Introduction: Spice Rolls ( or the Story Of: ‘If You Can’t Buy Them, Bake Them!’)

About: When things don't go the way I want, I still hear my father say: ‘There is no such word as can’t.’ The things I make, I make thanks to him. He taught me how to bake and paint and everything in between, I got h…

Last Christmas I wanted to bake spice rolls. Spice rolls come in many varieties and countries. In the Netherlands they are a delicacy from Rotterdam and surroundings. They can not be found outside Rotterdam and surroundings and they are sold less and less in Rotterdam because the fame drops.

The story goes that spice rolls, because they are pink / red in color, remind us of the bloody animal sacrifices around Christmas in earlier times. The spice rolls are therefore also called blood rolls. They are also sometimes sold and eaten around Easter. The Rotterdam spice rolls are certainly not to be found abroad, so I had to make them myself.

Now I have a lot of bread recipes but not one for spice rolls. So I tried to find a recipe on the internet and I immediately ran into a problem. The spice roll is made with the so called ‘Rommelkruid’. 

Rommelkruid is a mixture of herbs and spices that was often used in the past. I have tried to translate ‘Rommelkruid’ but then you get ‘junk herbs’ or ‘mixed herbs’. So I stick to ‘Rommelkruid’. After all, mixtures such as Ras el Hanout and Garam Masala are not translated either.

In the past, every baker or butcher used to have his own recipe. It was not only used in bread and biscuits, it was also used in sausage, such as the Groningen dry sausage that is still made and Balkenbrij (a meat product from offal). Sandalwood was omitted for sausage and Balkenbrij and additional extra nutmeg was added. Because these products are hardly made anymore, it is also difficult to find Rommelkruid. It is possible to order online, but it will either be sold out or they will not ship outside Europe and you won’t be sure you get the right mixture.

There are a few different mixture recipes on the internet, but these are especially suitable for Balkenbrij, but not for spice rolls. Therefore, I started mixing myself and after baking many batches of spice rolls I finally have found a spice mix that approaches the taste reasonably well. Only the sandalwood could not be obtained, while this provides the red color, so I replaced it with red food-dye. Furthermore, I could not find fennel and licorice root but fortunately they had licorice tea with only 100%  licorice root  and fennel tea with 100% fennel with the natural products. A coffee grinder or mortar then offers a solution.

I ended up with the following herbal mixes. The following amounts together make up about 30 g of spice mix. Because of the many tests they were not in time for Christmas but that does not really matter, they are always delicious and we now have them at Easter.


 3 tsp aniseed 
 3 tsp fennel seed (4 teabags)
 1.5 tsp allspice
 1.5 tsp liquorice (2 teabags)
 0.5 tsp cloves
 0.5 tsp mace
 0.5 tsp nutmeg
 0.5 tsp white pepper
 0.5 tsp black pepper
 1.5 tsp cinnamon
 0.5 tsp cardamom
 0.5 tsp dye or 2 tsp sandalwood
 0.5 tsp garlic powder

You can make the rolls of every white bread dough but I prefer this one:

Pre dough:
 225 ml of water, room temperature
 3 grams of dry yeast
 225 grams of wheat flour
 10 grams of sugar

 30 grams of melted unsalted butter
 1 large egg, beaten
 20 grams of sugar
 4 grams of dry yeast
 8 grams of salt
 14 to 15 gr Rommelkruid
 275 grams of wheat flour
150 grams succade (candied peel)

Baking paper
Plastic wrap or tea towel

Step 1: Make Spice Mix

Grind any coarse herbs and seeds finely in a coffee grinder or mortar. Combine all spices in a bowl and stir well. Finally, add the coloring powder and mix well. Using a funnel, pour the spices and herbs into a glass jar and seal tightly. You now have about 30 grams of spice mix enough for two batches of spice rolls or a batch of spice rolls and two batches of spice biscuits.

Step 2: Making the Dough

Pre dough
Mix wheat flour, yeast, water and sugar in a bowl.  Cover and let rest for about 1 ½ hour till you have three times the amount.

Add to the pre dough: melted butter, sugar, egg and yeast. Stir well with a spoon.  
Add to wheat flour: the salt and the Rommelkruid and stir well with a spoon until all the spices are evenly mixed with the wheat flour. 
Add wheat flour mix to the pre-dough, stir a little with a spoon and then knead in 10 to 15 minutes to a smooth dough, use gloves to avoid red hands. If the dough is too wet, add some flour or if the dough is too dry, add some water.

Place the dough in a grisco-greased bowl and spray a little grisco on top of the dough. Cover the bowl. Let rise until the dough has doubled in about 1 hour.

Step 3: Making the Rolls

Rinse the succade in a colander and pat dry.
Pour the dough onto the work surface and press the air out of the dough, making a rectangle. Sprinkle 2/3 of the sucade on the dough but keep about an inch from the edge. Fold 1/3 in half and fold the other side over it, see photo. Turn the dough, press again into a, but now small, rectangle. Sprinkle the remaining sucade on the rectangle and fold in three again. Return the dough to the bowl and allow to rise to double volume again in 45 - 60 minutes.

Pour the dough into a lightly greased workplace. Divide into 12 to 14 equal pieces, each piece weighs about 80 grams. Make rolls in the form of a small hot dog bun and round them up. Place the rolls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and spray a little grisco over the rolls.

Cover the rolls, at room temperature, and let double the volume in 45 - 60 minutes. The dough has risen enough when you press it with your finger and the dough slowly bounces back.

During the last 10 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 220 ºC.  Bake the rolls in 12 to 15 minutes. Brush the rolls immediately after baking with melted butter. Let cool on a rack.

Enjoy your Rotterdam spice roll or in Dutch: Geniet van je Rotterdamse kruidbroodje!

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