These lovely little sandwich rolls were a weird and amazing idea I came up with after spending an hour making corn tortillas from scratch for lunch this weekend. Seriously if you haven’t done that yet, you really have to – the time-consuming part is rolling them out, but there’s nothing to the dough (if you buy the instant masa, which is pretty much how it’s sold in most places in North America) and they taste phenomenal. Honestly I didn’t like corn tortillas before I made my own. Since going gluten free, I’ve learned to like them elsewhere… But I still vastly prefer making them at home.
Anyway, I digress. I’d read about arepas, a South American masa bread that can be used for sandwiches. And I was enjoying the flavor and pliability of my fresh tortillas. Arepas and tortillas just use different ratios of the same ingredients, but all the recipes I could find were very very simple. And I thought, “Why not make a yeast bread roll, like a cross between an arepa and a hamburger bun?” What a strange idea, I thought, and decided to google it. If course no idea is ever completely original. I searched for every variation of yeast, masa, roll, and arepa I could possibly think of, but I couldn’t come up with a single recipe for what I wanted to do.
So it’s entirely possible that I’m the first person to ever put together this combination.
Which is actually incredibly exciting.
I started off using Michael Ruhlman’s bread ratio (which usually serves me well for gluten free baking) but found that masa absorbs a ton more water than regular flours. After a little trial and error and lots of kneading, I found a ratio that worked better for me. I also added a little buckwheat flour – mostly because I wanted a little backnote of the buckwheat flavor (it’s really lovely) – but also because it contains both more fiber and more protein than masa. This makes a really lovely, slightly sticky but totally shape-able roll. Yes, I said shape-able. These actually hold their shape really well when baking, too. And afterwards? They’re soft, chewy, light, and tender. Even the next day. They don’t fall apart. Let me repeat that: no disintegrating at the first bite into one of these rolls! They’re everything gluten free bread usually isn’t.
Oh yeah, and they taste faintly of corn, but not unpleasantly so – it’s not like you’re biting into a thick tortilla. More like your tortilla got crossed with a roll. Exactly my goal. In short, I’m really impressed at their awesomeness.
Elisa’s Masa Harina Yeasted Sandwich Rolls
- 10 g yeast
- 15 g sugar
- 600 g warm water (NOT hot – warm enough to bathe a baby is what I always say -you want to activate, not kill, the yeast!)
- 50 g buckwheat flour
- 300 g masa harina (instant corn flour for tortillas – they have a similar flour for tamales but I think it’s coarser)
- 100 g arrowroot starch (or your favorite starch)
- 10-15 g salt (we found that 15 g was just slightly too salty for us, since we usually like just a little touch of salt, but definitely wasn’t unpalatable or even salty at all, compared to most commercial breads)
- 30 g flaxseed meal
- 2 eggs
- 75 g oil (I used olive oil, but you can use any cooking oil you like)
This is a yeast bread, so if you haven’t baked a yeast bread before, please see my notes on baking with yeast on my personal blog (this was written before I went gluten free so I apologize for all the gluten talk! It’s still a really excellent explanation of the steps… I’ll probably have to copy it over here too so it’s all in one place!).
Place yeast and sugar in a medium bowl and pour in the warm water. Once the yeast has bloomed, add all the remaining ingredients. This is also the time for you to add any seeds, herbs, or other flavorings you’d like in your rolls. Mix everything together well. Gluten free bread really does best with a large spoon (rather than your hands, which were my preferred tool when I was baking with wheat) because the dough is quite sticky. Because the masa soaks up so much water, this dough is less sticky than you’d think, but it still does stick to your hands. To avoid getting frustrated, I use the biggest spoon I can! Mix until the dough seems uniform and then knead a few times to make sure everything is well-incorporated.
Once all your ingredients are mixed into your dough, you can start shaping. You don’t need to let this dough double in the bowl! First, get yourself a little bowl of cool water and dunk your hands into it. The water helps your hands not to get too stuck with dough – trust me, it works! Divide the dough into 8-12 equal pieces (depending on whether you want big hamburger bun size or not). I flattened my buns probably more than I should (you can see how flat they baked) – keep yours a little thicker than you think you need to, unless you want the gluten free equivalent of a sandwich thin!
Place your rolls on a cookie sheet and let them rise for 15-45 minutes. In 15 minutes you dough will just start to puff, and it will work just fine for a quick sandwich roll. In 45 minutes you’ll get a fluffier roll. Just be careful when you’re putting your pan in the oven, because the more jostling you do, if you’ve let the dough rise a long time. the more these will fall! Just be sure to preheat your oven to 450 degrees at least 15 minutes before you plan to bake the rolls!
Bake your rolls for 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees or until lightly golden brown, and enjoy!