Cast Iron

Crusty Peasant Rolls

December 14, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 10 rolls
Author Notes

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh-baked bread (or fresh-baked anything, for that matter.) I don’t make yeast breads very often (except for pizza), but once in a blue moon (like this week) I do enjoy getting my hands dirty with sticky, yeast-y dough. So the first thing I did was read up about bread in Shirley Corriher’s fantastic book BakeWise – lots of great info there. Then I read up about bread on the King Arthur Flour website – lots of great info there, too. And then there was James Beard, and Julia, and…well, you get the picture. And lastly, I emailed my friend Bob Ubaldo, a great local bread baker who just opened a new restaurant, The Farmer’s Table, in New Canaan, CT, for some tips. He’s really nice. And smart. And a great chef. And a chemist! So he knows his way around the magic that is bread. And his restaurant is lovely, so if you have the chance, go! I'm using my pizza dough for this recipe, since I like things uncomplicated [read: I am lazy.] The techniques I use are a combination of what I’ve been doing forever with pizza dough, plus the bread baking research I’ve done. I’ve always heard steam is a good tool to use when baking bread, but wasn’t sure why. Bob said the steam “helps the bread expand in the beginning because the crust is soft enough for a good oven "kick" or rise. Steam is good in the beginning of the bake, first ten minutes or so, after that it inhibits caramelization because things just don’t caramelize in a wet environment.” So ten minutes into the baking, don’t forget to open your oven door and let out the steam. I'd forgotten how gratifying it is to make your own bread, so thanks A&M for picking a really fun theme for this week. - mrslarkin —mrslarkin

Test Kitchen Notes

Mrslarkin's Crusty Peasant Rolls definitely live up to their name. The golden crust makes a fresh cracking sound when broken into and the insides are very much like pizza dough, as the recipe suggests. I did not use a baking stone, but I think the roll still came out well, and amply crusty. Hot out of the oven with butter or olive oil, these were really good.– Jennifer —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 11 oz., I use King Arthur Unbleached)
  • *when measuring flour, fluff it first with a whisk, sprinkle it into measuring cup, and sweep the top with the flat edge of a knife or offset spatula
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water, like around 80 degrees or so
  • olive oil
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary
  • coarse sea salt
  1. Place flour in large bowl. Stir in salt.
  2. Dissolve yeast into water. Pour into flour and stir with a beautiful wooden spoon if you have one, or a dinner fork, until it comes together. Dough will ball up onto the spoon/fork. Remove spoon/fork.
  3. Place a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl and set it near your work area. This way, you don’t have to grab the bottle of olive oil with your dough-y hands like I usually do. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over the dough and along the sides of the bowl. I use an oiled plastic bowl scraper to help knead the dough, scraping, folding and pressing as you would for any kind of kneading. Do this for a couple minutes.
  4. At this point, lift the dough ball up with your lightly oiled hands and hold along one edge of dough, letting the rest of the dough hang down and stretch out. Move along the entire edge of the dough, turning it in more or less a circular steering wheel motion. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. Do this 5 or 6 times, folding the dough back up into a ball each time. Total turning and stretching: a few minutes.
  5. Fold the dough up over itself, gather it into a ball and place back in the oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, lay a dish towel over it and place in a warm spot. I always stick my bowl of dough in the microwave, a warm and out of the way place. Sometimes, before putting it in, I heat a mug-full of water, to get the microwave nice and warm.
  6. Let rise for 1 hour. Then deflate dough with your fingers, and let rise for another hour.
  7. When the second rise is done, place baking stone on center rack of oven. Place a large cast iron skillet on bottom rack. Preheat oven to 435 degrees F. You want the oven good and hot.
  8. Pinch off dough into small, 2 ounce pieces (I use a kitchen scale for this; my scale is flat and fits into a gallon zipper bag. I oil the top of the bag so the dough doesn’t stick. Or you can go ahead and lay the dough on your naked scale, swipe it with oil, and clean it when you are done.) I like to roll the dough with my very lightly oiled hands on my marble pastry board that I’ve swiped with a lightly oiled paper towel, so the dough has a little tackiness and resistance to roll smooth, but doesn’t stick like crazy. Now, don’t squish the balls. Form your hand over it like a cage and start rolling in a circle and roll into a smooth, firm ball.
  9. Place dough balls on a parchment-lined heavy-duty sheet pan, at least 1 inch apart. Take a long sheet of plastic wrap and brush it lightly with olive oil, or spray it with Pam. Lay the oiled plastic over the buns. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the plastic from the buns. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt over and lay a few leaves of rosemary over each.
  11. Just before placing the sheet pan in the oven, very carefully, and using oven mitts, pour ½ cup very hot tap water into the cast iron pan that you already set on the bottom rack. Keep your face averted, as the hot steam will billow up, and I do not want you to burn yourself. Immediately place the sheet pan on the baking stone and quickly close oven. After 10 minutes, open the oven door to let the steam out. Total bake time is around 25 – 30 minutes, until tops are a deep golden brown. The bottoms will sound hollow when tapped. Slide rolls, parchment and all, onto a cooling rack. Serve warm.
  12. When completely cool, store leftovers in a freezer zip top bag for up to one day. Freeze for longer keeping. These rolls reheat and crisp up very nicely in a 350 degree F oven.
  13. Oh, and one last thing. I know I've harped on this before, but seriously, get yourself an oven thermometer. It's really important that you have an accurate read on your oven temperature, regardless of what you are cooking in it.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Devangi Raval
    Devangi Raval
  • Laura_K
  • lapadia
  • hardlikearmour
  • gingerroot

36 Reviews

Craig September 13, 2013
Thankyou, wonderful recipe and excellently explained :) thankyou they went down a treat.
mrslarkin September 13, 2013
Thanks, Craig. I'm so glad you tried them and liked them.
Devangi R. February 18, 2012
Hi mrslarkin - could you please share with me more about the texture of these rolls. One of my husband's uncle asked me if i can make him crusty rolls, now I really don't know what he is exactly wanting me to make. So , i would like to know about these? thank you!
mrslarkin February 18, 2012
Hello Devangi. These are like Italian bread - crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, like the inside of pizza crust. Hope that helps!
Passenger September 20, 2011
Mine are on their third rise, however, I know they're not turning out. I'm not sure what happened, and I am not a new baker by any means, but the dough was very, very gloppy! I don't have the greatest flour on hand, but my yeast is fine, and I double checked my measurements, and it just isn't turning out. Rolling into firm little balls was impossible! We'll see what happens, the oven's heating up now...
hardlikearmour September 20, 2011
If the dough is really wet, you should add some more flour.
mrslarkin September 20, 2011
Hi Passenger,

Yep, I'm guessing you needed a touch more flour, too. Take a look at my photos above; should give you an idea of what your dough should look like.

Curious, did the dough rise when it was in the bowl?

Good luck! Hopefully, they'll still taste yummy! Let us know.
Laura_K July 10, 2011
just finished making these! they are so tender in the center yet have a really crunchy, love, love!!! was wondering, have you successfully doubled or tripled this recipe for a larger yield? was thinking of making a bigger batch and freezing.
mrslarkin July 10, 2011
Hi Laura_K! My bowls are only large enough for one batch, so no, I haven't ever increased. But I don't see why it wouldn't work if you've got the right equipment! I love this recipe - it's what I use for pizza dough, too. Lately I've been using 1/2 regular flour and 1/2 white whole wheat - awesome crisp crust pizza. Haven't tried that with the buns yet. Good luck!
lapadia December 24, 2010
Thanks for the BD/festivus wish, mrslarkin :) OH....and I was looking forward to calling "dibs" on your roll recipe for Editors' Pick, but they already took care of that for you....congrats! Cheers to the Season, have a good one!
mrslarkin December 24, 2010
Thank you, lapadia! Hope you make the rolls anyway! Have a lovely holiday!!
hardlikearmour December 16, 2010
By the way, I completely agree with your oven thermometer harping. So much that one year I gave a friend of mine an oven thermometer as part of a Christmas gift!
mrslarkin December 16, 2010
That is such a great gift idea, with, say, a bunch of cooking-related items!! I'm gonna have to steal it - s'that okay??
gingerroot December 15, 2010
I'm with you about the smell of fresh-baked bread! Bread is my weakness and these are beautiful. Thanks for your lovely recipe and all of your tips. Makes a bread novice like me eager to dip my toes into uncharted baking waters...
mrslarkin December 15, 2010
Oh, thanks so much, gingerroot! Bread really is one of the simplest things in the world to make. You should definitely give it a go!
hardlikearmour December 15, 2010
gingerroot, I've made your manapua twice now, and it's bread dough! You can definitely bake bread. Go for it!
gingerroot December 15, 2010
I'm definitely in the right place, among the right foodie friends to really start baking. This week's contest is an eye opener...I love it!
mrslarkin December 15, 2010
See, gingerroot? You CAN bake! I'd forgotten about the manapua. Thanks for reminder, hla!
monkeymom December 14, 2010
what beauties MrsL! I'll bet this really can go with so many things. Knew you'd come up with something great!
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
oh, thanks, monkeymom!! I just ate the last ones reheated in the oven, sliced up, and slathered with soft butter. good.
Sagegreen December 14, 2010
Yay, mrslarkin! Gorgeous! You reminded me of a college friend who went off to start the Port Bakehouse up in Maine. I have lost touch, but boy did he know bread and rolls! I think he has sold his business, but King Arthur Flour is not too far away in NH. Field trip, anyone?
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
Thanks, Sagegreen!! I thought of you when I went outside to harvest my rosemary.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 14, 2010
Beautiful! And I love the sprinkle of coarse salt at the end. I too am a huge fan of BakeWise. That book is just full of useful information. I went to a lecture Shirley did with Harold McGee about a year ago when she was in the area - what a kick she was. Really fun.
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
Thanks, ChezSuzanne! oh my gosh, I would LOVE to hear BOTH of them speak! I love all that science-y stuff. Shirley really makes it understandable to the lay person.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 14, 2010
You are so right on this. And the 2 of them together was amazing. They approach the science from 2 different directions and along the way bth make all that interesting stuff so accessible and useful.
drbabs December 14, 2010
Look great! I bet they taste good, too!
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
Thanks so much, drbabs!! They are pretty yummy!
hardlikearmour December 14, 2010
Wow! I've been waiting for your recipe, and you did not disappoint.
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
*blush* Thanks, hardlikearmour.
thirschfeld December 14, 2010
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
thanks. I just inhaled one. Crunch crunch. Can you hear it??
TiggyBee December 14, 2010
Back to the old drawing board for me. Again! One day, I'll get this bread thingy down. Love this recipe!!
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
Thanks, TiggyBee! Listen, your buns are quite lovely!!
TiggyBee December 14, 2010
Thanks for the smile!! I'm off to the gym. And a punching bag.
Lizthechef December 14, 2010
Way out of my league but look fantastic!!
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
Thanks! And that is so not true! Just turn pizza night into bun night. :)