How to Make Crusty German Bread Rolls | Brötchen

These crusty bread rolls are a staple on German breakfast tables. With this recipe, yours will be just like the ones from the bakery.

One of my fondest childhood memories is when I would go to the bakery with my dad on Saturday mornings and get a bag of freshly baked crusty German bread rolls, also called Brötchen.

If you have ever had them, you might be familiar with the golden-brown color of the crust, nice, sweet smell, and audible crunch when you take a bite.

Ever since I moved from Germany to the US, I have been wanting to recreate these rolls – so that they taste just like from the neighborhood bakery.

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What are German crusty bread rolls?

The German word for bread is “Brot” and “Brötchen” literally means ‘little bread’. However, depending on the region, they can have various different names. Some of those are Wecken, Schrippen, or Semmel.

If you visit a German bakery, you typically find many different types of these rolls. Some of them are white or whole wheat. You can also find rye or spelt crusty rolls. And then there are all sorts of seeded rolls or pretzel buns.

crusty German bread rolls in basket with towel

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • I have baked dozens and dozens of these German rolls and am super excited to share my recipe with you!
  • I will teach you what ingredients to use and exactly how to make them. You will love their authentic look, feel, sound, and taste.
  • With this simple Brötchen recipe and the detailed instructions, you, too, can bake these tasty German bread rolls – just like the ones from the bakery!

What are the ingredients?

You will mostly need some very basic ingredients:

  • flour: for this recipe, we are using regular all-purpose flour.
  • yeast: instant dry yeast is easiest to use and perfect here.
  • salt: salt really brings out the traditional flavor of these bread rolls.
  • fat: I like butter the best here.
  • sugar: we only need a pinch to ’round out’ the flavor and to help the yeast along.
  • malted barley flour: this is completely optional but I highly recommend you add diastatic malt powder to your dough. It really makes these rolls turn out very light and airy.

Useful tools and equipment

Here are some tools that I find helpful:

  • Stand mixer: this helps to knead the dough in the beginning.
  • Kitchen scale: even though I am adding US measurements, I highly recommend that you use a kitchen scale that shows you the weights in grams and kilograms
  • Bench scraper: this nifty tool comes in handy when moving and separating the dough.
  • Bread lame: this is essentially a razor blade on a nice handle and helps with the scoring of the rolls
  • Baker’s half-sheet: if you don’t already own one, I highly recommend you get a baking sheet.
  • Silicone mat: even though parchment paper works just as well as greasing the baker’s sheet, I really like the non-stick silicone mats

How to make these crusty German bread rolls

Preparing the dough:

  • In a measuring cup, dissolve sugar and instant yeast in warm water. Set aside. This step helps to see if the yeast is active.
  • In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, diastatic malt, and soft butter.
  • With the dough hook attached, turn the mixer to slow, and then add the yeast mixture.
  • Keep mixing at low speed until the dough comes together (5-10 minutes).
  • Place the dough ball onto a work surface and knead by hand by folding and stretching a few times. Form it into a smooth ball by gently stretching the top and folding under.
  • Grease a large bowl with the extra oil.
  • Place the dough ball first face down, then flip it so that the entire dough ball is coated with oil.
kneading yeast dough

Slow fermentation

  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight. I highly recommend a slow fermentation at a low temperature. If you’re in a rush, you can also let the yeast dough rise at room temperature for about 2-3 hours.
bread rolls on cookie sheet

Second fermentation

  • With a knife or bench scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts and shape each into small balls or oval rolls.
  • Place the rolls onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until they have almost doubled in size (depending on the temperature, that can take 2-3 hours).
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400˚-450˚F. Place a heat-resistant bowl in the bottom of the oven. Have a handful of ice cubes or about 1 cup of water ready. NOTE: it is best to use a metal dish or cast iron as a glass dish will shatter!
  • Gently score each roll with a lame or a sharp knife.
scoring German bread rolls with a lame

Baking the rolls

  • Place the rolls in the preheated oven. Immediately add a handful of ice cubes or 1 cup of water to the dish in the oven to create steam. Quickly close the oven door.
  • Bake for about 20 mins or until golden brown. You can turn the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.
  • For best results, enjoy the rolls while they are fresh!
adding ice cubes to hot oven to create steam
crusty German bread rolls on cooling rack

Substitutions and variations

  • Flour: you can use a variety of flours here: you can use different ratios of whole grain flour to white flour or make them all whole grain (they will be denser then). I have also successfully used spelt, rye, or einkorn flour.
  • Additions: these crusty rolls are perfect with toppings such as sesame seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, or cracked grains. You just gently press them on after shaping them. Or you throw those seeds right into your dough so they will be on the inside.
  • Vegan rolls: I really like the taste of butter but you can use a mild oil instead, such as avocado oil or canola oil.
  • Barley malt: if you don’t have it, don’t worry. A bit more sugar will also do.

How to eat German buns

Obviously, you can eat them any way you want!

However, here are some traditional ways that Germans eat their Brötchen:

  • for breakfast: you can find fresh bread rolls in every bread basket on German breakfast tables. Germans cut them in half horizontally, smear butter on them, and top them with jams, honey, quark, sliced cheese, or cold cuts. Basically, they eat them as open-faced sandwiches.
  • for snacks: crusty bread rolls are the perfect holders for sausages, schnitzels, or even all sorts of fried or marinated fish. These days, you can even find complete sandwiches with cheese or some meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and so on.
  • for supper: the traditional German supper is often very similar to breakfast, except that it tends to be savory. Again, Germans put butter on their dinner roll and then add sliced cheeses, cold cuts, or spreads.
bread rolls, pretzels, bread in bread basket

How long do German rolls keep fresh?

These are actually best eaten fresh! By that I mean, on the day that you bake them.

If you would like to keep them for just another day or two, you can keep them in a paper bag. You can also wrap them in plastic but then they will get soft and chewy.

To crisp up day-old rolls, you can spritz them with some water and briefly bake them in the oven at 180˚F for 5-10 minutes.

What to do with stale rolls?

There are a lot of uses for stale rolls:

  • you can use them in bread puddings
  • you can let them get completely dry and make breadcrumbs
  • many German recipes need stale rolls that you soak in milk
  • find a good German Knödel (dumpling) recipe

Can you make these German rolls ahead of time?

In short, yes, you can!

The best way is to bake them. While they are still a bit warm, simply place them in a plastic bag or freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and freeze them for up to 4 months.

When you’re ready to eat these rolls, simply spray a bit of water on them and bake them at about 180˚F for about 10 minutes.

Even though you can freeze the unbaked rolls or the yeast dough before shaping but I find that you just don’t get quite the same results as with freshly made dough.

German bread rolls in baket and in plastic

Other recipes you might like

Soft Sourdough Pretzel Recipe

Authentic German Pretzels

Sourdough English Muffins

How to make German whole-grain bread

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Kitchen scale

Bench scraper

Kitchenaid stand mixer

Diastatic malt

Bread lame

how to make crusty German bread rolls
Print Recipe
4.34 from 9 votes

Authentic German bread rolls

You will love these crusty bread rolls that taste just like from a German bakery.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
resting time14 hours
Total Time14 hours 40 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: German
Servings: 8 rolls
Calories: 220kcal
Cost: 4

Ingredients

  • 300 ml warm water (10 oz)
  • 1 dash sugar
  • 7 g instant yeast (about 2.5 tsp)
  • 500 g AP flour (about 3 cups)
  • 13 g salt (about 2 tsp)
  • 1 TBSP diastatic barley malt
  • 15 g soft butter (about 1 TBSP)
  • 1 tsp oil (for the bowl)

Instructions

  • Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, diastatic malt, and soft butter.
  • With the dough hook attached, turn the mixer to slow and add the sugar-yeast water.
  • Keep mixing at low speed until the dough comes together (5-10 minutes).
  • Place the dough ball onto a work surface and knead by hand by folding and stretching a few times. Form into a ball by gently stretching the top and folding under.
  • Grease a large bowl with the extra oil.
  • Place the dough ball first face down, then flip so that the entire dough ball is coated with oil.
  • Cover with plastic and place in refrigerator for 12 hours or overnight.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400˚-450˚F. Place a heat proof dish in the bottom of your oven.
  • Divide dough into 8 equal portions and shape each into a round or oval ball.
  • Place rolls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  • Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise until they have almost doubled in size (depending on the temperature, that can take 2-3 hours).
  • Gently score each roll with a lame or knife.
  • Place the rolls in the hot oven. Immediately add a handful of ice cubes or 1 cup of water to the dish in the oven to create steam. Quickly close the oven door.
  • Bake for about 20 mins or until golden-brown. You can turn the cookie sheet half-way through the baking time to ensure even browning.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

Notes

  • use a metal dish for the ice cubes or cast iron as a glass dish will shatter
  • you may have to experiment with this recipe until you get your desired consistency since different flours behave differently 

Nutrition

Calories: 220kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @ourgabledhome or tag #ourgabledhome!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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How to make crusty German bread rolls | Brötchen

37 Comments

  1. Hi Anja, I’m on a journey to master German rolls. Just baked yours with Jovial AP Einkorn. All was good, but the oven spring was not what I expected. A little too dense overall. Have you baked with that flour? Any tips?
    What flour are you using?
    Thanks!
    Joerg

    1. I haven’t tried the rolls with einkorn flour but since it has less gluten, they might be a bit more dense. Also know that many (German) bakeries use all sorts of additives and leavening agents to make those rolls extra fluffy. I use regular AP flour ~ Anja

  2. Help with altitude adjustments. I can’t get them to come out quite right. They taste good and the family likes them but I can’t get a good browning on them. They come out done but aren’t brown at all.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with high-altitude baking. Have you tried increasing the heat in the last 5-10 mins or using a broiler? Anja

  3. Well, I have been trying to find a place to buy German Brotchen as it is a tradition in our family to have them for breakfast on Christmas Eve, and sadly our German market and bakery just went out of business. I tried these, and although the flavor was good, they didn’t come out at all like German Brotchen. They were dense, didn’t rise enough, and while fermenting in the fridge developed a “skin” that was hard to score. They were like heavy disks when I was finished. Also, I tried to follow exactly the recipe, and added a handful of ice to the dish in the oven, and it immediately shattered. Maybe state to use a metal dish or put the ice water in before preheating the oven would work, but definitely not the way it is stated. I have yet to finish cleaning up the shards. Maybe some added directions about that would be helpful

    1. Thank you for alerting me about the glass dish, I will update my post. BTW, I use cast iron since it is indestructible. As for the consistency, some flours behave differently than others, so you may have to make this recipe a few times. Also, most bakeries in Germany use dough conditioners and other additives to get the super-fluffy texture ~ Anja

  4. Hi Anja! You list malted barley flour and diastatic malt powder in the ingredients list, so I got both. But the recipe only has the diastatic malt powder. What do I do with the barley flour?

  5. 5 stars
    Gehe ins Bakerei 0600 uhr und kaufe 8-10 brotchen dann nach die Metzgerei gehen und viel fleisch (schinken, gelbwurst, blutwurst, etc.) kaufen…dann ist es zuruck zu mein haus und kaffee machen…..alles ist leckerlich – Das ist das LEBEN 🙂

  6. Have the dough in the fridge now! My husband was stationed in Germany for 2 years and was just taking about Brotchen and having them with breakfast. The airiness made room to fill with eggs and ham. Hope I can recreate for him in the morning.

  7. 5 stars
    Hi.
    I baked this earlier today. I love the recipe ! Wish I could send a photo.
    The dough was fine, smooth and manageble. The taste was great too ! My friends enjoyed it.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  8. These bread rolls look delicious! I cannot wait to try and make them. I am sure they would go well with a nice soup on a rainy day. Thank you for sharing.

  9. 5 stars
    Thanks of the recipe. I used King Arthur flour and used your exact measurements and times. While they tasted like back in Germany, I was not able to make them “krusty”… they had more of a rubbery/flexible surface… any idea why?

    1. Different flours, different ovens etc can produce different results. Make sure your oven temperature is calibrated. Sometimes it helps to open the oven door a bit towards the end to let steam escape so that you can get a crispy crust ~ Anja

  10. Hello
    I am so excited to try this recipe! I’m wondering how I can make this a sourdough recipe using my starter instead of yeast.

    1. I am so glad you like this Brötchen recipe! You could add some sourdough starter, maybe around ¼ cup but then you will need to decrease the water accordingly. Happy baking ~ Anja

  11. Hello, I made this recipe, they tasted ok, but the interior was too dense as well as the exterior. I was hoping for a bit lighter, flaky exterior. What did I do wrong?

    1. I am so glad you tried this recipe. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to give a remote diagnosis but I would say to let the rolls rise longer and in a warmer spot. Hope this helps ~ Anja

  12. Hi Anna,

    Enjoying your excellent recipes and lessons so much! How much sugar do you use in place of the barley malt?

    Thank you!
    Michelle

  13. Oh my goodness! I have amazing memories of bratwurst and Brochen as a teenager when I spent the summer in Germany. I cannot wait to try these!!

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