Another European country — another bread.
Our virtual tour of the EU has reached the Czech Republic and to honor it, I baked a beloved traditional bread roll called rohlík (plural: rohlíky, as Káta kindly told me). When I read expatriates wax poetic about a bread, I want to bake it. This has happened recently with the Maltese bread called ftira and now with rohlík. Trust the expats: they know what it means to miss a food they love.
In reading about rohlík, I immediately learned that it is the Czech version of a bread roll I made not too long ago to mark our virtual visit to Hungary: kifli. While I made kifli with a savory stuffing and in a crescent shape, for my rohlík I privileged the elongated shape and used seeds to grace the surface.
Even after several years of bread baking, the satisfaction I derive from tasting bread that came to life in my own kitchen is undiminished. These rolls are relatively straightforward to make, they are pretty and with their crisp seeded crust and soft crumb make even a few bites a joyful experience.
Topped with some fruit preserves, a warm rohlík makes a great breakfast; stuffed with some bresaola or a piece of my homemade cheese, it makes a satisfactory snack (spuntino).
The inspiration for the dough came from the book Local Breads by Daniel Leader, which contains several recipes for Eastern European breads (in an earlier post, you can see an image of my rendition of his Czech Christmas braid). Besides using mostly a different shape (Leader's rolls are crescent-shaped), my rendition differs from the inspiring recipe in three main ways (and a few small ones): 1. the use of 20% whole-wheat flour; 2. delayed fermentation; and 3. larger rolls.
Ingredients for the dough:
- 300 g / 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 15 ml / 1 tablespoon whey OR water
- 10 g instant yeast
- 60 g whole-wheat flour
- 40 g sprouted whole-wheat flour OR whole-wheat flour
- 400 g King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour (this is the flour I always use to make bread)
- 50 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 10 g fine sea salt
Ingredients for the topping:
- 1 tablespoon / 8 g poppy seeds (semi di papavero)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon / 15 g sesame seeds (semi di sesamo)
- 1 teaspoon / 5 g sea salt
Note (in case you look at the inspiring recipe): since I used delayed fermentation, I reduced the amount of instant yeast, and since I used some whole-wheat flour, I increased the amount of liquid.
Mix the dough
Pour water and whey in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients for the dough and stir with a wooden spoon until they come together into a rough dough.
Cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.
Spray some olive oil on your kneading board. Empty the mixing bowl on the board, scraping it well. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
Clean the mixing bowl and oil it.
Flatten the dough. Fold the left third towards the right, then fold the right third towards the left. Fold the top third towards the bottom, then fold the bottom third towards the top. (For a visual help, go to this page, then scroll through the slides.)
Turn the folded dough upside down and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly (for example, with a clean shower cap) and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Shape the dough
The following morning, line each of two half sheet pans with a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the mats.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured kneading board. With the help of a scale, cut the dough into 16 pieces, each weighing 55 g / 2 oz.
Take a piece of dough and roll it into a rectangle about 6.5 inches / 16.5 cm long and 4.5 inches / 11.5 cm wide. Roll the rectangle starting from one of the shortest sides. While you roll the dough with one hand, gently pull the dough with the other. You will end up with something like what you see in the photo below.
Gently roll the shaped dough to give it a cylindrical shape. You need to press the dough from the center towards the two extremities while you roll. You will end up with something like what you see in the photo below.
Place each roll on the prepared baking sheets, seam side down. If you want, you can curve some of the cylinders into crescents, like I have done. Leave at least 2 inches / 5 cm space between rolls.
You can leave the surface plain or cover it with mixed seeds. To do so, prepare a small bowl with water and a pastry brush and place the seed and salt mix in a long, shallow bowl or plate.
Lightly brush 2-3 rolls with water, then gently pick up one at a time, flip it and make the wet surface touch the layer of seed and salt mix in the bowl. I think this method is more efficient and gives a better result than sprinkling the seed and salt mix on each roll, but of course, you can do it that way, if you prefer. Repeat until all the rolls are seeded.
Lightly drape some plastic wrap over the two baking. Let the shaped rolls rise at room temperature until they are pillowy, but the layers are still visible. In my case that was one hour.
Prepare the oven and bake the rolls
About 15 minutes before baking, place one oven rack in the top third of the oven and the other in the middle. Make sure that there is enough distance between the racks for the baking sheets holding the risen rolls. Heat the oven to 350 F / 177 C.
Gently lift the silicone baking mats with the proofing rolls and move them (plastic wrap and all) onto the kneading board or a table. Place one half sheet pan on each oven rack.
When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap. Take the sheet pans out of the oven and carefully move one of the silicone baking mats with the proofed rolls onto each of them. Place the loaded baking sheets in the oven.
After 12 minutes, switch the rack position of the baking sheets.
Continue baking the rolls until the tops are golden. In my oven, the total baking time was 30 minutes. Each oven is different, so start checking the rolls closely after 25 minutes of baking time.
When the rolls are ready, take the baking sheets out of the oven and place on wire racks. Let stand for 10 minutes. Harvest the rolls from the baking sheets.
Serve the rolls warm or at room temperature.
Parbake (some of) the rolls for future enjoyment
In his book, Dan Leader suggests parbaking the rolls as an option and I applied it to half of the rolls.
After 15 minutes of baking time (3 minutes after switching the rack position of the baking sheets), take out of the oven the top baking sheet. At this point, the rolls have risen and the crust is set, but still pale (see photo above). Put the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the rolls cool completely, about an hour, then place in resealable plastic bags and freeze.
I have not yet used the frozen rolls, but when I want to do it, I will follow Leader's instructions (adapted to my rolls, which are bigger than his): place the frozen roll on a baking sheet and let defrost for 1 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 350 F / 177 C and bake rolls until golden.
I contribute my rohlíky to the 20th installment of the Abbecedario culinario della Comunità Europea (European Community Culinary ABC), an event organized by Trattoria MuVarA that will bring us to visit 26 countries of the EU (all except Italy) using the alphabet as guide. T like Trdlo (Czech Republic) is hosted by Alessandra of Ricette di cultura.
I am sending this bread to the March edition of Panissimo, a monthly event created by Barbara of Bread & Companatico and Sandra of Indovina chi viene a cena? and hosted this month by Patty of Il castello di Pattipatti.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the panini cechi audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]