Golden Gate bridge rolls

Golden Gate bridge rolls - white sourdough bread rolls, crusty and chewy.


prep 3 days       total 3 days 0:45


10 servings



For the sponge

7 oz. strong white flour
1/4 qt. warm water
5-1/3 oz. sourdough starter

For the dough

7 oz. strong white flour
1/2 tbsp. fine salt


The recipe for those who have a sourdough starter stashed away in the fridge – any wheat starter will do, at about 100% hydration so fairly sloppy. If you need to make it up first, here’s the recipe for the San Francisco starter, and this is the pineapple juice starter – which I used, as it was sitting in the fridge.

Refresh the starter, if you need to, on the day you make the sponge, but at least 8 hours earlier. Possible timing guidelines:

Day 1 midday – refresh starter
Day 1 night – make the sponge
Day 2 morning – make the main dough and bake

For the sponge, mix all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl with a hand whisk. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for 4-5 hours or overnight, but do get up rather early. It should get seriously bubbling.

Transfer the sponge to a standing mixer bowl (or use a hand-held mixer) with a paddle attachment. Add half the flour and beat for a couple of minutes on low speed, then for further 8-10 minutes on medium speed. Add the rest of the flour and the salt and beat with a dough hook attachment, or knead by hand, until the dough is stretchy, elastic and smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands or the sides of the bowl.

Tip it out onto a large tray and dust with flour. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour. After that time turn it out onto a floured surface, pat out gently to deflate it, fold it in half and then in three in the opposite direction. Return it to the tray, dust with more flour and keep warm for another hour.

Repeat the deflating and folding twice more, on the hour. Each time it will more and more impressively resemble a well-plumped up pillow! After the final rise turn it out onto the floured surface and flatten or roll out into a rectangle about 14 x 8 inch. If the dough keeps shrinking when you roll it out, leave it for 10 minutes to relax and then continue.

Using a pizza wheel or a dough scraper cut the dough lengthwise in two, then widthwise into 10 rectangular rolls. Lift them gently onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spaced about 2 inch apart. Cover the trays with a damp cloth and leave to prove for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat a baking stone or another heavy baking sheet in an oven set to 220C/450F/gas 8. Place another baking dish at the bottom of the oven, or prepare a spray bottle.

Transfer the rolls with the parchment onto the preheated stone or sheet, throw a very wet cloth onto the bottom tray or spray the inside of the oven with water and close it immediately.

Bake the rolls for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly golden – like the bridge…

Author's Comments

I visited in my favourite farm shop the other day, to get their best in the whole world eggs, local berries and the brand of butter that the Weather Man is partial to. NB the last nothing special, but I won’t be saying it too loud.

The farm shop is a bit hotchpotch inside, there is a strong whiff of manure outside and you have to take care not to run over a goose or a hen when you reverse out of the parking area. They also run a quaint little café selling old fashioned Victoria sponges and pies - and bread.

Now since approximately 2005 I have not bought a loaf of bread in the shop unless in high emergency or to measure up competition. But I saw and fancied some perfectly square and smooth, pale golden bread rolls they had there and of course: ‘I wonder how they are made?’

I didn’t find out because the knowledgeable and friendly lady who runs the shop was temporarily being substituted by a spotty teenager, neither friendly nor knowledgeable looking. But I worked out I could use something sourdough-ey as a base; tried, tested and favoured - my San Francisco style dough.

So I did. Good result - they didn’t crack, turned out just as crusty as I was hoping and the only thing left to do was naming them, after the dough they were built with.

As you can see, Alcatraz didn’t win the vote.

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