The best meal of the day is breakfast! Eating a good breakfast helps the rest of the day to go well. For me a good breakfast means whole grains and fruit and maybe an extra course of egg or yogurt if an active day is planned.
Most of my children would be surprised to hear that in my early adulthood, breakfast was an iced Merita cinnamon bun or a glazed Holsum donut. This treat would be warmed in the oven and buttered.
Once I understood a little about nutrition, we began grinding our own whole-wheat berries using a very loud Magic Mill. I learned how to bake bread. Since then breakfast has always included whole-wheat bread. Except for the years in San Francisco when excellent whole-wheat bread was easy to find, we have always had home-baked whole-wheat bread for breakfast toast.
It’s not too difficult to bake knock-your-socks-off bread using white flour but to keep that wonderful crumb and home-baked texture in whole-grain bread is another matter. Cook’s Illustrated upped our game in 2006 with their recipe for Multigrain Bread using multigrain hot cereal mix. This we adapted for breakfast rolls, incorporating pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds from Peter Reinhart’s Roasted Three-Seed Bread in Brother Juniper’s Bread Book (1991). Our recipe for 15-Grain Breakfast Bread gives details.
We made the shift to sourdough in 2018 and converted our recipe once again to Sourdough 15-Grain Bread. The crumb is nice and porous, all the better for buttering. And thanks to baking the loaf in a clay baker, it has a crispy crust.
But I wanted breakfast rolls with crisp crusts. To get this crispy crust would mean baking rolls in a clay baker. What kind of clay baker would make rolls?
Our favorite bread-baking website Breadtopia has a recipe for Couronne Bordelaise that involves forming rolls and letting them rise on a special couronne proofing form (couronne means crown in French), then baking in a circular clay baker. The results look amazing. King Arthur Flour has another such recipe.
Then I came across an Emile Henry product called a Crown Bread Baker. It was expensive. Reviews were few and several reported that the recipe for chocolate-chip brioche that came with the bread baker did not work. Breadbaking websites had little information.
I have always enjoyed using Emile Henry products though they have been few and far between because of their expense. After months of mooning over the beautiful bread baker, unable to resist the lure of crispy wholegrain sourdough breakfast rolls, I ordered the Crown Bread Baker. (In France its name is Moule à Pain Couronne, Crown Bread Mold. You can see why they switched from Mold to Baker.) The first Crown Bread Baker arrived in a million pieces since it had not been properly packed.
The replacement came in two pieces as expected.
We set to work. From the first batch, the crust was fabulous, nice and crispy, just what we wanted. And the buttered rolls were promising.
But the few reviews had been clear on one danger: bread stuck to the baker for everyone. I tried buttering the mold and flouring with rice flour. The bread had to be laboriously scraped off.
The winning combination eventually emerged: coating the inner surface of the bread baker with olive oil cooking spray and flouring well with white flour. And perhaps the seasoning of several dozen batches of rolls helped.
Once the rolls could be removed from the baker with ease, we worked on the crumb. Breadtopia’s high-hydration sourdoughs were an inspiration and I increased to about 65% hydration here. Handling such doughs requires a combination of well-floured surfaces and final shaping using wet hands.
This recipe makes 8 rolls of about 122 grams each. I start the dough in a Ankarsrum mixer using the dough hook.
1/4 cup (28 grams) 5 grain Bob’s Red Mill hot cereal mix
1/4 cup (43 grams) 10 grain Bob’s Red Mill hot cereal mix
3/4 cup (183) grams boiling water
2 tablespoons (35 grams) cold unfed sourdough starter
1 tablespoon (21 grams) honey
1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) fine sea salt
1 cup (237 grams) room-temperature water or whey
1 1/3 cups (178 grams) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (207 grams) all-purpose unbleached flour or bread flour
2 1/2 tablespoons (23 grams) pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons (23 grams) sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon (4 grams) flax seeds
Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand until it is lukewarm (about 100°F) or cooler.
Roast seeds in a skillet over a medium flame for a few minutes until they start to pop.
Add sourdough starter, honey, salt, water, and flours to the mixer and stir to combine until dough cleans the sides of the mixer. Add seeds and mix until seeds are evenly dispersed, 1-2 minutes. Allow dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Mix the dough for another 2-3 minutes. Place dough into a bowl large enough to allow for some rising.
Proof for 8-10 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. If you proof overnight in the refrigerator, remove the dough in the morning and keep it at room temperature until it has risen significantly, at least one and a half times its original volume.
Before forming the rolls, apply olive oil liberally to the crown bread baker. An olive oil spray works best. Make sure every inner surface of the base is coated with the oil. Dust with all-purpose or bread flour.
As discussed above, this is a wet dough. Flour your work surface well before putting the proofed dough onto it. Remove the dough from the proofing bowl or container. Using more flour as needed, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, weighing about 120 grams each.
Use wet hands to shape the rolls. Shape each piece into a round ball. Place a ball into each well of the crown baker. Cover with plastic film wiped or sprayed with olive oil and proof at room temperature 1-3 hours, or as long as it takes for the roll tops to creep up toward the rim of the baker.
Preheat oven to 500°F. Put the cover on the crown bread baker and put into the oven. Be careful moving the bread baker into the oven because the lid sits on the base somewhat precariously. Bake at:
- 500°F for 25 minutes covered
- 500°F for 5 minutes uncovered
Remove from the oven and invert the clay baker to remove the rolls. Separate the rolls from one another. Let the rolls cool on a rack.
For toasting, I tear the rolls in half, sometimes into quarters, and toast until the insides start to brown. Toasting this bread really brings out the flavor. Butter as you like, and I do. Take note, it’s a noisy bread to eat! People may think you are eating chips.