One of the pleasures of travel is exploring a new country’s breakfast traditions. Breakfasts in France and Spain are diminutive, tiny cups of café au lait or café con leche with a croissant or sweet roll with jam. In Germany, Frühstück (breakfast) is an art.
With over 2,250 types of bread in Germany, you’ll find many varieties represented in a classic Frühstück spread, from dark slices of rye to hard white rolls called Brötchen. Topping options include a variety of sweet and savory offerings, including slices of sausage, ham, prosciutto, cheese and smoked fish, along with tangy quark cheese, fresh fruit, preserves and Nutella. Add in a boiled egg and maybe a Berliner or two, and the laden table will carry you well through breakfast and into dinner.
When we travel to Germany, I’m lucky enough to enjoy this style of Frühstück at my in-laws’ home, as well as at guesthouses, hotels and restaurants. To keep M on his toes and give him a taste of Germany every so often, I’ve also started serving it at home.
It’s easy to find a variety of European-style breads in grocery stores these days, but one item that’s always confounded me is Brötchen. Fresh from the oven, the hard rolls are crisp and chewy on the outside, and pillowy soft on the inside. They’re delicious slathered with butter and topped with cheese and salami, or spread with quark and a spoonful of raspberry jam. Over the years I’ve developed a Frühstück system of working my way through each of the savory toppings before moving on to a sweet, satisfying end.
The secret to getting the proper internal rise and softness is egg white. First, I beat together all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and a touch of sugar, and then fold in egg whites that have been beaten to soft peaks. I continue to add flour until the dough begins to pull away from the mixing bowl, and then knead with the dough hook until the dough is supple and elastic.
I allow the dough to proof a couple of time and then shape it into small ovals. For shine and a crunchy exterior, I brush the rolls with an egg wash and bake until golden.
These Bröchen are delicious fresh and warm from the oven, and M swears they taste better than those from a German Bäckerei. I usually par-bake and freeze a few, so we’re only a few minutes away from a classic German Frühstück.
Bring a taste of a true German breakfast into your home by giving this recipe a try — and let me know whether you swing sweet or savory. Guten Appetit!
- 2 Tablespoons instant yeast
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2½ cups warm water
- 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 7 cups all-purpose flour (approximate)
- 3 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
- 1 egg (for egg wash)
- 1 Tablespoon milk (for egg wash)
- In the bowl of your mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
- After cleaning the bowl of your mixer, add yeast, sugar and warm water. Let stand for approximately 5 minutes.
- Add butter, salt and 3 cups of flour. Beat with mixer for 2 minutes. Fold in egg whites and then gradually add remaining flour until dough forms and begins pulling away from bowl. You may not need all of the remaining flour.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is supple, but not sticky, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Place dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Gently deflate dough, form into a round, and allow to rise again for an additional 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Deflate the dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal parts and form into oval rolls. For smaller rolls, divide into 24 equal parts.
- Place rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lightly cover with a floured tea towel, and allow to rise 45 minutes.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat egg and milk for egg wash. Lightly brush the rolls with the egg wash. Using a serrated knife or razor blade, vertically slash each roll to allow steam to escape.
- Immediately place rolls in oven and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden brown. For smaller rolls, bake 15-20 minutes.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool and serve immediately. Baked rolls are best eaten within 2 days.
- To par-bake and freeze for later: Skip the egg wash, but slash risen rolls. Par-bake large rolls for 15 minutes, remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Par-bake small rolls for 10 minutes. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and brush frozen rolls with egg wash. Bake large rolls for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Bake small rolls an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tops are golden. Rolls may be frozen for up to 3 months.