Sandwich Rolls/ Banh Mi/ Baguettebrötchen
Baked, Bread, Vegetarian

Sandwich Rolls/ Num Pang/ Banh Mi (‘Baguettebrötchen’)


Last week, I gave you a recipe for French baguettes. Another type of bread that many people associate with baguettes are sandwich rolls, sometimes also called Cambodian or Vietnamese baguettes. And although these bread rolls look a bit like baguettes (we also call them “Baguettebrötchen” in German), they are not really related to the French original. Yes, shaping and scoring are a bit similar. But the consistency and flavor are very different from a French baguette.

You will see that the ingredient list and recipe instructions are very similar to my recipe for round-shaped German breakfast bread rolls. That is because these are wheat-based bread rolls, no baguettes. They have a soft, cottony, airy, and even crumb. The crust is thin and crispy. The trademark of a baguette, on the other hand, is the extremely thick and aromatic crust. The crumb of a baguette is uneven and wild.

How do we achieve a super light and soft texture with a thin crust? We have to use bread improver. If you live in Germany, you are spoiled. Just order a package of “Brötchenbackmittel” (dough improver for German bread rolls). Outside of Germany, it might be harder to source Brötchenbackmittel. If you can’t source a bread improver specifically for small rolls, then you can also use an all-purpose bread improver.

Bread improver is the key ingredient to bake fluffy bread rolls

I know that a lot of people are opposed to bread improver. They associate it with low-quality, cardboard-like industry bread. I cannot comprehend that reasoning. Bread improver doesn’t make your bread any less artisanal, healthy, or delicious. The end result with dough improvers is so much better than without. You cannot achieve a crumb that light and airy with such a delicate and crispy crust with traditional methods.

If you use strong flour with a lot of gluten, your bread might be airy but it is also chewy. Bread rolls aren’t supposed to be chewy. If you add fat or milk as a softener to bread rolls, then they will be soft and fluffy but also denser than lean bread rolls. The reason why bread rolls got so popular in Germany is that they are extremely light thanks to the invention of bread improvers.

Take a look at the picture below: On the left is a bread roll without bread improver, on the right with bread improver. The recipe was identical!

Bread roll with and without dough improver

I saw in many online recipes that people try to imitate the effect of bread improver by adding vinegar or ascorbic acid to their dough. Yes, you can certainly do that. Bread improver usually contains ascorbic acid because it’s an oxidizing agent that strengthens the gluten network. So you end up with a more stable dough. But overall, the bread improver yields the best results and is the easiest and most convenient choice. Bread improver not only contains ascorbic acid but also enzymes, emulsifiers, and reducing sugars that give the bread a better rise and a thin crispy crust. Refer to my book “Baking bread the German way” for more info on the technological function of bread ingredients.

And no, none of these ingredients is a health hazard like some people claim. Maybe it’s because I studied food engineering that I am always more fascinated about new technologies than some other people that don’t have a scientific or engineering background. If things like bread improver help us to bake better bread rolls, then why should we oppose them? Way too often I see journalists who claim that bread is not supposed to contain enzymes. First, all bread contains enzymes because the flour has naturally-occurring enzymes in it. Second, people have been adding enzymes in the form of industrially-produced baking malt to their bread dough for more than a hundred years. And third, the baking enzymes added to bread dough are no health hazard. In fact, you inactivate them because bread is baked in a hot oven. There is no objective reason to oppose bread improvers. And no, you are no better or more wholesome baker because you condemn the usage of bread improvers.

But I guess I don’t have to tell you that because, otherwise, you wouldn’t read my blog. It’s just that I always get a bit aggressive when I hear people who criticize technologies or the food industry for no good reason. There are many things to criticize about industrial food production. But the usage of dough conditioners is definitely not one of them.

The bread-making process for sandwich rolls

This is the quickest bread recipe that I have posted so far on my blog. The whole process takes less than two hours. That is mainly because I use no pre-ferments and the dough is made with warm water so that it rises extremely quickly in combination with the bread improver. What is very important is that you knead the dough very well. Don’t stop kneading before it passes the windowpane test. Kneading bread dough too little is one of the most common beginner mistakes. It might seem like forever at first until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.

Windowpane test to check if the dough has been properly kneaded

Please also make sure to not use strong American-style bread flour. A better substitute for the German Type 550 flour is American all-purpose flour. Remember, gluten makes bread chewy. German flour is generally weaker than American flour and thus the bread turns out fluffier and softer.

The shaping process is pretty straightforward as can be seen in the pictures below. If you don’t have a Baker’s couche you can also simply leave your dough to proof on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Spreading the dough out thinly
Rolling the dough into a cylinder
Cylindrical sandwich roll
Proofing the bread rolls on a Baker's couche

I score the sandwich rolls from the side. You can also score them a bit more to the center if you want them to burst open from the center evenly in both directions. It’s really important that you don’t proof the sandwich rolls for too long before slashing and baking them. If they have proofed just 10 minutes too long, they won’t burst open as nicely. It’s better to bake them too early than too late.

Scoring the sandwich bread rolls

And lastly, take a look at that cotton-like crumb. It’s fluffy and even without any large air pockets and has no chewiness to it. You can easily tear it apart and compress it with your hands. Also, note how thin, flaky, and crispy the crust is. It almost looks like a puff pastry crust, it’s paper-thin! This is something you cannot achieve with traditional methods.

Sandwich roll crumb from side
Banh mi crumb

To conclude: These sandwich rolls are perfect for sandwiches because they can hold a lot of filling. It’s as if they are “hollow” on the inside. They might not have anything in common with traditional French baguettes. But if you want to bake a quick and easy sandwich bread for dinner, this is the way to go!


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