A couple of times now I have attempted to make crusty rolls. I am hoping to get them nailed down this month. Both attempts had their successes and but neither was just right. The thing about bread is that there are a bunch of factors that determine its character–the type of flour, rising time, oven temperature, baking time, humidity, other ingredients. Change one and the whole thing changes.
I know that to get a good crust you need to keep ingredients simple–flour, water, yeast, salt, maybe a little sweetener to get the yeast doing its thing. You need to let it rise enough so its makes big air pockets. You need to bake it hot enough, and adding water makes a difference. I tried all those things and I will need to keep experimenting.
The first batch? I added some butter. I should not have done that I guess. And the temperature was pretty high. I added a good dose of steam as I added them to the oven to bake so that helped, and I brushed them with an egg white/water wash. Those were crusty. They had just the right combination of crunch on the outside and softness on the inside. They were, however, a bit dark on the top. I mean, they were not quite burned, but I would not call them golden brown.
The second batch looked far better, but I had not let them rise as much. The water I added to the oven may not have been as hot as well. So they looked amazing–brown and puffy. They had some crust crunch, but not a whole lot. The flavor, however, was spot on. So they were downright delicious but not quite what I was aiming for.
I was going to try again today but the time passed and suddenly it felt too late to give this project the attention I needed to give it. So maybe tomorrow I will give it another go. The dough will have no butter, the temperature will be hopefully high enough but not too high, I will give them enough time to rise and I will add boiling water to the oven right before I pop them in. Maybe I will get it right. If not, I still have half the month to try again.