Cast Iron

Rosemary Epi Rolls

December 14, 2010
Author Notes

Here’s another perspective on dinner rolls. If what you’re looking for is a roll on which to daub on some delicious, satisfying butter, give your guests a roll that’s not already full of butter. Hold the sugar, too, unless your plan is to give the your guests dessert to eat alongside their holiday roast. (I’m reminded of what Samuel Clemens once wrote, or so I’m told, about cornbread: “If God had meant for corn bread to have sugar in it, He'd have called it 'cake'.” In this case, it would be, "If God had wanted dinner rolls to be loaded with sugar, He would have called them 'dessert'.") These fragrant, not-sweet, begging-to-be-torn-into, slightly-crusty-on-the-outside, nice-and-chewy-but-featherlight-on-the-inside rolls offer a better alternative for your holiday dinner. You can substitute fresh thyme or sage for the rosemary, if you like. I’ve been known to knead in some toasted walnut pieces, too, but it was a weekday, fast approaching the end of Q4 (meaning 12-hour days in the office), when I made this batch, so I kept these rolls simple. With everything else we have at our holiday dinner table, I take that approach then, anyway. Don’t forget to sprinkle on some coarse salt. It improves the roll immeasurably. And, truth be told, they don't need any butter to be exquisitely satisfying. Enjoy!! P.S. I've included about 8 photos taken while making the rolls, with explanations and quite a few tips in the final instructions to the recipe. - AntoniaJames —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

I enjoyed trying this recipe (with RespectThePastry's partnership), because it yields an attractive and tasty dinner roll. For someone unfamiliar with bread baking, it could seem intimidating -- I found the photos were helpful. I ended up mixing the honey with warm water and yeast, then the oil in Step 1. As recommended, I used a marble tabletop to rise the dough but the marble was too cold, and did not rise much after two hours, so we moved it to a warmer spot and that did the trick. Rosemary Epi Rolls will be a staple here at our house, they are darling and super-tasty!


  • Makes 24-30 small rolls
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
  • 1 ½ cup bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup barley flour
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour + more for kneading, if necessary
  • Olive oil for brushing the rolls
  • Coarse, flaky sea salt
In This Recipe
  1. In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, mix together the water, oil, honey and yeast. Stir it well and let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Add the wheat germ and one cup of bread flour. Beat it to combine, then add the salt, the chopped rosemary, the rest of the bread flour and the barley flour. Beat well (in the same direction, always).
  3. Add the all-purpose flour, ½ cup at a time and stir. When it becomes too difficult to stir the mixture, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead until it comes together and is fairly smooth, then let the dough rest for five or six minutes.
  4. Continue kneading, until you’ve kneaded a total of 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bread is smooth and resilient. It should feel stretchy under your hands.
  5. I find that the granite counter stays nice and cool, so for a dough like this, I dust flour in an out-of-the-way, cool spot and put the dough there, with the bowl inverted over it, to rise. (Make sure your bowl is at least three times the size, or more, of the ball of dough.) You don’t need to grease the ball, because it stays moist enough with the bowl over it.
  6. If you prefer to have your dough’s first rise take place in the bowl, oil your clean mixing bowl well and put the dough in it. Turn the ball of dough over to coat it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel, and set it in a draft-free place that’s not too warm. You don’t want it to rise too quickly.
  7. Let the dough rise until at least doubled, which should take about 1 ½ hours or more, depending on the ambient temperature, the state of your yeast, etc.
  8. When it has risen, divide it in half – I use my bench scraper – and cover half with a floured tea towel. Use an old, worn out tea towel for this if you can, because it will hold the flour better.
  9. Press the other piece into a rectangle that’s about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. With a long side toward you, fold it in thirds, as you would a business letter. Press it down well and repeat the process. Pinch the ends. You’ll have a stubby batard. Do the same thing with the other piece of dough.
  10. Put the fat batards on your floured tea towel, pinch a pleat between the two of them, then fold over the long edges of the towel to cover the dough. Let rise for another hour or so. Take a look at photo #10 to see what the batards look like after the second rise, and at my note below, about the chopstick.
  11. Shape each piece into a baguette by pressing it down and outward at the ends with flattened hands. Stretch it into a long rectangle shape that’s a few inches longer on each side than the rectangle with which you started. Then let it rest for at least ten minutes. Fold the dough in half lengthwise, then press it together, pushing firmly with your flattened hands and stretching it outwards. You’ll be pressing CO2 out as well as making the rectangle larger. Pinch the long edge together, then repeat. Roll the dough between your hands to even out the roll. It should be about 15 inches long.
  12. Cover the baguette with the floured towel while you shape the other piece. Transfer each shaped baguette to a large piece of parchment. It can go on the diagonal of a 12 x 12 inch square. Bring the two loaves close enough together so you can cover them with the floured tea towel. Let them rise for another 45 minutes.
  13. While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, put baking stones on the shelves of the oven, if you are using stones, and a cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf. Preheat with enough time for the stones to continue to get hot for at least 20 minutes after the oven has reached 425 degrees. Put on a cup or so of water to boil.
  14. When the dough has risen, slide one of the sheets of parchment and its baguette onto a large cookie sheet with one open end, or an inverted baking sheet if you don’t have one with an open end. (Or, if you like using a peel instead, feel free. I find the open-ended cookie sheet much easier to manage.) Generously brush the baguettes with olive oil.
  15. To form the rolls, use kitchen shears to cut into the dough at about a 40 degree angle, just down to the bottom of the baguette, but not all the way through. Gently move the cut piece to one side. Repeat, moving the cut pieces to alternate sides. Brush the open cut pieces of dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  16. If you are using a standard pizza stone which is round, bend your dough in a semi-circle as you go, or you can bend it before you start cutting. It doesn't really matter. The wreath you are making will fit nicely on the stone.
  17. Slide each ring of shaped dough, with the parchment paper, from its cookie sheet onto a pizza stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the skillet on the bottom shelf of the oven.
  18. Immediately close the door and set the timer for 6 minutes. Check the rolls after six minutes and tent them lightly with foil if they seem to be browning too quickly.
  19. The rolls should be done in 10 to 12 minutes.
  20. Remove and cool for at least 20 minutes before tearing into them.
  21. Enjoy!
  22. NOTES ON THE PHOTOS: The photos are in reverse order of operation, between numbers 2 and 10. In #10, I included a chopstick, which is the short kind the give you when you order take-out from many Asian restaurants. I keep one in each of my large flour canisters to use for leveling the flour when measuring. ("Sweeping," I think, is what some call it.) You don't have to use a table knife this way. It's very handy!
  23. In #9, I've included my olive oil cruet, which I use only for cooking and baking, and most often, for bread. I bought the cruet at a restaurant supply store. (I have nearly a dozen others, filled with vinegars of all kinds, plus sesame oil, for when I need a "splash" while cooking. I keep them on a lazy Susan in a cabinet that's handy to my stove.) I like the cruet for the oil because it allows me to dribble drops in a controlled way on the loaves; if I need more, I can put a number of drops on my pastry brush. It's much more convenient than conventional stoppers generally available for bottles of oil, because it releases much less at a time.
  24. Photo #8 just shows the baguettes rising, covered. I put each on a separate piece of parchment and then snuggle the two pieces up next to each other, overlapping the corner of one sheet, so I can cover them both with the same floured towel I used for the second rise.
  25. Photo #7 simply shows how I curled the baguette around so to fit on a standard pizza stone. Then I brushed it lightly with olive oil. The specks you see are toasted wheat germ. They'll get a bit browner when cooked, giving the bread a lovely fragrance and a nice taste.
  26. Photo #5 shows all the steam coming out of the oven when I lightly tented the rolls after about 8 minutes. I checked them through the glass window on my oven door at 6 minutes and they looked fine. I was using convection, which tends to brown baked goods faster than a conventional oven. Tenting works perfectly to control that. I re-use the pieces of foil cut for tenting, keeping them folded in my favorite bread pan, which is kept in a lower cabinet right next to the oven.
  27. Photo #4 shows the cut dough on the parchment, after I slid it onto the hot pizza stone. I wanted to take a photo of sliding the bread and parchment off, but that's best done with two hands, so I couldn't get that shot. I use my left hand for guiding the edge of the paper on the left, while lifting and pulling back the large, open-ended cookie sheet with my right hand.
  28. Photo #3 (out of order) shows the dough after brushing with more olive oil and sprinkling on the flaky salt.
  29. Photo #2 shows how to cut the dough with scissors to make the rolls. See, I said it was easy. ;o)
  30. One other point: If you can get a gliding rack for your oven (one on rollers or a smooth track that comes out very easily and stays firm and in place while the rack is pulled out), do so. It's your best friend when making bread or pizza on a hot stone. It's nice to have for all of your other baking and roasting, too, especially basting and other processes like it. ;o)
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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)