Nice buns – sourdough style.

Pull-apart rolls have always been part of our childhood, whether they were dinner table accessories during Thanksgiving, market bought for summer BBQs, or served at school alongside baked beans and mac ‘n cheese. These sourdough rolls take the classic soft roll and improve on the texture and, most importantly, the flavour.

Working with sourdough has opened quite a few doors for me. It is the current faddish bragging right – but sourdough items are nutritious in a way that makes them worth the extra effort and planning.
Plus, this particular recipe has a sweet, buttery, and curiously tangy profile that keeps you coming back for more.
You’ve been warned!

This is a simple recipe. Follow the steps and the weights!
Take your sourdough starter. Create a functional levain. Away you go!

Disclaimer Note: This is not a masterclass on starters and levain. The assumption is: you know the difference.

Fed Levain –
24 grams ripe sourdough starter
60 grams all-purpose flour
60 grams water
12 grams white granulated sugar

Roll ingredients

440 grams all-purpose flour
180 grams warm water
115 grams whole milk, cold
75 grams butter (softened)
23 grams granulated sugar
10 grams fine sea salt


Fed Levain – Add 24 grams of your ripe starter to a bowl. Add 60 grams all purpose flour and 60 grams warm (but not hot) water. Stir to combine. Add 12 grams (or less if you are inclined) granulated sugar to this mix. Combine. You can leave this on a counter for 2-4 hours until it starts to rise up in the bowl. Depending on your timing, you can put it in the fridge overnight. It will still need 2 – 4 hours to “come to life…”

When you are happy that your levain is perky and ready, get your main roll ingredients out and a suitably large mixing bowl.
Here is the order in which I add things – it may vary from the standard but the end result is the same.

Add 180 grams of warm water to your mixing bowl (Use a digital scale to make sure everything is exact!)
Add your levain. Gently mix these two together.
Add your milk.
Add your sugar.
Add your salt.
Add your 440 grams of all-purpose flour to this mix.

For this recipe I use a kitchen-aid mixer but you can do the following by hand if you want.
Mix for three to five minutes until the dough starts to unify and hang onto the mixing hook.
Add the butter in “tabs” or “portions” – just not all at once. Keep mixing until the butter is incorporated into the dough.

At this point you can leave the dough in the mixing bowl or transfer it into another vessel.

This will begin a 4 hour “bulk ferment”. If you have started all of this early in the day, the bulk ferment can take place in the bowl on a countertop in a reasonably warm kitchen – 71 degrees (F) or 21C. Things develop faster in a warmer space and slower in a cooler space. If you started this process in the early evening, you can bulk ferment overnight in a fridge for 8 hours or more.
Whichever way you choose, you need to do some stretch and folds on this dough to develop the gluten. If I am making bread during the daytime, I observe the following schedule: I do “pull and folds” or “Slap and folds” every 20 minutes for an hour. That is three “pull and folds” in one hour. And then two pull and folds over the next hour. And then one pull and fold in the third hour.

Obviously this is impractical if you are doing a refrigerated overnight bulk ferment. If you do an “overnight” then in the morning you should do a sequence of pull and folds. YouTube is a great resource for various pull, fold and slapping techniques for dough.

However you decide to do the bulk ferment and pull/fold combinations, you will still end up with a bowl of dough that has “risen” or increased 60 to 80% in volume. This is when you ready the dough for “segmentation” into 16 suitably sized balls (60g give or take) of dough for a greased (buttered) 9 × 13 glass casserole dish (2” deep generally).

I used a bench scraper for cutting off pieces of dough – but anything reasonably sharp will work.

Organize these balls of dough into the buttered casserole dish and don’t worry about them avoiding social distancing.
They are going to expand anyway – and when they are done, they’ll pull apart easily.

The Proof

For some, this is the hardest part of prepping dough for baking. How much time should pass during proofing before the dough is ready for the oven? You are going to need a minimum of 2 to 3 hours in a moderately warm kitchen (21C) and maybe longer. I did 4 hours of proofing and my buns were fine. The question remains: How do you know when the dough is suitably proofed?

My method is the poke test. The dough should raise by 60 – 80% by volume and pressing your finger gently into the dough should yield a slow 75% spring back. If it quickly springs back 100% it needs MORE proofing. If there is no spring back, then it is over proofed!


Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C) with a baking rack in the middle of the oven.

In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and a tablespoon of whole milk until frothy. Using a pastry brush, gently paint the egg wash onto the proofed dough in a thin, uniform layer.

Slide the pan with dough into the oven and bake for 25 minutes at 425°F (220°C). After this time, rotate the pan 180°, turn the oven down to 375°F (190°C), and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the rolls are golden brown. The internal temperature should be above 196°F – 210°F (93°C-96°C).

When baked, remove the pan from the oven, let rest 5 minutes, then turn the rolls out to a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.