Witte bolletjes

Our love for all things bread started early, around 4500BC, when a tribe of growers settled in the valley of southern Limburg and started growing grain. Slowly the grain selection expanded as wheat came in from France and rye from the German neighbors, causing a variety of breads, porridges and puddings to make their way onto the Dutch table.

The best soil for growing grains was (and still is) in the province of Zeeland, already famous for its quality flour in the twelfth and thirteenth century. Other provinces such as Friesland, Groningen and even Northern Holland tended to have a wetter soil and proved more beneficial for pasture land than cropland. Those provinces were often dependent on the import of grains from neighboring countries.

Besides wheat and rye, the Dutch also grew combinations of grain. Masteluin, a mixture of rye and wheat, provided the basis for a bread of the same name. Rye mixed with oats was called mancksaet and rye with barley spilkoren. All these grain mixes provided heavy, chewy, dark bread, that fed the masses of hard workers. White bread was limited to the wealthy and was nick-named "professor's bread" in the city of Leiden, birthplace of the first university in Holland in 1575, indicating that only the educated and affluent people were able to afford it.

Bread is a common theme in Dutch etymology. "Wittebroodsweken", or "white bread weeks", refers to the honeymoon period, those first six weeks after the wedding when a couple is still enjoying the festive and unique character of the celebration.

White rolls are used for broodje frikandel or broodje kroket, for lunch boxes and to grace the table on a sunny Sunday morning for breakfast. Elongated breads, called puntjes, are the hotdog bun by choice or serve as the foundation for a puddingbroodje. Round ones, bolletjes, hold savory slices of cheese and tomato, juicy sheets of roast beef with slices of red onion, or peanut butter and hagelslag...... Such a simple bread, and yet so versatile. Makes 12 rolls.

Witte bolletjes
4 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (15 grams) salt
1 teaspoon (5 grams) sugar
1.5 cups (350 ml) milk
2 teaspoons (8 grams) active dry yeast
4 tablespoons (55 grams) butter, room temperature

For the wash
1 small egg
4 tablespoons milk

Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Warm the milk to about 120F/40C, add the butter and set aside to melt. Sprinkle the yeast over the dry ingredients in the bowl, and mix in the warm milk and butter. Knead the dough for a good ten minutes, until the dough is well mixed and pliable but holding together and smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until almost doubled in size.

Brush the risen rolls before
they go into the oven
Punch down and divide into 3oz (85 grams) rolls. Grease a 9 1/2″ x 13″ (24 x 33cm) baking pan or add a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, and place the rolls in the pan, leaving about an inch of distance in between in the rolls. If you want high rolls, keep the inch, if you want flatter rolls, increase the distance. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.

Brush the rolls with the egg/milk wash, bake at 375F/190C for about twenty minutes, or until done (internal temperature is 190F/85C and rising. Remove pan from oven, set aside and place the rolls on a rack to cool. When cooled, wrap to avoid drying out.

Now slice open a roll, smear with butter  and add some good cheese or sandwich meat and enjoy this little luxury!


  1. oh oh oh oh... these I definitely have to make.... but then I also have to make frikandellen.. and.. and... :) Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Dit recept vandaag geprobeerd. Maar ergens is iets fout gegaan. Het deeg was erg nat/plakkerig, na de eerste keer rijzen was het minder. De broodjes rezen niet zoveel als ik had gehoopt. En het eindresultaat: te compact en na meer dan 1,5x de oventijd die jij had aangegeven waren sommigen nog steeds niet helemaal gaar van binnen... Mijn conclusie: ik ben een 'light scooper' en had iets meer bloem moeten toevoegen.
    Maakt het een groot verschil als je gebruik maakt van melk ipv water icm powdered milk?

  3. Jacodien, melk ipv water met poedermelk maakt geen verschil. Wellicht is er iets misgegaan met de gist. Active dry yeast werkt het best met warme vloeistoffen, rond de 115F. Misschien was de melk te koud, of heb je gist wat iets ouder is en niet meer goed werkt. Lees even op het pakket hoe het het beste toegepast kan worden en op welke temperatuur, of probeer een theelepeltje gist in een kopje warm water: laat het zo'n tien minuutjes staan en kijk of er een schuimkraag op het water komt. Zo ja, dan is de gist goed en hebben de bolletjes misschien te koud of te warm gestaan. Te koud weerhoudt de gist ervan om verder te werken en die mooie gassen aan te maken die het brood zo luchtig maken. Te warm droogt het deeg aan de bovenkant uit en kan het deeg niet met de gassen mee rekken. In beide gevallen krijg je dan harde bolletjes: van binnen EN van buiten, en dat willen we niet!

  4. Hi there, what lovely and interesting insight into Dutch cooking, thank you very much. But would you have the measurements in grams?

  5. Hi Nicole, I love your website and have made several of your recipes! I made these yesterday and they came out very dense. I let the dough rise twice, once in the bowl for an hour and again when they were rolled. The taste is delicious, but they were very heavy. Did I do something wrong?

  6. Hi Izzy, I don't think you did anything wrong. Usually if they rise well, but are still dense, there is too little liquid or too much flour. I'm glad the flavor was good. I'm thinking about redoing this recipe and posting the amounts in grams or ounces as well as cups, would that be helpful? A cup can have sometimes up to 15% more flour, depending on who scoops, which would throw off the measurements significantly.

  7. Yes that would be great! I have done recipes where I weigh the flour and it comes out so much better! Thank you!


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