You know those super squishy, soft-crusted rolls from Subway? Well, I made gluten free Subway-style sandwich rolls, and they’re fantastic.
These are maybe the softest sub rolls I have ever made (although the Hoagie Rolls from page 135 of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread are still a big-time favorite of mine and I will make them again and again this summer, no doubt).
Believe it or not, I’ve been working on this recipe for weeks. Who knows if they really do have ground up yoga mats in their sandwich bread or not (urban myth?), but Subway rolls are just so, so soft and (frankly) delicious in their own way.
They’re not the super crusty artisan bread that I do know and love (hello No Rye Rye Bread (page 101) for the perfect reuben (page 263)!). But I do adore them for what they are.
Other than the perfect balance of ingredients including our gluten free bread flour blend, the secret to the super soft crust of these gluten free sandwich rolls? Covering the warm rolls with a tea towel for 30 minutes right out of the oven. Steam heat!
Even though I finally settled on the perfect recipe for these rolls, I actually had something else planned to post today (I’m gonna be a brat and not tell you what it was, but I do love you still). And then?
Then I woke up to the New York Times Dining Section today. They’re calling it “The Bread Issue.” I’m not gonna link to it because I’m too angry (don’t worry—I know the Times does not need my referral pageviews, but somehow, I just can’t … link).
They wax poetic all about the glory of slow-fermented yeast breads, including all kinds of lovely tidbits about flours. But do they mention artisan-style gluten free bread at ALL?? I won’t keep you in mock-suspense. They do not.
In fact, the only mention of gluten free (okay I haven’t read every single word of the whole section, but this is the only one I’ve found) is of the new “Wholesome Cup4Cup” all purpose gluten free flour blend (with ground flaxseed and rice bran—I’ll give it a try when it comes out and let you know what I think).
But the real zinger? The quote that has me literally shaking as I type this? (Sorry for the drama but I’m actually being literal!): “With the addition of cream of tartar, egg whites and more xanthan gum, you can also use it in yeast baking, but don’t expect it to mimic wheat flour.” That’s what they said.
They think that’s the best we can do! Oh my goodness please please please tell everyone you know that that is NOT the best we can do. Go forth and bake amazing gluten free bread.
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
If you prefer, you may make and use this dough on the same day. It will not be as easy to handle, however, but you can work with it. To use the dough the same day it is made, after making the dough, set the covered dough to rise in a warm, draft-free environment to allow it to rise to double its size (about 1 hour).
Once it has doubled, place it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until it is chilled. This will make it much easier to handle. Then, continue with the rest of the recipe instructions.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the flour, instant yeast, cream of tartar and brown sugar, and use a handheld whisk to combine well (working out any lumps in the brown sugar). Add the salt and whisk again to combine well. Add the milk and butter, and mix on low speed with the dough hook until combined. Raise the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes. This is a lovely, smooth, enriched dough. It climbs up the dough hook during kneading but remains intact and smooth. Spray a silicone spatula lightly with cooking oil spray, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or proofing bucket large enough for the dough to rise to double its size, spray the top of the dough with cooking oil spray, and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap (or the oiled top to your proofing bucket). Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. (See Recipe Notes)
Preparing the dough for shaping. On baking day, line a large rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside. Turn out the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using the scrape and fold kneading method and a very light touch, sprinkle the dough with more flour and knead it lightly, sprinkling with flour when necessary to prevent it from sticking, scraping the dough off the floured surface with a floured bench scraper, then folding it over on itself. Repeat scraping and folding until the dough has become smoother. Do not overwork the dough or you will incorporate too much flour and it will not rise properly.
Shaping the rolls + the final rise. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, each about 8 ounces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (covering the rest loosely with a moist tea towel to prevent it from drying out), pat into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick and about 5-inches long. Fold the rectangle along the length from bottom to top, each fold halfway up the width of the rectangle. Fold the now smaller rectangle in half, each side just folded over one another. Roll the dough back and forth to seal the edges and to elongate it slightly until the dough is about 6-inches long. For a visual guide to shaping hoagie-style rolls such as these, please see this post from my trip to Minnesota (scroll down a bit).Place the shaped rolls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet, and dust lightly with flour to give the dough a “cloak” to rise into. Cover the baking sheet with oiled plastic wrap (be sure to leave the dough room to rise under the plastic), and place in warm, draft-free location to rise only until about 1 1/2 times its original size (about 40 minutes). You don’t want a full doubling here.
Bake. As the dough is in its final rise, preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the dough has finished rising, uncover it, and slash each roll in 3 places with a lame or very sharp knife at a 45° angle, and about 1/2-inch deep (you want deep slashes). Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is very puffy, just beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (yup, really. the toothpick test is actually more useful here than an internal temperature test). Remove from the oven and immediately cover the entire baking sheet with a clean tea towel, tucking the ends of the towel under the baking sheet to create a loose seal. Allow the bread to cool for at least 30 minutes under the towel. This will soften the crust to the squishy, Subway-like texture we are looking for. Uncover, slice and serve with your favorite sandwich fillings.