For the last couple of years, I have become quite fond of all sorts of rye bread. I’ve loved eating rye bread since I was a child, but once I started baking my own bread I really learned to appreciate a tasty loaf of rye bread. I’ve tried quite a few recipes in the last few years, from my Light Rye Sandwich Loaf to crusty sourdough loaves using Jeffrey Hamelman’s 40% Caraway Rye recipe. Last year I set out to experiment with rye dinner rolls, and the following recipe was the one I developed and keep on making time after time.
These soft rolls have a secret ingredient: potatoes. Bread bakers have been using potato water or adding mashed potatoes to their breads since at least the 19th century, when it was often added to make up for a shortage of grain. This modern version uses either potato flour (available from King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill and others) or dried potato flakes (used for making mashed potatoes). The starch from the potatoes makes for a tender crumb, and also helps keep the leftover bread moist and light.
As I tried different recipes, I discovered there are several different ways to give pumpernickel and other dark rye breads a dark color. Whole grain rye flour adds some color, but a combination of coffee, molasses, cocoa powder or caramel coloring is usually added to darken the dough further. I settled on using molasses and cocoa powder in this recipe. Any cocoa powder will work here, either natural of Dutch-processed. But I found out very quickly that not all molasses is created alike!
I started out using up an old bottle of Brer Rabbit molasses I had in the pantry. That worked well, until I used it all and had to buy some more. I bought a bottle of Wholesome Sweeteners organic, unsulphured molasses, but that gave the rolls a strong molasses flavor that dominated the bread. I wound up going to back to my old standby, this time using Brer Rabbit Mild Flavor molasses. I also tried some good old Tennessee sorghum, which also works quite well in this recipe.
Somewhere along the way I also discovered that this recipe can be used to make some wonderful dark rye buns. They are great for things like salmon burgers and BBQ sandwiches. I’ve included a couple of tips for other variations in case you want a sweeter roll, or don’t like the taste of caraway.
10.5 oz unbleached all purpose flour (2-1/2 cups)
6 oz whole grain rye or dark rye flour (1-1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp potato flour OR 1/3 cup dried potato flakes
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp cocoa (natural or Dutched)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 oz lukewarm water (1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp molasses
1. Mix dry ingredients, stir to combine. Mix water, oil and molasses in measuring cup. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix by hand, stand mixer or using the bread machine dough cycle. The dough will be slightly sticky. Avoid adding too much flour. While kneading, add water if necessary to make a moist dough. Wetter is better when it comes to rolls.
2. Cover dough and let rise until almost doubled, about 1-1/2 hours, or let bread machine finish the dough cycle.
3. Place dough on lightly greased work surface, or silicone baking mat. Punch down to remove any air bubbles. Divide into 12 pieces.
4. Lightly grease 9×13 inch baking pan or line with parchment paper. Shape dough into balls, spacing evenly on pan.
5. If making buns, cover and let dough rest for 15-20 minutes, then flatten dough balls using your hands into a bun shape. Dough balls should be almost touching each other.
6. Cover dough and let rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until puffy looking. The dough may not get very much oven spring, so let rise to almost the desired final size and shape. Preheat the oven to 350°F near the end of rising time.
7. Place the rolls in the oven, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly browned and inside reaches at least 180°F. Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly before serving. Store cooled rolls airtight, or freeze for later use.
VARIATIONS: For a sweeter dinner roll, increase molasses to 2 Tbsp. Or for a milder taste, use 1/2 tsp caraway seeds, or omit entirely.
Nutrition (per serving): 179 calories, 27 calories from fat, 3.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 299.1mg sodium, 219.4mg potassium, 33g carbohydrates, 4.6g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 5.9g protein, 25.3mg calcium, <1g saturated fat.