Crusty Herbed Olive Oil Rolls with Sunflower Seeds

For starters let me tell you that this was the one that almost got away… and it was nothing other than a Christmas miracle that saved it from certain disaster.

I’m a relative novice at bread making… considering that it takes years and years to master the art, and then you realise that there’s so much more to learn. But I’m in it for the long-haul, with plenty of enthusiasm and a burning desire to bake, bake, bake… but I try not to leave things to chance. So every time I put some dough to prove, I’m crossing the air and invoking the good Lord to ‘give me this day my daily bread’. So far so good.

But I suppose even the good Lord can be wicked on occasion and mess with a fledgling baker… just for a few laughs.

It happened two nights ago. I couldn’t sleep, the Christmas cake done… its heady aroma still lingering in the air, so I figured I may as well get out of bed and prep some dough for a batch of bread the next morning. Now, I’ve been dying to bake olive oil bread rolls, so decided to go ahead and bake a batch using dried herbs (I used oregano and parsley) and some toasted Sunflower Seeds.

I activated the yeast (fresh yeast) in warm water and sugar, added in the flour, some milk powder, the dried herbs, some of the sunflower seeds, salt and the olive oil. Mixed it, crossed the air as always and kept it in a place I’ve used before for proving the dough… and slept. Woke up the next morning and… the dough was the way it was when I put it in… damn!

Now Mumbai isn’t cold by any standard even in December, but it’s been cooler this year… and I guess 2 am isn’t the time to be proving dough in a cool and draughty kitchen. So I added an additional 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to warm water, with a pinch of sugar and a little olive oil… bunged it into the dough… knead it around a bit… and stuck it into a slightly warm oven which I had used and turned off a half hour before… and left it there for a couple of hours… and that’s when it happened.

The dough took on this gorgeously puffy aerated look and doubled in size. All I had to do was knock it back, flour the board, knead it for about 5 minutes, and roll it out to form thick cords, which I eased into muffin trays dusted with cornmeal.

Now someone may say – that’s elementary… but hey! I’m a relative novice at bread making.

Brushing the tops of the rolls with paprika infused olive oil, and sprinkling on some more sunflower seeds and parsley.

Allow the rolls to stand for about 30 minutes before baking them in an oven preheated to 220 degrees C for 15 minutes. Cover the top with aluminium foil and spray the oven walls and floor a couple of times to help the rolls get a nice crust. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or the rolls turn golden brown and the edges turn crusty.

You may brush the tops with egg-wash at this point, just to ensure that the sunflower seeds sprinkled on the rolls stay on the bread once they’re removed from the oven. But this is entirely up to you. If you do brush with egg, then bake for an additional 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove the muffin trays from the oven and transfer the rolls into a breadbasket to keep them warm.

Oh by the way… the muffin tray ended up being a great idea, as the steam made the bottoms of the rolls really crisp and crunchy.

So cut into one and drizzle on the extra virgin olive oil or eat it as it is…

Or you can slice it across the middle, put in a pat of butter, a smear of mustard and a couple of slices of salami… and take a nice big bite.

And remember… that what may seem like a disaster can at times turn into something incredibly delicious and even better than you anticipated.

Here are the ingredients –

1 ½ – 2 teaspoon fresh yeast

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoon for brushing tops of rolls (mixed with ½ teaspoon paprika)

2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt + extra for sprinkling on top of rolls

3 ½ cups flour + extra for dusting

3 tablespoon dried milk powder

3 teaspoon dried oregano

3 teaspoon dried parsley + extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoon sunflower seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on top

1 egg for brushing tops (optional)

¾ to 1 cup warm water


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