a too-cold fridge?
Fortunately, it still baked well. The texture was really nice – my favorite so far! No browning though. On the recipe video, no oven pre-heating was required, but it may be necessary to get a nice color on the buns. I will try this again and ferment the dough overnight at room temperature. Lots of potential with this one.
At the end of my Brötchen-baking spree, do I think I am obsessed with bread? I guess not, but I am more curious about it than ever before.
Bread is so nuanced, so alive, that there is no telling what happens if ever the slightest change occurs. Bonus points that I am working with yeast from a Kingdom that I have a lot of respect for.
Do you think a lot about the bread that you eat? There is so much that goes into it and we owe our bakers a lot of thanks. What would our days be without these rolls and slices of deliciousness? Unimaginable!