Sunday, 2 February 2014

Soft 'Dinner' Bread Rolls


Can you judge a restaurant by its bread? 

That'll be an emphatic 'But of course!' from me. 

It's only flour, yeast and water. Not a spectacular soufflé or an award winning amuse bouche or a main dish worthy of a Michelin star. And in recession-led times when margins are tight, the bread basket on the house may be the first to disappear. But I know that if a plate of warm, freshly baked, delicious bread appears as we're contemplating the wine list my anticipation for the meal ahead will treble. Perfect the basics of a great loaf and you can guarantee my return.

Burt Lancaster thought so too: 'I judge a restaurant by its bread and it's coffee'* he is quoted as saying. But it's not just the bread (or coffee) that's important Burt. It's the butter. A recent meal at our local Truscott Arms saw a plate of soft thickly cut granary bread accompanied by glorious parchment-wrapped creamy French butter and crisp flakes of sea salt. Nigel Slater waxed lyrical just last weekend about flavoured butter discovered in Finlan. Plus, in a recent article in The Independent, owner of The Dairy restaurant, Robin Gill, explains how he makes bread and butter "a celebration" on the menu through the use of his own flavoured butters such as seaweed and smoked bone marrow. 

That's a long way from Mother's Pride and miniature packs of Flora.

In an attempt to recreate the perfect restaurant roll, I baked these soft, airy 'dinner' rolls. 

An arty shot of the second rise!

Soft Dinner Rolls

500g Strong White Bread Flour
2 tsp dried fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
100ml milk
35g butter
200ml warm water

Flour for dusting 

1. Pop the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. 
2. Place the milk and butter in a small pan and heat gently until the butter is just melted. Combine with the water and pour into the dry ingredients.
3. Mix initially with a wooden spoon before turning the rough dough out onto a work surface (NB the dough will be quite wet). Knead for up to fifteen minutes or until smooth, elastic and silky. 
4. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a teatowel and leave to rise in a warm place until double in size 
5. When the dough has risen, return to the work surface and 'knock back'. Separate the dough to make eight-ten equal sized rolls and, using your hands, form each into a ball
6. Transfer onto a large baking tray. Cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and set aside in a warm place fpr the second rise, aiming to double the size of the rolls
7. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/Gas Mark 7. Once the rolls have risen, sprinkle with flour and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when tapped underneath

Baker's notes...

  • Serve immediately with melting butter
  • For a crustier roll, increase the humidity in the oven by either spraying water directly into the oven using a plant mister just prior to baking or placing a preheated tray of boiling water at the bottom of the oven when the rolls are baking
  • * Just replace 'Coffee' with 'Bathroom Facilities' and I'm totally in agreement 


  1. I judge restaurants not only on the bread, but how generous they are dishing it out!
    Your rolls look soft just from the photo - lovely!

  2. 100%! Even if they don't make it themselves and bring the bread in, it has to be from a fantastic supplier, freshly cut or tells so much about the restaurant, chef and their priorities.

    Your rolls look lovely. I'll come to the What Kate Baked restaurant :-)

  3. Ahh, thank you. I think if I ever opened a restaurant it would only serve posh bread and kick arse chocolate...

  4. Freshly baked bread and butter - definitely my weakness.


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