Culinary Connections | Scotland Germany Switzerland Finland

Small Breads


Through the backlit window pane of an artisan bakery, golden-brown buns are a tantilising sight, an invitation to indulge.

Generally made with high-gluten flours, a large ratio of butter or lard, fresh yeast and sugar with milk, salt, and an egg or milk glaze, the ubiquitous roll of Vienna was for many years the epitome of this type of bread.

In Aberdeen around the time that Viennoiserie was evolving in Paris, a flaky bread became popular with fishermen. Using the same technique for making croissants, the Rowie was neither crescent nor roll, and it was made with beef dripping. It was also excessively salty and is now exclusively authentic – a product of its time and not easily replicated in the domestic kitchen.

750 g strong white flour
500 g lard / butter or 50:50
360 ml water, lukewarm
30 g yeast
15 g salt
15 g sugar

Dissolve yeast in sugar and warm water, and leave to froth at room temperature.

Sieve flour and salt, add yeast water and work into a soft smooth dough. The low water ratio makes this a tough dough to work, about 15 minutes of hard kneading.

Cover the dough and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Degas, leave for an hour.

Cut the fat into small cubes, divide into three portions.

On a floured working surface roll the dough into a rectangle, about 40cm x 30cm.

Place the cubes of fat from one portion on two-thirds of the rectangle. Fold the non-fat end into the middle, and then again over the final third.

Leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered.

Roll the dough out again, repeat the process with the fat, folding and resting.

Dust the work surface with flour and roll the dough again, then divide it into 20 pieces (roughly 75 g each), shape into ovals or rectangles, arrange on greased baking trays.

Leave to rise until they have risen considerably.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Do not brown!

DDR Brötchen

Ostalgie, the nostalgic trend for the good old days of the German Democratic Republic, has brought with it a yearning for the simple traditional food once served in the cafes and canteens of Berlin, Leipzig and other East German cities. These breakfast rolls were soft and salty, and were made more often than not with margarine and whey.

250 g white flour
250 ml milk / whey
20 g yeast
250 g white flour
75 g sugar
25 g butter / lard / margarine
15 g salt

Dissolve yeast in a little of the milk or whey. In a large bowl stir remaining milk/whey into the flour with the yeast mixture. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Sieve second batch of flour into a large bowl, add salt and sugar, incorporate the butter, lard or margarine, then add the preferment.

Knead into a soft smooth dough.

Cover the dough and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Degas, leave for an hour, cut into 12 pieces (roughly 65 g each), shape into balls, arrange on baking trays. Cover.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

When they have risen, brush lightly with milk.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Assorted Breakfast Breads

The Aberdeen, Berlin and Vienna breads are plain compared with the bread rolls that are now prominent in Austria and Germany, and in Switzerland.

Among the assorted breads found in a Swiss bakery are small rolls containing multi-varied ingredients.

The secret to the success of these breads are flour combinations from the millers. For example:

Halbweissmehl is a semi-white flour made with barley flour, wheat flour and wheat gluten. It is used to make enriched breads.

Zopfmehl is strong white flour with barley, spelt and wheat gluten. It is used to make plaited bread.

Bakers also make up their own combinations, mixing spelt with strong white, maize with spelt, white with rye.

The results produce specialist yeast bread rolls like these:

wheat flour - apple juice and cream
semi-white, maize flours - apricots, 
butter, milk
kopf flour - butter, milk, spices and yoghurt
white, wholewheat flours - butter, 
herbs, milk
semi-white flour - potato, walnuts
white flour - baking powder, butter, 
gruyére cheese, milk
maize, spelt flours - curd cheese / quark 
and milk (also made yeast-free, with baking soda)
semi-white flour - milk, walnuts
kopf flour - butter, honey, kirsch and milk, 
and an egg-saffron glaze

This cornucopia reflects a trend with modern traditional baking in Europe, where the simple bun made with butter and milk is being gradually replaced by breads that cater for all tastes.


One of the most popular bread rolls in eastern Switzerland is the traditional bürli, an accompaniment to the wonderful milk-veal St Gallen bratwürst.

This is another bread made with prepared flour, bürlimehl, which contains wheat flour, wheat gluten, barley malt flour and acerola powder.

Handbürli are being preferred to maschinenbürli, the mass produced version, but they are difficult to make because the water content is high. They need careful handling. Don’t expect to get them right first time.

250 g strong white flour
250 g semi-white flour
400 ml water
5 g yeast

905 g pre-ferment
250 g malt barley flour
150 ml water
20 g yeast
10 g salt

Stir the two flours into the water and yeast in a large bowl. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Work malt, water, salt and yeast into the pre-ferment. Leave for a further three hours at room temperature.

Fold the dough onto a floured work surface, making sure that the air in the dough is not compromised by the action. The final result should be a soft elastic dough.

Preheat oven to highest setting.

Handling with care, cut dough into 80 g pieces. Place on floured baking trays. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

Reduce heat to 230°C, bake for 20 minutes, opening oven to allow residual vapour to escape, then bake for a further ten minutes.

This will produce dark crusts on the bürli. For lighter crusts reduce starting heat to 210°C and take out after 20 minutes.


Sugar buns is an inadequate description for these delightful breads.

500 g / 16⅔ oz zopf flour (or 300 g strong white 
flour, 195 g white spelt flour, 5 g barley malt 
165 ml / 5½ fl oz whole milk, lukewarm
1 egg, beaten
50 g / 1⅔ oz butter, softened
45 g / 1⅓ oz vanilla sugar
1 orange, zest
1 lemon, zest
45 g / 1½ oz pistachios, chopped
45 g / 1½ oz currants
20 g / ⅔ oz yeast
Saffron powder, pinch
Salt, large pinch

1 egg, beaten
45 g / 1½ oz pearl sugar

Dissolve yeast and saffron in half the milk. Leave to froth. Sieve flours into a large bowl with salt and sugar. Work in the butter, add remaining milk, yeast mixture and egg. Fold in the zest. Knead into a smooth dough, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Add pistachios and sultanas, knead, leave for a second hour. Degas, divide into equal pieces, around 80 g each. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.


And then there is the cinnamon bun of Finland.

1200 g strong white flour
500 ml milk
200 g sugar
100 g butter, softened
50 g yeast
30 g cardamom seeds, crushed
1 egg
1 tsp salt
100 g butter, softened/cream
100g cinnamon
100g sugar
Egg, beaten
Pearl sugar

Over a low heat bring the milk up to finger-touching temperature. Pour milk into a large bowl containing the yeast. When it froths stir in sufficient flour to make a loose paste. Add cardamom, salt, sugar and stir in the egg with remaining flour. Work in the butter.

Knead for 15 minutes until the dough stretches easily without breaking. Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Divide into two pieces.

Roll dough into a rectangle sheet, about one centimetre thick.

Cut second batch of butter into cubes, divide into two portions.

Place the cubes on the sheet, and with a wide knife, spread the butter in an even layer to the edges.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Starting at the narrow end, roll the sheet tightly, finishing with the seam underneath.

Repeat with second batch.

With a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough at an angle to make triangles, 5cm x 2 cm, for a total of twenty buns.

Turn each bun with the narrow side on top. With both thumbs squeeze the bun in the middle to make it bulge.

Remove buns to baking trays layered with greaseproof paper.

Leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Glaze buns with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Eat them slowly, they are a treat to be treasured.