For that kind of goodness, challah just won't do. Brioche is just too soft. Pile up some excellent thin-sliced roast beef with a nice sharp mustard, and they become mushy and just fall apart. Sometimes the simplest is exactly what we need. Classic French bread, also used for baguettes, is as simple as it comes, almost. When divided into small roll-sized portions it is unbeatable for snack time. The following recipe for hard crusty rolls is an adaptation of a classic recipe for French bread but adapted to make rolls. Note there is no sugar or eggs. Like the ciabatta from the previous posting, it uses a starter (called a poolish) that is allowed to ferment overnight. The actual baking takes place the next day. A word of warning that may be irrelevant... Because there is no sugar or eggs they dry out quickly and rarely last more than two days. I say this is irrelevant because they will almost certainly be gone in one sitting. If you need to store them, use a paper bag, it will keep the crust nice and crunchy (but they dry out more quickly). Enjoy!!
Here what you'll need:
For the starter (poolish)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
Mix all these ingredients together until smooth and then let it sit, at room temperature overnight.
For the dough you'll need:
3 1/2 cups (approx.) bread flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
Mix the poolish with the dough ingredients and knead until you have a cohesive dough. It should not be completely smooth. Then, cover and let it rise for about 3 hours. De-gas the rising dough about once every hour.
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Brush egg white and water mixed over the rolls just before placing them in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If you want an extra crunchy crust, you can let them cool in the oven (just like the ciabatta). Now, load them up with lots of goodies! Bon Appetit!