The modern bread roll emerged out of one of those mother-of-invention moments in the 1800s, when necessity decided that different sized breads were needed throughout the day in the various work environments.
The bread roll started with the tradition of baking small bread loaves. These gradually became smaller and became known variously across Europe as a bap or a bun, and then simply as a roll or as a small bread (brötchen in Germany, brötli in Switzerland).
In the beginning these bread rolls were made with white soft wheat flour, warmed water, fat (usually lard), bakers yeast and salt. These were usually the breakfast bread rolls and the lunch bread rolls. Depending on the environment (factory or field, mobile or office) they were designed large – to hold fillings – or small – to accompany confits and jams and pastes.
In some countries full-fat milk replaced water, and, unsurprisingly, these became known as milk bread rolls. Milk was an ingredient in tea bread rolls which were enriched with eggs and a higher quantity to fat, to produce a soft, silky bread. They might contain dried fruit and dried peel. Dinner bread rolls were characteristised by a crisp crust and a soft sponge. They contained less fat and more yeast. Sugar featured in most breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner bread rolls throughout the 1900s, until it was decided that the quantity of salt determined the quality of the bread, and sweetness was not a criteria.
Small breads were not always round, and for a long time they were shaped like tubes, shorter versions of the Vienna roll. Exceptions included the bagel, the ring-shaped bread of northern Europe, the pirogi, the oval-shaped filled bread of central Europe, pouch-shaped bread of eastern Europe and the crescent-shaped breads that emerged out of Anatolia and Asia.
Viennoiserie defined breakfast breads from the late 1800s, with the baguette and the croissant. Suddenly bread was light or it was flaky. Hydration became a factor and instead of breads with a 2:3 liquid-solid ratio, the amount of water or milk increased to over 70%. This technique, only achieved with machinery, produced a softer sponge with an aerated crumb.
Then it changed again, toward the close of the 1900s, as bakers experimented with numerous ingredients. Milk began to feature prominently in recipes that had previously required water. Cream, kefir and yoghurt became popular liquid mediums and apple juice was found to work, especially if it was combined with cream. Biscuit ingredients, such as grains and nuts and seeds, were adopted and recipes that were once associated with confectionary became bread ingredients, especially in Switzerland where a bread roll revolution took place in the early 2000s.
Small breads began to feature toppings and traditional breads of this type made a comeback, like the onion and poppy seed topped bread of Poland. Oils began to replace lard in small breads as bakers realised that olive oil and rapeseed oil added a delicate flavour.
And not before time the sourdough techniques found their way into the ‘brötchen’ tradition and wheat began to lose its dominant position. Pre-ferments or starters made with rye and water crept into small bread recipes, but it was the advent of spelt flour, white and whole, that changed small bread culture.
At first spelt flour was mixed with the various soft and strong wheat flours, then it broke out on its own, usually with a pre-ferment. Rye flour left its traditional position in northern Europe as the desired flour of the encased pie, to gradually become an essential ingredient in small breads. Even barley flour, used as a pre-ferment and as an improver, got in on the act.
Generally though small breads are made with soft wheat flours. Soft wheat has more flavour than strong wheat. Some recipes use a small amount of strong to increase the gluten content. We begin with a bread made with strong white wheat, and high fat, salt and water content.
Aberdeen Rowies flaky breads
Apfelmost-Brötchen bread rolls made with apple juice
Aprikosen-Brötli milk spelt bread rolls with apricots
Aprikosen-Brötli milk wheat bread rolls with apricots
Baguette and Levain stick bread and pre-ferment
Balik Ekmek / Fischbrötchen fish in bread
Bap / Huffa large soft breakfast bread rolls
Barbros Bullar garlic buns
Belokranjska Pogaca Bela Krajina bread cake buns
Bierbrötchen beer bread rolls
Breakfast Bread Rolls breakfast bread rolls
Brytebrød breaking bread
Buchteln / Dampfnudeln baked milk bread rolls / steamed yeast dumplings
Bułki z Cebulką bread rolls with onion
Bürli bread rolls
Ciabatta Piccolo (Zoccoletto) small slipper breads
Crumpets raised bread rounds
DDR Brötchen German Democratic Republic bread rolls
Dinkel-Emmer Seelen spelt-emmer breadsticks
Dinkel Sauerteig Brötchen spelt sourdough bread rolls
Dinkelseelen spelt baguette
Emmer Fladenbrötchen emmer flatbreads
Ensaimadas coiled sweet bread cakes
Friselle toasted ring breads
Frikadellen Brötchen meatballs in bread rolls
Frukostbullar breakfast buns
Geleneksel Eksi Hamur Ekmekleri / Vakfıkebir Ekmeği sourdough small breads
Gewürzzopf-Brötchen spiced braid bread rolls
Godmorgonbröd good morning bread rolls
Handkaisersemmel handmade small bread rolls
Hölzlibrötli spiralled milk bread rolls
Hörnchen/ Kipfel half-moon milk bread rolls
Housky salted bread rolls
Kada pastry bread rolls
Karottenbrötchen carrot bread rolls
Kartoffel-Baumnuss-Brötchen potato and walnut bread rolls
Käse-Brötchen cheese bread rolls
Korvapuustit cinnamon bread rolls
Kouloúria Voutýrou Κουλούρια βουτύρου sweet butter buns
Krapfen / Berliner donut breads
Kräuterbrötchen herb bread rolls
Kürbisbrötchen pumpkin bread rolls
Laugenbrötli gefüllt mit Streichkäse bread rolls with cream cheese
Laugenbrötli lye breads
Lingongrova wholegrain rye sourdough with lingonberries
Maisbrötchen cornmeal and spelt bread rolls
Milchbrötchen / Mutschli crispy breakfast wheat bread rolls
Milchbrötchen / Mutschli crispy breakfast spelt bread rolls
Morotsfrallor carrot bread rolls
Müslibrötchen mixed cereal flakes, apple, cranberry spelt bread rolls
Ninda Purpura / Küçük Ballı Ekmekler Hittite and Sumerian honey breads
Nussbrötchen / Nussbrötli milk bread rolls with nuts
Ostfriesische Teebrötchen East Freisland tea bread rolls
Pan de Hamburguesa hamburger bread rolls
Pan di Sorc cornmeal bread rolls
Panino all’olio olive oil breads
Petits Pains aux Olives et aux Tomates Séchées olive, tomato bread rolls
Pre-Ferments / Sourdough Starters
Rosinenbrötchen raisin bread rolls
Rundstykker poppy seed coated bread rolls
Schwäbische Knauzen Swabian knaves
Shokoladnyye Pryaniki Шоколадные Пряники chocolate gingerbreads
Soda Bread Breakfast
Speckweckerl bacon and onion bread rolls
Speķa Pīrāgi bread rolls stuffed with bacon and onion
Speķa Pīrāgi bread rolls stuffed with pork and onion
Uri Art Birnweggli Uri-style pear and nut bread rolls
Weggli soft bread rolls
Weltmeisterbrötchen bread rolls with seeds
Zeeuwse Bolussen Zealand bread rolls
Žitný Chleba rye-wheat sourdough bread rolls
Zöpfliknoten honey-saffron semi-spelt milk bread rolls
Zucchini Brötchen courgette bread rolls
Zuckerbrötchen sugar bread rolls
PLUS Beginner’s Bread Dough 1, 2, 3 & 4
Bread rolls made with apple juice
HANDMADE SMALL BREADS e-book
Europe’s small bread tradition continues to grow, and Robert Allen and Tim Schneider want you to experience this bread revolution with enigmatic recipes that call for high hydration, bread improvers and authentic modern flours to produce some of the best breads you have ever tasted. With 75 breads this small bread book is unique. The electronic edition will be available in the Spring, and we are accepting pre-orders at a reduced price.