Brötchen {Classic German Breakfast Rolls}

This time last year we were in full countdown mode. On December 15th we departed for a three week European holiday that, for me at least, would become the first holiday season where I truly felt less like a balloon lost in the wind, and more grounded in whatever my new normal is supposed to be. Of course, there’s nothing new about my normal. Michael has been gone for seven holiday seasons. Seven years. Just writing that opens a wound I’ve been trying to close for years now.

And yet, once you’ve experienced such profound loss, you know it’s a door you can’t close so neatly, but you have to come to understand that truth in your own time, on your own terms. No book or advice column can make you understand what you’re not ready to accept. The truth about loss is that only once you let the door stay open, not just ajar, but wide open to embrace the ebb and flow of emotions do you really begin the work of deciding to live again, make new footsteps instead of retracing old ones with your head buried in the sand.

How long can I write about this hole in my heart? Forever is my instinct, and while this morning I’m wondering how so many of you have stayed on with me, I’m also thankful for your patience, kindness, and accepting that behind these words, these recipes, lurks a human being.

January will begin my 10th year of writing In Jennie’s Kitchen. It’s inconceivable to think he was only alive for two and half years of that time when he’s obviously still so much a part of my life, and the way I cook. I wish he could see the baker I’ve grown into. Would I be as good a baker and cook if he were still here, or would I have spent less time perfecting my art, and more time being with him?

Why is all this on my mind right now? Well, it goes back to that trip last year, and some of the wanderlust feelings I’m having at the moment. I was close on at least three occasions to booking a trip for us again this year, except I didn’t want to make the mistake of retracing old footsteps, chasing feelings I knew we couldn’t recapture, so decided to let last year’s memories stay in place, and celebrate the holidays here at home.

My whole trip last year was inspired by a desire to visit the German Christmas markets. In the end, I decided it would have to wait until another year, the Germany part of our trip. Logistically, it wasn’t convenient with visiting Paris, Italy, and London. It was really Italy that threw things off, at least traveling alone with two kids, and in the end I’m so happy we went to Rome, even though I got off to a rough start with that city.

Once I knew Germany was off the table, I decided to recreate the teeniest bit of the German holidays in my own kitchen by way of Luisa Weiss’ Classic German Baking cookbook. And so, friends, that is how I find myself here this morning, lost in thought, trying to connect words with my intent, having lost my way in the simple task of wanting to share the first recipe (or was it the second?) that I tried from Classic German Baking.

The first recipe I made was Luisa’s Brötchen during the Thanksgiving weekend, and we all fell for them instantly.

Brötchen {Classic German Breakfast Rolls} | In Jennie's Kitchen

They’re really easy to make, so don’t let the yeast-based recipe scare you off. And for the record, I use instant dry yeast. I’ve no idea where to even get fresh yeast up here, at least not one I’d trust was truly fresh enough to activate. You’d think more people in a rural area would bake bread, but I find that to be almost the opposite from living in Brooklyn.

The recipe for these Brötchen is really foolproof, so not much in the way of notes, except for one. I find 20 minutes to be short a period for them to rest after being taken from the fridge. It’s likely that I keep my fridge colder than most. An extra 10 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes, gives the shaped rolls a chance to perk up sufficiently before going into a hot oven.

Try to be patient before tearing into them. All breads continue cooking a bit once they come out of the oven. Break into them too soon, and you’ll be a little disappointed by the doughy center. Once they’re cool enough to touch, but still warm enough to take the chill out of cold winter hands is when they’re best to enjoy. And as Luisa notes, these rolls really are best eaten the day they’re baked.

Brötchen {Classic German Breakfast Rolls} | In Jennie's Kitchen

Eight Years Ago: Homemade Hot Cocoa
Seven Years Ago: Peanut Butter Bon Bons, Crispy Potato Latkes
Six Years Ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Doughnuts
Five Years Ago: Homemade Eggnog
Four Years Ago: Crispy, Chewy Gingersnap Cookies, Candied Pecans
Three Years Ago: Gingerbread Chess Pie
Two Years Ago: Peppermint Fudge Brownies, Slow Cooker Lentil Soup, Gingerbread Scones
One Year Ago: Almond Milk Eggnog, Asian Vegetable Noodle Soup, Homemade Almond Paste (without egg whites)

Brötchen {Classic German Breakfast Rolls}

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Author:
Serves: 8
A word about scooping flour. I really recommend using a scale when working from this cookbook. My measuring cups at home, when simply scooped and leveled, yield about 140 grams of flour, far more than 125 grams allotted per cup here. If I were to rely on them instead of scale, I’d have almost 100 grams more flour than intended. If you hate using a scale we can still be friends, but do yourself a favor and see if a friend has one so you can do a test scoop to see how much flour your measuring cups yield before starting out with a recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups, scooped & leveled (500 grams) flour, plus more for kneading (please read headnote)
  • ½ teaspoon (2 grams) instant dry yeast (10 grams if using fresh yeast, according to the recipe)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt (7 grams)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) milk
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) warm tap water
  • 2 handfuls of ice cubes, for baking

Instructions

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Add the flour, yeast, and salt to deep bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Reserve 1 tablespoon of milk in the fridge. Add the remaining milk and the water to the bowl with the flour. Stir together until it forms a shaggy ball.
  4. Generously flour a counter or other work surface. Scrape the dough out onto it. Knead until the dough is smooth, and no longer sticky.
  5. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover tightly with plastic film, and set in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, by pressing down with your fingertips or knuckles. Divide it into 8 equal portions. Shape into oval rolls, 3 ½-inches long & 2-inches wide (9-cm x 5-cm). Position the rolls 3-inches 8-cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic film, and set in the fridge overnight.
  7. When ready to bake in the morning, remove the rolls from the fridge.
  8. Place a rimmed, empty roasting pan on the lowest rack in your oven. Set another rack to the center position above the pan. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC).
  9. Once the rolls have been out for 20 to 30 minutes, brush the tops with the reserved tablespoon of milk. Using a sharp knife to make ¾-inch (2-cm) deep slashes across the top, lengthwise.
  10. Add the ice cubes to the pan, and immediately slide the tray if rolls into the oven.
  11. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the rolls are golden and hollow sounding when tapped with the back of your knuckle. Let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

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2 Comments

  • Glenda Bossow

    Thank you for continuing to talk about your dear husband. I’m at the same point in the same journey and still miss him every day, although I have a very, very good life. It helps to know that I’m not alone in how I feel.

  • Saundra Sillaway

    Me too, to use a phrase used elsewhere at this time in modern America, I am two years out after a fifty year marriage and i can just reach out and hold her tears in my hand.Thanx .

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