There are a few things related to food that I am unwilling to compromise on. Some might call me picky but I prefer to call it discerning. One thing I am especially particular about is having good bread, for basically anything and everything that requires bread. Sandwiches of all kinds, burgers, gyros, anything with tortillas, whatever. Mushy and tasteless are terms that sadly apply to so many commercial breads, but that have no business being part of my sandwich. Honestly, this particular quirk of mine has been the motivation to learn how to make homemade versions of as many breads as possible.

It has taken me a long, long time to find a sub roll that fit my requirements but finally, here it is. It has a crisp but delicate crust, a tender crumb, and it is sturdy enough to stand up to whatever you choose to sandwich into it. Also, it won’t shred your mouth when you bite into it and it won’t take ages to chew – two more crucial qualities. Though they are best when made with an overnight rest as described below, I have successfully made them from start to finish in a day on multiple occasions. See the timing notes below for more info on that. And enjoy!

  • Yield 8 rolls


For the starter:

  • 2½ cups (320 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • ¾ to 1 cup warm water (about 100-105˚ F)

For the dough: 

  • 2½ cups (320 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¾ to 1 cup warm water (about 100-105˚ F)

Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
Hot water, for steam


  • 01

    To make the starter, combine the flour and yeast in a medium bowl. Stir in the water until a rough dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 3 hours.

  • 02

    Transfer to the refrigerator and chill overnight. In the morning, remove the bowl with the starter to the counter and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour before proceeding.

  • 03

    Add in the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, olive oil and ¾ cup of the water to the bowl with the starter. Stir together until a dough begins to form. (Alternatively, knead with a dough hook in a stand mixer on low speed.) Continue to knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes. If needed, add in the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough all dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

  • 04

    Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning once to coat, and cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.

  • 05

    Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Flatten each portion into a rough oval shape, then roll tightly into a torpedo shape. Pinch the seam shut and place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet, flattening the rolls to about 5½ to 6 inches long by about 2 inches wide.

  • 06

    Tent loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until the rolls are puffed and nearly doubled, about 1 hour.

  • 07

    Place a metal baking pan on the lower rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. When the oven is fully heated, pour hot water into the metal baking dish to create steam in the oven. Lightly brush the rolls with the egg wash. Use a sharp knife to create a shallow slash lengthwise down the middle of each roll.

  • 08

    Transfer the pan to the oven and bake about 17-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the internal temperature measures at least 190˚ F. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

  • 09


    • Though the outcome will be best with the overnight rest as described above, these can be made in a single day. Make the starter first thing in the morning, shorten the refrigerator time to about 3 hours, and proceed with the remainder of the recipe as directed.