I discovered by accident that my sourdough bread that didn’t rise right or over proofed, can easily be turned into sourdough rolls that will turn out perfectly! Since the sourdough rolls are smaller and don’t require the same rise surface area in the oven as a sourdough loaf, the rolls are much more forgiving. So if I can sense that a loaf is just not shaping right, I change directions and make easy sourdough rolls instead.
The Sourdough method
I learned to bake bread from Ken Forkish, who is an artist bread baker in Portland, Oregon. My father in law bought me his book “Flour Water Salt Yeast: the Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza’s“, and this book changed my life.
No really, it did. It led me to bake my first bread in our basement apartment and sound the fire alarm at the high oven temperature needed to bake the loaf in a dutch oven. I told my husband “if I can’t bake bread here, we can’t live here.” This led us to the beautiful farm suite we now live in, which has been one of the greatest privileges of our young married life yet!
The more comfortable I became baking bread, I started scouting out his chapters on sourdough baking.
It felt intimidating at first, but Ken explained the process so well and in plain words, that I felt it possible to do. And yes, it is absolutely possible to do! Once you know how, you won’t go back.
Basically, the sourdough starter becomes the substitute for commercial yeast, which you would use in other bread recipes to cause the bread to rise during the baking stage.
Why Sourdough Bread is Healthier for You
After I began understanding the sourdough method, it made sense why sourdough bread is much healthier for you. Commercial yeast is a ploy to “speed up” what the sourdough starter does.
The problem with speeding up the natural process with quick “yeast” is that the healthy bacteria in sourdough starter does not have its usual front row stage to break down the nutrients in the grain. That process takes time and can’t be rushed. Not even with new technology like yeast.
I wrote a whole blog post on this if you are interested in knowing more about why sourdough bread is healthier that you can check out here.
Sourdough Rolls or Sourdough Buns
You can decide if you want dinner rolls or buns by just enlarging the balls of dough you form. If I’m going to be making dinner rolls, I’ll shape them about 5″ dough balls. If we are making hamburgers and I’m hoping for buns large enough to fit a hamburger patty, then I’ll double the dough balls to 10″.
This recipe will generate roughly 20 sourdough dinner rolls and 8-10 hamburger buns.
Homemade Hamburger Buns
Hamburger buns purchased at the store is usually made with the fluffiest white bread. I have often wondered while eating a hamburger bun “what is this anyways?” because it feels like eating air. With a little bit of flavour.
That’s why getting a grip on homemade hamburger buns is worthwhile, simply for the health benefits. Not to mention that there will be ample more flavour!
When you are already familiar with making a standard sourdough loaf (and if you need a simple tutorial, you can check out my sourdough loaf the easy way here).
Tips for Making Sourdough Rolls
Use hands to mix sourdough starter and bread mix
Mixing your sourdough starter with your hands is a good thing. It it says to introduce an array of new “good bacteria” in with your feeding. Dirty hands are not the desired effect, but standardly clean hands will do the trick!
You should not skip over the autolyse period
Autolyse is the period where the flour and water have a time to combine and preform necessary chemical reactions before the sourdough starter and salt are added. This will affect the outcome of your bread, so do not skip this step. If you are in a pinch for time, you can autolyse for 20-30 minutes but do not skip it.
Sourdough and Temperature
If you need to speed up the sourdough feeding, place the bowl in a warmer area of your house. If you need to slow it down, place it in a cooler area (although not the fridge, because that will slow it too much).
Underproof and Over-proofing
The finger dent test is a good way to test if your bread is nearly ready for baking. Depending on the temperature of your house, while the bread goes through the final proofing stage it can be difficult to know exactly when the rolls are ready to be baked. It’s important to bake it at a specific time in order to avoid either under proofing or over proofing. The way to know when the right time is to bake your bread is by testing the dough with the finger dent test.
Finger dent test
Poke your dough gently with your finger, and if the dough springs back it is not ready to be baked. If the dough does not spring back, it is ready for baking. I gauge when the dough begins to jump back slower and slower, then I start to preheat my oven because I know the time is near.
What You May Need
Dough slicer/scraper or knife
Sourdough Rolls Recipe
Since I’m using my standard sourdough bread recipe, I will link the recipe below with the direction amendments near the end to shape for dinner rolls instead of two sourdough loaves.
Baking tip: We bake our sourdough loaves in a Dutch oven, but in the few times I have made these sourdough rolls, I have had success on a regular baking sheet, cookies sheet, or dutch oven. The dough holds up its final texture with all 3 methods.
Sourdough Buns/Dinner Rolls
- Mixing bowls
- Mixing Cups and Spoons or Volume Scale
Feed Sourdough Starter
- 400 grams White Flour
- 100 grams Whole Wheat Flour
- 400 grams Water 90-95°F
- 800 grams White Flour
- 50 grams Whole Wheat
- 30 grams Other Whole Flour Rye, Einkorn, etc
- 680 grams Water 90-95°F
- 20 grams Salt
Feed Sourdough Starter
- Roughly 12-24 hours after your previous feeding, discard all but 100g of the sourdough starter
- Add 400g of white flour and 100g of whole wheat flour
- Measure in 400g of lukewarm water (between 90-95°F)
- Mix the flour and water with your hands (see note below)
- Cover mixture and let it feed until it gets bubbly (7 to 9 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen)
- When your sourdough starter is bubbly (active), in a clean bowl – mix 800g of white flour, 50g of whole wheat flour, and 30g of other whole flour.
- Mix in 680g of lukewarm water (between 90-95°F)
- Cover and let the flour and water autolyse for approximately 30 minutes (see autolyse note below)
- After 30 minutes, add 20g of salt and wet your hand to scoop in 215g of active sourdough starter
- With the wet hand, mix the sourdough and salt into the dough by pulling the edges of the dough upward and folding over top of the dough. Do this a 3 or 4 around the entire dough to mix it well.
- Then pinch/slice the dough with your hand in about 4 to 5 equal parts, and repeat the pulling/folding. Pinch another time and fold a few more times. Do this for about 5-7 minutes with care.
- Then leave the dough to rest until its doubled in size (roughly 15-24 hours depending on the temperate of your house)
- While the dough is rising, fold it 3-4 more times. This will help build the gluten structures and gas needed for the bread to rise in the final baking stage.
Divide Dough/Proof Time
- Flour a cookies sheet or sheet pan where the dinner rolls will rest for an hour or so
- Flour a countertop area large enough for your dough to lay on
- With your hands floured, help the dough carefully onto the countertop
- With your dough scraper divide the dough into quarters
- One by one, cut and shape your dinner rolls (or hamburger buns). Cut roughly 3inch dough sizes for dinner rolls, and 5inch dough sizes for hamburger buns (remember the dough will rise approximately 1.5 half times)
- After each dough cut, stretch the edge of the dough ball upwards and fold overtop of the dough. Do this until all the way around the dough ball
- Gently pick up the dough and place on another part of the counter that is not floured
- Witth floured hands, nudge the dough toward you about 3 inches and twist it a quarter. Do this a few times until you feel the dough firm up and tighten into a ball
- Place dough onto a floured sheet or pan to rest, and repeat steps above with until the dough is all formed into dinner rolls
- Rest the dinner rolls for about an hour (depending on the temperature of your house)
- Use the finger dent test to determine when the rolls are ready to be baked (see note below).
- Once the finger dent test proves that the dough is nearly ready to be baked, preheat the oven to 475°F
- Once oven is preheated, add rolls to the oven and bake for 30 minutes depending on the size of the rolls. When they are medium brown on the outside, they are usually ready.