German-Style Rolls: Brotchen (the crusty secret is an egg white glaze)


Many people have been writing to ask for German-style hard rolls.  The most common are Brotchen (little breads). They’re made from egg white-enriched white dough, and brushed with more egg white before baking at high temperature with steam. In the book, Zoe and I concentrated on French-style crust techniques, which tend not to use egg white for high-temperature crisp crusts on lean breads. Turns out that the egg white creates an incredible crust and crumb. 


First off, mix up a batch of our plain white-flour Master Recipe but make one variation: Put three egg whites into the bottom of the measuring cup before you measure out your three cups of water– so it’s three cups of liquid, including the three egg whites. Everything else is the same.

On baking day, preheat the oven with a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 450 degrees F for at least 20 to 30 minutes (place a broiler tray in the oven on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread). Cut off 3-ounce balls of dough (like a small peach) and briefly shape them (as in our videos), finishing by squeezing to form an oval. Refrigerate the rest for up to five days before freezing in one-pound packages (there’s raw egg in here).  You can also form a perfect little oval by using the letter-fold method, though I didn’t do it here (too lazy!).


Allow to rest/rise for at least 20 minutes or as long as 60 minutes. Then use a pastry brush to cover with egg white. If you want seeds or salt, now’s your chance:


Now slash with a single cut the long way, using a serrated bread knife.  Slide quickly so the knife doesn’t catch:


I spaced my brotchen on a silicone mat, but you could also do them on a greased cookie sheet, or a piece of parchment paper. It’s best not to do these on a cornmeal covered pizza peel; that’s just not the effect you’re going for.

Put the cookie sheet, silicone mat, or parchment paper on the preheated baking stone and pour a cup of hot water into the broiler tray just before closing the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes. The result is incredibly crisp, shiny, and richly browned.  I’m guessing that home bakers with problem ovens will find this method to be a miracle charm for getting a great crust on small breads.

I haven’t tested it on large loaves but I’m guessing that there might be trouble with over-browning if a loaf need more than about 35 minutes.  More on that later.

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225 thoughts on “German-Style Rolls: Brotchen (the crusty secret is an egg white glaze)

  1. Jeff, my husband who is the real German in the family, also thinks your recipe is just wonderful. BTW he is *not* Herr Jedöns; that is just a (funny)low German screen name I use.

  2. Dawn, that’s an interesting idea from CI but the Sullivan method requires that you cook the bread bottom side up. I suppose you’d have to score the top if you substitute the paper cradle method.

    When I made my first bread using Jeff and Zoe’s recipe, I baked it on a hot stone with parchment under it and a domed stainless bowl over it for part of the bake (instead of the steam in the broiler pan). I’m inclined to think these various methods (domed pan, hot pot, steam in pan) all pretty much achieve the same ends and which you use depends on your oven and personal preference.

    I made another deli rye tonight which baked with more loft. I haven’t yet tasted it but I expect it has a better crumb than the first one where the dough sat in the fridge for only a few hours before baking..Time is the difference. If you can I suggest all these breads get s 90 minute rest out of the fridge and that they sit in the fridge for at least 12 hours before you bake with them.

  3. Nina: So glad you like the tapenade, it’s a favorite of mine.

    Manuela: Thank you! Readers can click on Manuela’s name above to go to her site; it will help if you read Portuguese!

    Dawn: I knew that! 🙂

    Clarice: Our next book is going to have longer rests, in particular because there’s so much whole wheat, which tends to produce a denser result.

  4. Clarice: I’ve followed the CI directions with top side up *without* scoring and the bread came out fine, but not as attractive as the other way around. I suppose the parchment paper could be used to invert the bread into the pot.
    I’ll be trying Jeff’s and Zoe’s rye/wheat/white flour bread next. Can’t wait.

    Jeff: My husband reheated the rolls this morning and said they were even better than yesterday! He then raved about the Brötchen to his brother who lives nearby in the mountains. The brother who already bakes his own bread, wanted the recipe asap.
    Last night I frittered (heh) my time away reading German sites about Brötchen baking. It seems the taste comes the combination of good crust to inside dough. The taste is really important! But we knew that. The trick is to get enough brown crust down to the baking surface. I noticed a few of my rolls were *too close* and remained somewhat tan. I used parchment paper and saw that the bottoms were a little puckered. I’m trying the silpat sheet today, spacing better and going for the beautiful looks of your photograph. Blessed are the bread bakers …

  5. Aprendiz (I know that’s not your name!): Welcome to the site, thanks!

    Dawn: You could also try going right on the stone, with nothing but flour under the Brotchen. Rise them on a pizza peel covered with flour. Messy, but the crust might be a little better.

  6. Thanks, Jeff, for the recommendation. I’ll have to wait for the next batch to be ready, but I’ll romance the stone, so to speak.
    Frau Jedöns

  7. A general question…
    I am having a hard time profing(I think that’s the correct term) my dough. I’m not getting a smooth surface as I shape, so the crust comes out broken and uneven. Maybe I am not working it enough, as far as making the ball, doing rotations and tucking under? Sorry, hard to describe! More flour on hands? Less? Any tips appreciated… thanks!

  8. Thanks Zoe. I watched the video, and I’m definitely not using as much flour as I should. Btw, I took the BYOB pledge in January, and it’s going great so far. I made pita bread last week and it was the best I’ve ever had! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  9. 1. Can dried egg white be used in the Brötchen recipe instead of liquid egg white? The egg yolks are accumulating quickly at this house. In the meantime, my copy of the book arrived today and thrilled.

  10. Hi Sarah, that is fantastic that you are doing the BYOB! Keep us posted.

    Hi Dawn, I don’t see why you couldn’t use reconstituted dry egg whites for this purpose. Great idea! Please report back with you try it!

    Thanks, Zoë

  11. Jeff & Zoe:
    I “discovered” your amazing formula for making fantastic bread in the December/January issue of Mother Earth News (which I bought on a whim). Prior to ordering the cookbook I had experimented with adding in different ingredients to the “master” recipe. My favorite is substituting 1/2 cup of flax seed meal for 1/2 cup flour. I just wanted to thank you for the cookbook and let you know I tried the Brotchen rolls last night and they were perfect! Did I read you were working on another cookbook? I know I want one!

  12. Gretchen: So glad you are enjoying the recipes– next book out 10/13/09, with more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit in the bread.

  13. I have been looking for good Brotchen from bakeries in our area but to no avail. My son and I returned recently from a trip to visit friends in Germany, where, like many of these comments, we ate Brotchen for breakfast every day (and lunch and dinner sometimes). It is SO good. We tried Chicago hard rolls, but they are too airy on the inside. I can’t wait to try this recipe. (First things first, I’ve just made my first batch of the master-recipe and will make my first loaf of bread later today.)

  14. Jeff: I was unable to find dried egg white at any of the local markets, so I went to a Honeyville location nearby (where I buy the wheat and rye berries I grind for flour) and bought a *large* can of powdered egg whites (2.25 lbs/102.1g). Two (2) teaspoons of powdered egg white mixed with two (2) tablespoons of hot water = 1 egg white. It worked well.
    I now have egg whites for hundreds of Brötchen!

  15. I am loving your book, and your website. Can you please tell me how to work with the dough after I freeze it. I tried freezing a loaf of the rye dough, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then sit out for 1 hour and 45 min. before baking. It hardly rose and was so dense and moist (though brown on the outside) that I had to throw it out. he unfrozen baked-up perfectly. Any suggestions?

  16. Sue: I’ve used frozen dough in this situation and it worked well, though slightly denser than usual– (may be a matter of taste). One suggestion might be to limit the freeze duration to two weeks, if you’ve exceeded that. If that’s not the explanation, try a longer rest time for your defrosted doughs— 2 hours.

    You may prefer the result from frozen dough if you stick with white breads… the rye most people can get in the supermarket is whole grain, and that weighs down a bread, more so once the dough is frozen.

  17. when take the dough out of the fridge do you let it sit for a while at room temp befor you start to form it or take it out of the large container

  18. Hi Marc,

    You can take it out of the bucket as soon as you take it out of the refrigerator, no need to wait!

    Thanks, Zoë

  19. Thanks so much Larry for the Laugenbrötchen recipe – been looking for that recipe for years. Where I lived in Neu Ulm they called it something different — Semmelbrot. One thing I will add: don’t use an aluminum pan to boil the baking soda — it will leave a very strange grey residue on your bread. Oxidized aluminum? Don’t know if that’s poisonous, but I wouldn’t take the chance.

  20. So happy to be back to bread making after Passover!! I usually make up the pain d’epi dough for the week (everyone wants an ‘end’ so it prevents disappointments). Making an additional batch of dough for brotchen was becoming inconvenient. I used the regular pain d’epi dough, formed 2 oz rolls – a better size for us-, brushed them with egg white and sprinkled them with fleur d’sel (scant 1/8th tsp each – glazed and sprinkled before slashing) – the result was indistinguishable from the brotchen dough with the egg white added. My family loved the fleur d’sel on top. Actually, they’ve loved all the bread I’ve made from your book. Thank you for making it possible for me to give my family homemade bread without stress!

  21. Buck: Yeah, that does sound like oxidized aluminum. Distasteful even if not harmful!

    Sharon: I’m a salt-lover too! A salt crust is always delightful. Thanks for the kind words.

  22. I am about to make the brotchen as we loved them in Germany – did you have trouble transferring the silicone mat directly onto the baking stone? I’ve never done that and it seems like it would be unweildy; maybe I will try to slide the mat onto the stone with the pizza peel? Or will it turn out just as well to use the mat on a baking sheet on the stone…long question – sorry!

  23. Hi Dianne,

    Either way is going to work, however the mat directly on the stone will conduct heat slightly better. I always slide the mat onto the stone with my pizza peel as you suggested.

    I always mix the egg white with just a bit of water to make it easier to apply.

    Enjoy! Zoë

  24. Dear Jeff and Zoë,
    I grew up in Germany and the Brötchen that we ate wasn’t covered in an egg wash, but lightly dusted with flour. Maybe it’s a regional thing as I grew up primarily in Southern Germany in the 60’s and 70’s. Once we moved to the land of the round doorknobs (America) we dearly missed our daily Brötchen. I have fond memories of bringing home a bag full of warm Brötchen fresh from the local bakery. The next day they would be hard as a rock and only good to throw away.

    I found out about your website through where Aeray posted directions on making your bread.
    I reserved your book from our local library and then went to your website where I found this Brötchen recipe.

    I can’t wait to try your recipes. I’ve been a bread baker for over 25 years and your way is a very fast and easy way to make bread. I would like to suggest that all of the people who visit your site bake an extra loaf or 2 for their local shelter.

  25. Hi Holly,

    Thank you for visiting the site. I hope you will enjoy all the bread you bake.

    Thank you for the lovely suggestion of baking for a local shelter!

    Best, Zoë

  26. Hi

    Got your book yesterday & tried the Brötchen recipe.They turned out fantastic.
    I had already tried bread & rolls using the “Master Recipe” & couldn’t get the crust right.I blamed it on the UK flour but I can’t fault the Brötchen recipe.I didn’t alter it in anyway & it turned out great.The egg whites really made a big difference.

    Your books excellent totally transformed the way I make bread.

    I have brioche dough & the hotcross bun dough mix in the fridge.Can’t wait to see how they turn out.

    Really looking forward to your new book.


  27. Hi, Jeff and Zoe,
    I made my first batch of the Master Recipe. Yesterday, I made my first loaf with thee stone and steam pan, today, I made a loaf with a pyrex casserole following the instructions for the Dutch Oven and Clay Pot. I got the idea for the cassero;e from one of the comments at the oven or pot sections.
    Noth turned out superbly, but it was a feat to get the dough into the hot pot-especially as I don’t have parchment paper.

    I couldn’t believe how hot my stove got at the 500F temperature. We have a 1918 Glenwood gas stove that I convinced my wife to get as the oven is at eye level and I can use it without bending over-something my bad back prevents me from doing.

    She did ask if we got the stove if I would be doing more cooking and thanks to your methods, I am doing just that! Your no-knead recipes are also a boon to those of us that are disabled as I wouldn’t have the physical wherewithal to make bread the ordinary way-now I am lookomg for excuses to try a different bread all the time..

    Another benefit for me is that I am now looking at other things I can cook with my disability-if I can bake bread, there are other things I can cook as well.

    But I digress, I actually had some questions:
    1. Do you have a recipe for using the Master Recipe for Salt Sticks?

    2. Do you have a recipe for Everything Bread & Bagel Topping?
    I know King Arthur flour sells it, but I am sure I can save money by mixing it myself, adter all, how hard can it be to measure out some seeds, some salt, some onion, some garlic, put them into a container and shake them up?

    3. I would like to try using a loaf pan, but the only one I have is a pyrex pan that we use for meatloaf. Would it be safe for me to use it? I am leery of dooing so since I have read about them breaking in the oven with the steam method. I thought I could use a rechnique like the lasagna pan so I would not have to make steam for the spring. I would not use pyrex for the steam pan!

    Closing thoughts: collectively the both of you and everyone that contributes to the site are to be commended for your creativity as it fosters that in the rest of us. After reading the blog, I have been turning the house upside down looking for things that can be used to bake bread and that can be substituted for expensive cooking utensils, like disposable lasagna pans, pyrex casseroles, and terra cotta tiles and flower pots. Not only are we saving money (besides eating healthier) by baking our own bread, but we can also save money by what we use for the baking.

    I saw that King Arthur Flour is selling an “Artisan Bread Crock” for over $100.00 and you two and the readers, have suggested innumerable ways to do the same thing for less.

    Thanks to everyone!

  28. Hi Stuart: for salt sticks, just try our breadstick recipe and sprinkle with coarse salt:

    I’ve never tried baking in Pyrex. Given that, I can’t advise you– I don’t want that thing breaking!

    Thank you so much, for all the kind words!

  29. Jeff,
    Tahnks for the suggestion about the salt sticks, however, I amlooking for the kind that I got on LongIsland and Miami Beach, the ones that look like crescent rolls with caraway seeds and salt on the outside.

    I will do a Google search and see if I can find a technique that can be adapted to the master recipe.

    I am having a ball baking bread and I am averaging a loaf a day. My wife says that I need to limit ti as we will end up eating too much bread!

    The Pyrex pan I was referring to is what we use for making meatloaf, so it will tak an oven temperature, however, I am afraid that if I add the hot water to the boiling pan for the steam, the loaf pan might crack. I guess it will just be easier to buy metal loaf pans, or try covering it with a bowl, ala the covered pot method.

    Some more questions:
    If I bake more than one loaf at a time, do I need to use 1 cup of hot water per loaf to generate the steam?

    I am having a hard time getting the loaf to slide onto the stone. I don’t have a peel, so I have been using a well floured wooden cutting board and I can’t seem to get the loaf onto the stone- it just won’t slide. Any suggestions as to what I am doing wrong?

    The bread still bakes and tastes great, but it doesn’t come out as pretty and the slashes close up.

    Thanks again.

  30. Hi Stuart,

    I look forward to finding out about the rolls you are referring to.

    If you bake multiple loaves you still only need the one cup of water to produce all the steam you will need.

    You may just need more cornmeal to cover the cutting board. Or, you can use parchment paper under the loaf. If you use the paper it just slides onto the stone with the loaf. About 90% of the way through baking remove the paper to crisp the bottom crust.

    If your slashes are closing up they may not be deep enough or your dough may be a tad too wet.

    Thanks, Zoë

  31. Hi, Zoe,
    Here is a link to a recipe for salt sticks and Kaiser rolls (p-2) with instructions on forming them. This recipe doesn’t use carawaI seeds, like the ones i remember:–P1-recipe.html

    Here is a link to some great photos of salt sticks, along with bagels and Kaiser rolls. Scroll down to see the salt sticks:

    Unfortunately, there is no recipe.

    I am going to get some carawat seeds today and will try making the salt sticks with Master Recipe dough in the next few days/

    I will let you know how they turn out and any suggestions beforehand are most welcome/

    My favorite breads have always been salt sticks, Kaiser rolls. and Rye Bread from Jewish Bakeries- not to mention desserts like 7 layer cake and black and white cookies!

    I have always missed not habing them available up here in Vermont and would always spend too much money stocking up when I visit my family on Long Island- that is if the bakery had them in stock. The last time I went, the person in front of me in line bought the remaining salt sticks and only left me 3 B&W cookies.

    I have had an Epiphany since discovering your book: I can bake all of these myself, thereby saving money and not feeling deprived. Of course, the down side is that I haave to be careful about eating too much bread and still naking sure that I visit my family.

    A suggestion for your next book would be to apply the same principle to recipes for cakes, cookies, and pastries,

    In the meantime, do you know where I can get reco[es for 7 layer cake and black and white cookies?

    Thanks again.

  32. Stuart: I grew up in your neck of the woods, that’s how I got interested. Missed the old favorites.

    But I’m afraid I don’t have recipes for 7layer cake or BW cookies…

  33. Dear Jedd and Zoe,
    In my quest for recreating Long Island bakery products from my childhood, I tried making some trial Salt Sticks today using the Master Recipe dough and ideas that I got from the net and “Secrets of A Jewish Baker.”

    I made them at the same time I also made a loaf of bread. The loaf sat on the counter for 1 hour and was baked on my pizza stone.

    The Salt Sticks turned out pretty good (my wife and mother-in-law were impressed) but they had a very hard crust and not much crumb (the salt sticks and not my wife and mother-in-law). They were also smaller than I would have liked, though they did get bigger in the oven.

    I rolled the dough (about 1/8 inch thick) out on a cookie sheet, cut dough circles into quarters, rolled them into shape and let them sit for about 30 minutes before putting them on a preheated cookie sheet in the oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes before taking them out. I did check them at 15 & 20 minutes and they seemed unfinished. They might have been in ther a tad too long.

    My wife helped me pour the hot water for the steam into the broiler pan. Unlike me, who dumps the water in all at once really quickly, she was trying to be neat about it and poured the water carefully into the pan which took longer and there wasn’t a rush of steam.

    How can I get a nice crust without it being too hard? The loaf of bread, crust and crumb, was perfect.

    I was also nervous about doing too much rolling to get the crust thin enough, should I be concerned?

    FYI. the author of “Secrets of A Jewish Baker (breads) doesn’y use an egg or cornstarch wash on the top of his salt sticks to hold the carraway seeds and salt. He uses water applied with a pastry brush, which is what I did and the topping was fine.

    I got the book Sat. and I have been devouring it ever since, highlighter in hand, and anxious to try every recipe. Too many recipes, too little time…
    Thanks again.

  34. Dear Jeff and Zoe,
    I made a batch of Master Recipe dough and I used King Arthur AP Flour. While reading your book, you note that KA AP flour is the equivelent of using bread flour. d
    Do I need to make adjustments to the recipe? This batch seemed drier than the first batch I made from the recipe, bit I might not be sure as it is only my second batch. Right now, it is sitting in the refrigerator after it’s 2 hour counter stay.

    I appreciate the advice.

  35. Stuart: Hmm, finding the crust too hard. Makes me think that your oven isn’t sealing in the steam very well (actually thins the crust though it’s crisp). You could try one of the alternatives for creating a steam environment:

    Baking in a Dutch Oven:

    Aluminum Roasting Pan for Crust:

    Cloche baking:

    You don’t want to overhandle the dough. Handle just enough to achieve the shape you want. Though overhandling will affect the crumb, not the crust.

    KAF requires a little more water:

  36. Salt Stick Update
    I made another batch of salt sticks using the Master Dough. This time I let them sit for an hour after I rolled them out, cut out the circle, and divided it into triangular shaped pieces.

    When I rolled the triangles into crescent shaped rolls, I did a bit of stretching to make them larger and then let them sit for 60 minutes on a greased cookie sheet (I used spray on). At 30 minutes, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees.
    Just before putting the salt sticks into the oven at 60 minutes, I brushed water on the salt sticks and topped them with Caraway seeds and Kosher salt. This meant that it was over 60 minutes before they hit the oven given the additional time to add the toppings.

    I did the water in the broiler pan to create steam and baked them for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes and 25 minutes. I tested them for doneness (is that a word?) by tapping them, just like I would for a bread loaf.

    This time they came out perfectly.

    Next post is another NY favorite, garlic knots. where can I start a new subject in the recipe section?

    1. Readers can’t start new subjects, technically speaking. We’re always working on improving the website and that’s on the list!

  37. Dear Jeff & Zoe,
    Just wondered if you had a variation of this roll with fresh yeast, dried cranberries, and walnuts? I’m wanting to try your awesome technique with fresh yeast. Any suggestions or pointers?
    We had been eatting cranberry, walnut rolls from a local bakery everyday & now are ready to see if your recipe can replicate their rolls.
    Thank you!

    1. Teresa: We find fresh yeast doesn’t make any difference, but you need to double the volume we call for to achieve the same speed of rise (but you can decrease the yeast, see Start with the Challah (in the book) or brioche dough (, but add a quarter to one-half cup each of chopped walnuts and dried cranberries. Those doughs bake at 350, not 400 or 450 or they’ll burn. Jeff

  38. I have tried USA all-purpose flour and the taste doesn’t come close to the Frankfurt am Main area. Do you know the type of flour used in that area? I’d like to order some.

  39. How many ounces of flour do you use in your recipe. Every time I measure out 6 1/2 cups I get a different weight.

    I lived in Germany for 6 years and have always missed eating them. Thank you for posting this recipe–they are so delicious!

    1. Hi Patty,

      1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour = 5 ounces

      In our newest book we have a chart of weights for all of the different flours. Hope that helps!

      Thanks, Zoë

  40. I made my first batches of Brötchen ever. They were crispy and had a nice color on the outside but the crumber was dense and chewy not soft and airy as I remember. I used KA’s eurpoean-style bread flour. Should I have used AP flour, a longer rise after removing from the refrigerator or both?

    1. Hi Fenchel2c,

      If you replace KA Bread flour for the AP in our recipes you will have to add about 1/4+c of water. Their bread flour has way more protein which absorbs more water, which means your dough was probably much drier than we intended. This is most likely the culprit for the dense crumb of your bread. If you still have dough left, just add water until it is the right consistency. Watching our videos may give you an idea of what you are going for.

      Thanks, Zoë

  41. I have been using Alton Brown’s recipe for english muffins butt hey have been not cooking all the way through. I will try this recipe and see if I can get better results. Thanks!

  42. This brings back memories of 1963 and Stuttgart, Germany and Mom and I in a cafe (I’m only 4 then) eating brotchen with churned butter and jelly-there is nothing like authentic. Ahh, memories~thank you for sharing!

  43. I can’t wait to try this out. My grandmother is Austrian (ethnic German) and my family spent time in Germany while my father was in the Army. They will love it!!!!

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