Things to Remember
Source: The Bratwurst Pages
In Sheboygan, if you talk brats, you'll also be talking about the Semmel; a substantial, chewy roll with a delicately crispy crust. The Semmel is a close cousin to the Kaiser, but with a distinctive cleavage across the top. The baked Semmel is large -- about 4 inches in diameter and rises to about 2 inches in height. To make the single brat bun, shape the rolls like a hot dog bun before final rising and baking. The genuine Sheboygan Semmel is baked in a brick oven. In your home oven, your results may vary. A baking stone helps.
4 1/2 cups bread flour (approximate)
1 package dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
1 teaspoon malt extract
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon shortening
Rye flour for dusting
Measure 3 1/2 cups of flour into a mixing or mixer bowl and add the yeast, sugar, and salt. Stir to blend well. Pour in the warm water and malt extract. Mix for 1 minute with a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater until a smooth but heavy batter forms.
Add the egg, egg white, and shortening. Beat together until the mixture is smooth. If with the electric mixer, remove the flat beater and continue with a dough hook. Add flour -- 1/4 cup at a time -- until the dough is a solid but soft mass that can be lifted from the bowl, or left under the dough hook.
Knead the dough with a strong push-turn-fold motion for 10 minutes, adding liberal sprinkles of flour if the dough is wet. If in the mixer, the dough will clean the sides of the bowl and form a ball around the dough hook. If, however, it continues to cling to the sides, add sprinkles of flour.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside to double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Uncover the bowl and punch down the dough with your fingers. Cover the bowl again and allow the dough to double in volume again, about 45 minutes.
Place the dough on a floured work surface, roll it into a 12-inch long cylinder. With a sharp knife cut 12 pieces from the length (at every inch on the ruler).
Shape the pieces under a cupped palm into smooth rounds. Cover and allow to relax for 5 minutes.
Flatten each roll with your hand to about 1/2 inch thick. Dust lightly with rye flour. With a length of wooden dowel, a round wooden spoon handle, or a pencil, press a deep vertical indentation into the top of each roll. Press firmly and deeply, almost to the bottom (omit this procedure if shaping rolls into single-brat buns). As each roll is shaped, place it face down on a greased baking sheet.
Cover the rolls with a length of wax or parchment paper, and leave them at room temperature to rise -- slightly less than double in size, about 40 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the oven by placing a pan under the middle shelf. Twenty minutes before the bake period preheat the oven to 450 degrees, quite hot. Five minutes before the rolls are to go into the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water in the pan to form steam and provide a moist environment for the rolls. Be certain hot water is in the pan.
Uncover the rolls, carefully turn them right side up, brush them with water or spray lightly with an atomizer of water.
Place the pan on the middle shelf of the hot oven. Three minutes later lightly spray the interior of the oven -- not directly on the rolls.
Midway through the bake period turn the sheet around so that the rolls are exposed equally to temperature variations in the oven. They are done when crispy brown all over, in about 25 minutes.
Remove the rolls from the oven. If, after the rolls have cooled, they are not as crisp and crusty as you like, put them back into a hot oven for 10 minutes.
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