Mexican Bolillos( Crusty Rolls) are the most famous savory bread in the country, and here I will teach you how to make them. Many years ago, long before the Internet era, my dear college friend Alma sent me an important letter. I could feel her excitement for the little surprise she was sending in that letter. It had two recipes, one for the famous sweet bread (“conchas”) and the other for the bolillos.
Pan Frances (Mexican Crusty Rolls)
She described how she spent an entire Saturday at her neighborhood bakery learning how to make bolillos and wanted to share the recipes with me, knowing how much I enjoyed cooking. When I started to work with this recipe, my bread was a mess, but throughout the years, with practice and tweaking the recipes, I finally had bread that resembled the one sold in Mexico.
I still have to keep practicing with it since it’s not that easy to make bread, precisely like those sold in bakeries in a home oven without the commercial flours and enhancers, but the texture, smell, and even the crunchy sound of the bolillos are there.
Frequently Asked Questions About Homemade Bolillos
Before I share my Mexican Bolillos recipe, here are a few questions about this recipe.
What are Bolillos?
This bread is also known as “Pan Francés,”; which is the equivalent of a French baguette. With the French intervention around the 1860s, the recipe was transformed and became the Mexican bread “bolillo”. It is also known as “Birote” and “pan Blanco” in some areas of the country.
At home, we love them with refried beans and queso fresco, in Tortas (sandwiches)
How to eat Bolillos
In Mexico, bolillos are consumed daily as molletes , tortas (Mexican Sandwiches), and even to make mole poblano and capirotada. Another favorite way to eat it is by slicing the bolillo bread with a sharp knife and toasting it with butter on a comal or pan. Toasted bolillos with butter (Pan con mantequilla) is my Mother’s favorite way to eat it, next to a cup of coffee.
How to make Bolillos
- Instant or active yeast
- All Purpose Flour or Bread flour
- All Purpose Flour
- Instant or active yeast
- Warm water
Make the Starter for the Bolillos:
- The night before baking, place yeast and water in a small bowl, stir and mix well, add the flour.
Prepare the Dough:
- Place the starter, flour, salt, yeast, and melted shortening in a large bowl or your heavy-duty stand mixer. Start kneading the dough with the dough hook, adding the warm water slowly at the beginning of the kneading process to mix it.
Let the Dough Rest:
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on your working surface to form a ball.
- Grease a large bowl with shortening, oil, or PAM spray. Place the dough and turn it all over to ensure all sides get a coat of grease. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours.
Form the Bread:
- After the dough has doubled in volume, gently push your fist to deflate it. Then, divide the dough into 10 pieces.
- To form the bolillos rolls, dust your work surface with flour very lightly, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand, fold ⅓ of the dough towards you and press down with your fingers, sealing it very well. Fold the dough again, repeating the sealing process until you form a roll, pinching the dough tightly. Make sure all the ends are sealed.
Note: To shape the bolillos, place your hands over the dough and press gently but firmly, cupping your fingers, and rolling back and forth.
Let the Formed Bread Rest:
- Place each bolillo/roll seam down on the greased baking sheet and cover it with a greased plastic. LINK to baguette pan.
Bake your Bolillos:
- Once the bolillos have doubled in volume, and just before placing them inside the oven, make a deep cut using a sharp serrated knife or a razor blade.
- Spray the bolillos with warm water, place them in a preheated oven and add 1 ½ cups of cold water to the metallic tray you placed on the oven floor. The steam will create that beautiful thin, and crunchy crust.
Take them out of the oven, let them rest for a few minutes, and enjoy!
How to store your Bolillos
Bolillos are better when eaten fresh or within a day of baking. If you have some leftovers, let them cool off and store them in an airtight container for up to three days. If you have bolillos past three days and still want to do a recipe with them, try Capirotada or Mexican Bread Pudding.
Please leave all your questions in the comments section, I will be happy to answer them.
More Mexican Recipes To Enjoy
Receta en Español Pan Francés.
Mexican Bolillos: Crusty Rolls
- ¾ cup of water (177 ml or 6 oz)
- ½ teaspoon instant or active yeast* (1.5 grams)
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour or Bread flour** (125 grams or 4.25 oz)
- 3 Cup All Purpose Flour (375 grams or 13.23 oz)
- 1 ½ teaspoon instant or active yeast (5 grams or 0.22 oz)
- 2 teaspoons of salt (11 grams or 0.40 oz)
- ¼ cup of shortening melted and cooled.*** (50 grams or 1.76 oz)
- 1 cup of warm water NOT HOT(235 ml or 8 fl oz)
For the starter:
- The night before baking, place yeast and water in a small bowl, mix well and add the flour. Mix again. You don’t need to knead here.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on your kitchen countertop all night or at least 8 hours. Making this starter will increase the flavor of your bread. The following morning the starter will have a larger volume and will have formed lots of bubbles.
Prepare the Dough:
- BAKING DAY. Place the starter, flour, salt, yeas,t and melted shortenin in a large bowl or your heavy-duty mixerg. Start kneading the dough, adding the warm water slowly right at the beginning of the kneading process.
- IMPORTANT: If you live in a very humid place, you will need to reduce the amount of water by about 2 tablespoons less than indicated. If using a mixer, knead for 7 minutes on speed 2; if kneading by hand, knead the dough for about 15 minutes. The dough will separate from your mixing bowl, as shown picture above, while kneading.
Let the Dough Rest:
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on your working surface to form a ball. It should look soft but still a little rough.
- Grease a large bowl with shortening, oil, or PAM spray. Place the dough and turn it all over to ensure all sides are covered with a coating of grease. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume. If you live in warm and humid weather, this step will take less time.
Form the Bolillos:
- After the dough has doubled in volume, gently push your fist in to deflate it. Divide the dough into 10 pieces. (About 110 grams each). Place the pieces of dough into your slightly greased working surface, cover them with a greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes to allow the gluten to develop and help shape your bolillos/rolls easier.
- To form the bolillos rolls, dust your work surface with flour very lightly, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand and fold ⅓ of the dough towards you and press down with your fingers, sealing it very well. Fold the dough again, repeating the sealing process until you form a roll, pinching the dough tightly. Make sure all the ends are sealed.
- Note: To shape the rolls, place your hands over the dough and press gently but firmly, cupping your fingers, and rolling back and forth. While doing this, press the heel of your hands to leave some dough uncovered to form the traditional bolillo ears.
Let the Bolillos Rest:
- Place each bolillo/roll seam side down on the greased baking sheet and cover with greased plastic. Allow them to rise until they’ve doubled in volume. It takes about 1 and ½ hours.
Bake your Bolillos:
- At least 20 minutes before the end of the rising period, turn on your oven at 450 degrees F. Place the metallic pan for the water on the oven floor.
- Once the rolls have doubled in volume, and just before placing them inside the oven, make a deep cut using a sharp serrated knife or a razor blade, holding your hand at a 45-degree angle.
- Spray the rolls with warm water, place them in a preheated oven and add 1 ½ cups of cold water to the metallic tray you put on the oven floor. The steam will create that beautiful thin, and crunchy crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool on a wire rack.
The bread keeps well for a couple of days in a plastic bag, or it can be frozen for up to a month. To reheat: thaw bread lightly, spray water, and place in preheated 400 degrees F oven until crispy. About 12-15 minutes until warm and crunchy.
- *If using active yeast, dissolve first with the water, mix well and let it proof for 5 minutes.
- **Bread flour will render a finer texture.
- You will need a large baking sheet, a metallic pan to place in the oven with water, a spray water bottle, and plastic wrap.
- I use a Baguette Pan for my bolillos, but a baking sheet or cookie sheet does the same job.
- Baking with yeast requires time to let the dough rise. Plan your day ahead of time to get the best results.