Softest ever sub rolls

Makes: roughly 1.5kg of dough or 10 sub rolls (I made 6 rolls and a small loaf)

Prep time: 30 minutes plus proving time

Cooking time: 10-12 minutes

After a year or so of trying new bread recipes of varying styles I had a crack at drawing up a sub roll recipe from scratch.

The motivation was to make a suitable vehicle for a New York style chopped cheese sandwich. When I can face the calories again I’ll pop a recipe together for this simple and tasty feast.

The game changer in this recipe was using the tangzhong method to make the finished bread wonderfully soft.

In a nutshell this involves taking between 5-10% of the flour and cooking it with five times it’s weight of water to a temperature of 65°C. This cause the flour to gelatinise and increases the flours ability to retain moisture. This keeps the bread softer for longer too. Adjusting an existing recipe to utilise the tangzhong method needs a bit of maths and adjustment of the ratios. After trying this technique for the first time it was tempting to try it in so many other recipes but, as nice as it is to make super soft sub or breakfast/cinnamon rolls, so many breads are great because of the chew and crunch that they give.

You will need:

875g Strong white flour

9g yeast (double this if not proving in the fridge overnight)

18g salt

655g water

35g butter softened (unsalted if you have it salted if you don’t)

1 egg white (optional)

1 handful of polenta or semolina

Making it:

In a small pan take 45g of the flour and 225g water and mix together and heat to 65°C (a few degrees either way doesn’t matter too much) over a medium heat. Stir well as it heats and once heated, cover and set aside to cool. This can all be done in the microwave in a non metallic bowl if you prefer, just give it 20-30 seconds at a time and stir in between heating cycles.

Put the remaining 830g flour, the yeast and the remaining 430g water in a mixing bowl along with the cool flour and water paste. If you don’t have the patience to cool the paste it’s fine just make sure the water you add is good and cold and you keep the hot paste away from the yeast until you start mixing.

Work the mix until just combined with no visible dry flour. I do this in a bench mixer with a dough hook. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes or so. Then add the salt and start kneading. Again I do this in the bench mixer at medium speed for about 5 minutes. If you have made much bread before you might notice that when using the hot water paste/roux, the dough becomes silky and smooth much quicker than normal. Once the dough is nice and silky knead for one more minute then add the softened butter and knead until the the butter is incorporated.Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

You can forgo this step and finish the bread straight away. If you want to do this, make sure to double up the yeast. Instead of refrigerating the dough cover it and allow it to prove until it doubles in size (takes about 45 minutes/ one hour) before gently knocking it back and allow it to prove again.

If you chill the dough overnight there’s no need to knock back the dough you can just portion it up and shape it. Give it the final prove and bake it.

If making the dough in one go it will be ready to portion and shape after it has doubled in size again after being knocked back.

For sub rolls I portion at 150g and make the dough into buns before shaping them further.

The dough will be a bit tacky to the touch, so dust very very lightly with flour if needed. If it is tricky to handle try rubbing your hands with a little vegetable oil.

To finish the shaping, I roll out the dough ball and then roll the flattened dough into a sausage before pinching the seam together and laying them seam side down on a baking sheet dusted with polenta.

I place the baking sheet in a bin liner puffed around to make a tent. This makes a handy little proving space without using greased clingfilm. A handy step to cut out single use plastic.

Heat your oven to 230°C while you wait for the dough to double in size again. To test if your dough has proved lightly flour the tip of your finger and gently prod one of the buns, it should spring back to shape.

Place a metal baking tray on the middle shelf. When the dough has proved brush the it with egg white and sprinkle lightly with semolina or polenta (or anything else you like: flour, herbs, or just leave them plain.

With a very sharp knife slash the tops of the rolls in a quick motion.When you are ready to bake put the tray of buns on the top shelf and add a splash of water into the tray on the middle shelf. Turn the temperature down to 180°C as soon as the rolls go in.

After 5 minutes open the oven door and turn the tray around. This vents any excess steam.

Bake for 4 more minutes then check the bread. If you have an instant read probe thermometer you want a temperature over 90°C otherwise flip a roll over and tap/flick it. A hollow sound indicates it’s done. Feel free to bake longer for a darker crust if that’s what your after. Transfer to a rack to cool your loaves. Try to wait at least 20 minutes before you break into them.


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