Sourdough French Rolls

by - June 29, 2021

Sourdough French Rolls

In this recipe, I used Semola flour to prepare the Yudane dough but you may use regular bread flour too.  I love to use the Yudane Method as the bread usually stays fresh for longer compared with straight method bread.  

I was inspired by some of the Japanese Baker's small French Rolls.  They look rather cute and I enjoy watching the rolls open up during oven spring.

The texture is very soft with crispy crust and the Semola flour yields a sweeter bread too.  To be honest, the crust is only crispy while it is warm and it softens once cool.

If you have any questions regarding this recipe or any other post, please leave me a comment in the “LEAVE A COMMENT” link and I will reply you as soon as possible.


Yields:  6 rolls


Yudane Dough:
70g Semola Flour (Please use bread flour if Semola flour is not available)
70g boiling water

Sweet Stiff Starter (50% Hydration):
60g sourdough starter (100% Hydration), preferably use at its peak 
180g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
75g water
30g sugar (I used organic brown sugar)

Main Dough:
70g bread flour (I used Japan High Gluten Flour)
All stiff starter (above)
All the yudane dough (above)
5g brown sugar (I used organic brown sugar), optional
1 1/8 tsp (7g) salt
45g egg, whisked (from 1 medium egg),  please replace with water for eggless recipe
15g butter (room temperature) or olive oil

Parchment papers, baking stone/baking tray, lava stones

  1. Yudane:
    1. Add semola/bread flour in a bowl, pour the boiling water and mix well with spatula or spoon until no dry flour.
    2. Cling film and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.  I prepared the night before.
    3. Take out from the fridge 30 minutes before using to return to room temperature.
  2. Sweet Stiff Starter 
    1. Dilute starter with water, stir in sugar and mix in bread flour to become a dough.  Please use stand mixer with paddle attachment to mix if you find hard to mix with hand.
    2. Cover and let it ferment until tripled. I prepared a night before and leave it in aircond room (approximately 24 - 25C room temperature) overnight until tripled.  It took about 8 hours depending on your starter.  You can also prepare and leave on your kitchen counter, let it rise until triple in several hours and use at its peak.  The starter should look smooth and round dome.  It shouldn't have any dimples or it shouldn't collapse.
  3. Main Dough:
    1. Put all ingredients (except butter/olive oil), including all the stiff starter and yudane dough into a bowl of stand mixer.  I usually torn the stiff starter and yudane dough slightly.
    2. Slightly combine the mixture by hand with the paddle attachment before turning on the machine so that the flour will not splash out.  Using the paddle attachment, mix for 2 minutes or until all incorporated. This step is critical to prevent  an uneven mixed dough as the stiff starter is rather hard and a dough hook may not be able to mix it well enough.
    3. Change to hook attachment and knead for another 3 minutes or until the dough comes together. Add in butter and continue knead for 10 - 12 minutes or until reach window pane stage.  The whole kneading process, I stopped few times to scrape down the dough from the hook to be sure it is evenly kneaded and also to prevent the motor from overheating.
  4. 1st Proofing/Resting:  
    1. In the same bowl, let the dough rest for 15 - 60 minutes. Keep it covered with clingfilm or use a lid.  This dough I rested for 35 minutes and the dough rose slightly in 35 minutes.  (I did not find any big differences between 15 minutes to 60 minutes rest.  So, please follow your schedule).
  5. Shaping:
    1. Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface then divide dough into 6 or 8 equal portions. Please use a kitchen scale if you want to be exact.  
    2. Form each portion to a ball.  Please watch the video or diagram "How To Shape French Roll"
    3. Place rolls onto the parchment paper (cut same size as baking stone).  Make sure they are about 1 ½ to 2 inches apart. 
  6. Final Proofing:
    1. I made marks with a pencil about 1 cm away from the original size of the rolls.  Let the rolls proof at a warm place until the dough rise about double in size or when it reaches the pencil marks.   This one took approximately 2 hours at at room temperature of 30C.  The duration of proofing depends on your ambient temperature and starter.
  7. Baking:
    1. Preheat oven with baking stone and lava rocks at 200C (fan-forced) for 30 - 45 minutes before baking.  
    2. Once the oven is ready, score the dough.  Wet the blade with water for easy scoring.  Keep the blade at 45° angle, and make a quick and determined slash across the dough lengthwise. 
    3. Spray water on the rolls and bake immediately.
    4. Open the oven door, transfer the rolls together with the parchment paper with a big pizza scrapper onto baking stone.  
    5. Pour one cup of hot water into the lava rocks.  
    6. Close the door immediately.  
    7. Reduce temperature to 190C (fan-forced) and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
    8. Remove rolls from oven and let them cool on rack.
Note:  If lava rocks are not available, please use empty tray and pour hot water in it.  However, lava rocks is more effective to create steam.

Yudane Dough

Sweet Stiff Starter

Main Dough


A healthy starter is very crucial as advised by Baking with Gina.   It is advisable to feed your starter regularly if you want your bread to rise nicely and to use the starter (levain) at its peak.  A starter that is fed regularly will be more active in general.  If the mother starter is not strong, the bread dough will not rise a lot even though the starter is used at its peak.  

There are so many ways and methods of how to maintain the starter.  Below is my method of starter maintenance.  This is just for your reference. Please try and find a way or schedule that works best for you.

I bake almost everyday.  So, my starter is left at room temperature and I feed it twice a day every 12 hours at its peak when it is tripled.

10.00 am - at ratio 1:10:10 at room temperature 26C - 27C
10.00 pm - at ratio 1:10:10 at room temperature 25C - 26C 

I feed a very small amount of 1g starter + 10g water + 10g flour if I am not baking, so that I will not end up with too much discard.  When I am baking, I will feed the starter accordingly to make up the quantity required by the recipe to be baked. If I know that I won't be baking for a few days, I will then feed it only once a day at 1:10:10, transfer to the fridge when it is doubled, and feed again 24 hours later.

If you do not bake daily or if you bake perhaps once or twice a week, then you may place your starter in the fridge and feed once a week.  But, you will need to refresh your starter 2 days before the baking day. There is no way around this, sourdough baking takes planning! 

How I judge my starter is healthy?  My starter usually tripled in size (or at least double) in within 3 - 4 hours at room temperature (27C - 28C) for feeding ratio of (1:1:1 = starter:water:flour)

When is a starter at its peak?  My sourdough starter is usually at its peak when it is tripled in the jar. The surface of my starter looks bubbling and uneven.  It usually stays at its peak within 30 - 60 minutes before it starts to reduce/fall.  

Why use starter at its peak?  This is when the starter is most active and it will result in a better rise for your bread in general.  By the way, you can use when it is doubled/before its peak too.  But, not it starts to fall.

I used more levain (sourdough starter) in my soft bread recipe to get less sourness taste. This sounds weird right? More starter will make the dough rise faster and less time needed for the dough to digest and produce acids. The acids give the sourness taste. In resulting less acids produce and bread become less sour.

Gluten forms when flour comes in contact with water.  Hydration of the flour causes the sticky and stretchy protein to form, giving structure to the bread.  This makes your bread trap air and rise. 

Gluten in dough can be developed by autolyse, resting, kneading or folding.

The windowpane test is used to determine whether the dough has been sufficiently kneaded.  By gently pulling the dough (or you may pinch off some dough) and trying to stretch it into a thin membrane.  If you are able to stretch the dough paper thin and translucent  without tearing, then the gluten is fully developed.  However, if you can stretch it without tearing but the membrane is not transparent, then the gluten is not yet fully developed.  

However, from my experience not all the recipe can achieve a thin and translucent window pane stage easily.   For example low hydration and low fat dough.  For such recipes, a reasonable window pane is good enough and it can be left to rest. Gluten will continue to develop while resting.  Exercising restraint to not over-knead the dough prevents the gluten from being overworked and broken.   Some of you may have experienced the dough breaking during the second proofing.  It is because the dough is over kneaded. 

The total kneading time for me is usually 15 minutes at low speeds except brioche dough with high fat percentage or dough using liquid fat which usually takes a little longer (maybe 18-20 mins).

From my experience, I found that high hydration dough with high percentage of fat will be easy to stretch and achieve a paper thin windowpane stage.

For kneading, please regard the timing provided as an indication only. It is only meant as a guide.  Timing may differ depending on the brand of flour and electric mixer used. The protein content may vary from one brand of flour to another.

Why I use milk powder?  
  1. Milk or milk powder will enhance the flavour of the bread and make the bread texture softer due to the fat in the milk. 
  2. Milk powder is shelf stable and you can have it anytime when you want to use.  Unlike liquid milk you need to finish in certain days once is opened.
  3. The enzyme found in the fresh milk can weaken the gluten development in the bread dough. However, you do not have to worry about this if milk powder or pasteurized milk is used.
The right flour plays a very important role in bread making.   To achieve fluffy, soft and light bread, I used Japan High Gluten Flour in most of my bread baking.  The protein content is around  12 - 13%.

The liquid measurement given is also a guide.  It is advisable to always reserve some liquid and not add it all in one go.  This would give you the opportunity to adjust if necessary. If dough is too dry, add the reserve liquid one tablespoon at a time until the right consistency.  This is because each flour absorbs water and hydrates differently. 

Please note that the proofing timing may also vary depending on your climate, environment, flour and your starter. 

If you are unable to judge by just looking at the dough, you can do the finger poke test:

  1. Lightly press the side of the proved dough with your finger.  If it bounces back immediately without any indentation, it means the dough is under proved and needs more time before baking.
  2. If the indentation stays and it doesn’t bounce back, it means it has been over proved.
  3. If the indentation slowly bounces back and leave a small indentation, it is ready to bake. 
  4. There will be a final burst of rising once the bread is placed to bake in the oven and it is called oven spring. 
If your bread collapses or gets wrinkled on top after removing from oven, it could be because your dough over proved during the second proofing. Please proof until the tip of the dough just reaches the rim of the pan, around 80% - 90% in size.

Do also note that the baking temperature and timing provided are what works for my oven and should also be regarded as a guide only. Every oven behaves a little differently, so please adjust accordingly for your oven.

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  1. Can I knead with hands , it takes long to get window pane ?

    1. Hi, Thanks for reading this recipe. This recipe not suitable using hand kneading because of the stiff starter. Unless you have a very strong However, I never used hand kneading so I am not sure how long will it takes.

      Cheers :)

  2. Hi YL!
    One question: there is no líquid addition in the main dough?

    1. Hi, thanks for reading this recipe. Yes, I did not add more water in the main dough because most of the liquid are in yudane dough and stiff starter. I calculated egg as liquid too.

      Cheers :)

  3. Hi, I tried your recipe and it’s a success (less the crust) as I do not have lava rock/baking stone. Thank you for sharing such detailed recipe.. 🙂

    1. Hi, You are most welcome.

      Thanks for trying this recipe and sharing with me your feedback.
      You can use kitchen towel and hot water instead if you do not have lava rocks.

      Cheers :)