Round and round: making buns and rolls

Spice buns

There are many types of bread that you might want to make into rolls. Enriched doughs can make soft white baps or burger buns. Fruited and spiced doughs can make hot cross buns, teacakes or cinnamon rolls.

Getting neat and even shapes for these things can be tricky. Yeasted dough which has just has its first rise can be puffy and uneven.

Spice bun dough

Going from that lumpy mass to a tray of neat and even shapes can take a little practice.

I recorded some video of making rolls some time ago, and I have now finally got around to editing it together with some instructions to show the steps involved:

In addition to the video, I wrote a few tips that provide some more detail:

  • Make sure you dimple and pat the dough down to remove and redistribute the large air bubbles. You don’t need to ‘punch it down’ as some recipes say, but you do want to make the texture of the dough more even so that you can create even shapes out of it. You can also
  • Use this process to make a symettrical shape out of the dough which will make it easier to divide into even pieces. This can be a rectangle, a round boule shape or a long stick. You can also weigh the pieces as you cut them off to be sure they are even.
  • Try and preserve the skin of the dough when you’re shaping. This is a tip I got from this video of Richard Bertinet with Tim Hayward. The surface of the dough after it has risen is smooth and even. If you can use that surface as the outside edge of all your rolls, it will make it easier to get a smooth surface.
  • Start with this smooth section face down for each piece of dough, and draw the edges into the centre to make a ball.
  • To tighten the surface of the dough and make a really neat round shape, you should rotate the dough on the work surface. This motion (demonstrated in the video) draws the surface of the dough down, stretching it out and tucking it under at the same time.
  • Place the rolls and buns a little distance apart on a baking sheet. When they start to touch, you will know they have risen enough to bake.
  • To get really crusty bread, you should start at a high temperature, and then turn down and bake for longer at a low temperature. With rolls you’re usually after a soft texture and thin crust, so bake at a fairly hot temperature – 200C or so – and don’t overbake or the crust will start to dry out. Little buns might need only 10 minutes; larger burger buns more like 20 minutes.


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