Culinary Connections | Small Breads

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Through the backlit window pane of an artisan bakery, golden-brown buns are a tantilising sight, an invitation to indulge.

Generally made with high-gluten flours, a large ratio of butter or lard, fresh yeast and sugar with milk, salt, and an egg or milk glaze, the ubiquitous roll of Vienna was for many years the epitome of this type of bread.

In Aberdeen around the time that Viennoiserie was evolving in Paris, a flaky bread became popular with fishermen. Using the same technique for making croissants, the Rowie was neither crescent nor roll, and it was made with beef dripping. It was also excessively salty and is now exclusively authentic – a product of its time and not easily replicated in the domestic kitchen.

  • 500 g strong white wheat flour
  • 350 ml water, warmed to 38ºC
  • 250 g butter / lard or 50:50
  • 20 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 10 g sugar

Dissolve yeast in sugar and warm water. Sieve flour and salt, add yeast water and work into a soft smooth dough. The high water ratio makes this a tough dough to work, about 20 minutes of hard kneading.

Cover the dough and leave to rise for an hour.

Degas, leave for a further hour.

Cut the fat into small cubes, divide into three portions. On a floured working surface roll the dough into a rectangle, about 40 cm x 30 cm. Place the cubes of fat from one portion on two-thirds of the rectangle. Fold the non-fat end into the middle, and then again over the final third.

Leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered.

Flour the surface, roll the dough out again with a little flour to aid the process, repeat once more.

Flour the surface with flour and roll the dough again, then divide it into 15 pieces (roughly 80 g each), shape into ovals or rectangles, arrange on greased baking trays.

Leave to rise until the doughs have risen considerably.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

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DDR Brötchen

Ostalgie, the nostalgic trend for the humdrum German Democratic Republic, has brought with it a yearning for the simple traditional food once served in the cafes and canteens of Berlin, Leipzig and other East German cities. These breakfast rolls were soft and salty, and were made more often than not with margarine and whey.


  • 250 g white wheat flour, t405 / t550, warmed
  • 250 ml milk, full-fat / whey, warmed to 38ºC
  • 20 g yeast

Dissolve yeast in a little of the milk or whey. In a large bowl stir remaining milk or whey into the flour with the yeast mixture. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Second Dough

  • 250 g white wheat flour, t405 / t550
  • 75 g sugar
  • 25 g butter / lard / margarine
  • 15 g salt
  • 5 g barley / wheat malt
  • Milk, for brushing

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add salt and sugar, incorporate the butter, lard or margarine, then add the pre-ferment. Knead into a soft smooth dough, about 10 minutes. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Degas, leave for an hour, cut into 12 pieces (roughly 65 g each), shape into balls, arrange on baking trays. Cover.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

When they have risen, brush lightly with milk.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes.


A popular bread in eastern Switzerland, bürli are eaten with St Gallen bratwürst. Generally made with prepared flour, bürlimehl (wheat flour, wheat gluten, barley malt flour and acerola powder). Artisanal hand-made handbürli are preferred to maschinenbürli, the mass produced version, but they are difficult to make.

Pre-ferment / Sourdough

  • 150 ml water
  • 75 g strong white wheat flour / white wheat flour, t550
  • 75 g white spelt flour, t630
  • 5 g yeast

Stir flours into water and yeast in a large bowl. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Final Dough

  • 300 g sourdough
  • 175 g white wheat flour, t550, warmed
  • 100 ml water / milk, warmed to 38ºC
  • 50 g rye flour, warmed
  • 50 g wholewheat flour t1050, warmed
  • 20 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 5 g barley malt flour
  • Warmed water for wash

Dissolve yeast in milk or water. Work flours, malt, salt and yeast liquid into
pre-ferment to make a soft elastic dough, about 20 minutes’ hard kneading. Rest for three hours. Preheat oven to highest setting. Cut dough into 80 g pieces, shape into rolls, lightly wash with warm water, make a deep cut on the top of each roll. Place on floured baking trays. Leave to rest for an hour. Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Reduce heat to 230°C, bake for 20 minutes, opening oven to allow residual vapour to escape, then bake for a further ten minutes. This will produce dark crusts on the breads. For lighter crusts reduce starting heat to 210°C and take out after 20 minutes.


This is the cinnamon bun of Finland.

  • 500 g strong white wheat flour
  • 200 ml milk, warmed to 38ºC
  • 120 g sugar + 60 g sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg
  • 60 g butter, semi-hard, cubed
  • 60 g sour cream
  • 60 g cinnamon
  • 25 g yeast
  • 15 g cardamom seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pearl sugar

Pour milk into a large bowl containing the yeast. When it froths stir in 100 g of flour to make a loose paste. Add cardamom, salt, four tablespoons of sugar and stir in the egg with remaining flour. Work in the cream. Knead for 20 minutes until the dough stretches easily without breaking.

Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Divide into two pieces. Roll dough into a rectangle sheet, about one centimetre thick.

Divide butter cubes into two portions. Place the cubes on the first sheet, and with a wide knife, spread in an even layer to the edges. Sprinkle with cinnamon andremaining sugar.

Starting at the narrow end, roll the sheet tightly, finishing with the seam underneath. Repeat with second batch.

With a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough at an angle to make triangles, 5 cm x 2 cm, for a total of twenty buns. Turn each bun with the narrow side on top. With both thumbs squeeze the bun in the middle to make it bulge.

Remove buns to baking trays layered with greaseproof paper. Leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Glaze buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 12 minutes. Eat them slowly, they are a treat to be treasured.


Sugar buns? An indelicate description for these delightful breads.

  • 500 g zopf flour or 300 g strong white flour, 195 g white spelt flour, 5 g barley malt flour
  • 165 ml milk, full-fat, lukewarm
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 45 g vanilla sugar
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 45 g pistachios, chopped
  • 45 g currants
  • 20 g yeast
  • Saffron powder, pinch
  • Salt, large pinch


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 45 g pearl sugar

Dissolve yeast and saffron in half the milk. Leave to froth. Sieve flours into a large bowl with salt and sugar. Work in the butter, add remaining milk, yeast mixture and egg. Fold in the zest. Knead into a smooth dough, about 15 minutes, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Add pistachios and sultanas, knead, leave for a second hour. Degas, divide into equal pieces, around 80 g each. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.

Assorted Breakfast Breads

The Aberdeen, Berlin and Vienna breads are plain compared with the bread rolls that are now prominent in Austria and Germany, and in Switzerland.

Among the assorted breads found in a Swiss bakery are small rolls containing multi-varied ingredients.

The secret to the success of these breads are flour combinations from the millers. For example:

Halbweissmehl is a semi-white flour made with barley flour, wheat flour and wheat gluten. It is used to make enriched breads.

Zopfmehl is strong white flour with barley, spelt and wheat gluten. It is used to make plaited bread.

Bakers also make up their own combinations, mixing spelt with strong white, maize with spelt, white with rye.

The results produce specialist yeast bread rolls like these:

wheat flour - apple juice and cream
semi-white, maize flours - apricots, 
butter, milk
kopf flour - butter, milk, spices and yoghurt
white, wholewheat flours - butter, 
herbs, milk
semi-white flour - potato, walnuts
white flour - baking powder, butter, 
gruyére cheese, milk
maize, spelt flours - curd cheese / quark 
and milk (also made yeast-free, with baking soda)
semi-white flour - milk, walnuts
kopf flour - butter, honey, kirsch and milk, 
and an egg-saffron glaze

This cornucopia reflects a trend with modern traditional baking in Europe, where the simple bun made with butter and milk is being gradually replaced by breads that cater for all tastes.