Think of these little chewy Italian rolls as the best kind of rustic Italian bread but in miniature form. Kind of like an easier ciabatta personalized into a roll just for you. My mind is spinning with the possibilities these rolls afford.
Can we just say: paninis galore, dipping into this shrimp scampi (we actually did that with these rolls and I about died and went to heaven), insane garlic or cheesy bread and about a million other options.
Making bread like this at home is incredibly rewarding. Whenever something like these amazing Italian rolls come out of my oven I feel like some kind of crazy awesome rock star killing it in the kitchen.
And because I know that it can be intimidating to make bread from scratch, like many of my other yeast bread recipes, I’ve included a step-by-step collage of pictures below the recipe to take a lot of the guesswork out of working with this yeast dough.
These rolls are simple and completely doable, I promise. The dough is uncomplicated and very forgiving. You’ll be dancing around your kitchen singing your own praises…for which I will never, never judge. Be proud, baby, be proud.
Keep in mind this dough starts with a biga (a strange word for a wet starter that needs to rest for 12-20 hours) so if you want hot, fresh Italian rolls, don’t start the recipe a couple hours before you need them or else you’ll end up with hockey puck rolls. In my Northern-Minnesota-basically-Southern-Canada-town, hockey puck anything is lauded and loved, but trust me, you don’t want these rolls to resemble hockey pucks. Soft and light and tender is the goal.
Plan ahead and you’ll be gifted with chewy, delicious Italian rolls. There will be no going back to normal life after you’ve experienced these heavenly little pillows.
Chewy Italian Rolls
- 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water
- 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
- Biga (from above)
- 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- For the biga, mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 12-20 hours until it is puffed and very bubbly (as long as it is really bubbly, don’t stress if it hasn’t puffed much).
- For the dough, scrape the biga into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Add the flour, water, salt and instant yeast. Mix until combined. Continue mixing/kneading for 4-5 minutes, the dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky but shouldn’t leave a lot of residue on your fingers if you grab a bit of it. If it seems overly sticky and isn’t pulling away from the sides of the bowl, add a couple tablespoons extra flour at a time until the texture looks and feels right.
- Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly greased countertop and press it into a 6 X 12-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut the dough in half lengthwise (see pictures below). Then cut into 8 rectangular or square-ish rolls.
- Place the rolls onto a lined baking sheet, spacing 1-2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 45 minutes or so until puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Optional: put a baking stone in the oven while the oven preheats.
- Bake the rolls (placing the pan on the baking stone, if using) for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.
You really need instant yeast (not active dry) for this recipe since the yeast isn’t proofing in any water before using it in the recipe. Also, you can use bleached all-purpose flour but since I only ever use unbleached and that’s what King Arthur recommends, I put it that way in the recipe. Don’t forget to plan ahead for this recipe since the biga needs to rest for 12-20 hours!
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Recipe Source: very lightly adapted (mostly just method) from King Arthur Flour