My goal with this recipe was to make a hoagie with a crispy (but not overly hard or tough) exterior and a very soft and flavorful interior. You may have different goals, and that's OK, I'm sure you'll find happiness somewhere else.
I suggest pairing this with pork butt confit, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. Cook for 22 hours at 165F with some lard, salt, garlic, orange, maybe oregano or whatever other accoutrements. Wait for it to cool, pull it, and then you can freeze it, and fry hard with some oil to serve for an extremely tender pork with a crispy crust (salt it to taste at the fry stage—it needs a lot of salt).
The pork is essentially carnitas meets a roast pork sandwich. And truth be told, I use the same pork precursor for these sandwiches and carnitas both. For the brocolli rabe, chop it up a bit (those big pieces of broccoli rabe are no fun), sauté with some salt, minced garlic, and red pepper.
If you hate sandwiches, I suggest making this recipe, cutting through the resulting rolls lengthwise, and eat it as bread. It pairs especially well with the butter in my gift guide. You can also turn them into toasts. Fresh avacado, sea salt, and Calabrian chili oil make an excellent toast topping.
A scientist and breadbaker friend, Sarah, thoroughly documented her process through this hoagie roll recipe in her Instagram Story, and I recommend checking it out. Please ignore everything that contradicts the exact wording of this recipe.
Everything but the semolina, rice flour, spray bottle, and lame are in the gift guide. You don't need to buy the exact items from the gift guide to make this recipe, but it's a good starting point for what you need.
The Jeweler's scale isn't strictly necessary, but it's useful for measuring smaller quantities of ingredients. I've never trusted the accuracy of measuring small quantities (less than 10g) with my larger OXO scale, so I use a Jeweler's scale for that. Do what you will.
My lame is fine, and you can buy that. I have not tested a bunch of lames. I don't know that it really matters. If you don't have a lame, you probably will want to get one, but a sharp knife will do in a pinch. Regardless, slashing is critical for letting the dough expand in a controlled manner.
I like rice flour for dusting a flour sack towel to cover the shaped rolls as they rise. If you can't buy rice flour, you can use a light dusting of regular flour instead. You can use a baker's couche instead, but it's not necessary. I like semolina flour for dusting the peel before launching.
And the spray bottle is my favorite way of keeping the oven (and dough) moist, which gets you the best rise and crust quality. You can try other methods, but they are not supported. Follow the spray regimen outlined in the end of this recipe.
King Arthur bread flour will get you a roll that has a tough, chewy exterior, the antithesis of what I wanted out of this recipe. Use bleached bread flour or King Arthur AP flour for my intended result lest you doom yourself.
As far as the yeast goes, this recipe was developed with SAF Instant Yeast. You can buy it at Sur La Table, some Restaurant Depot locations, and it’s on Amazon. Once the package is open, I throw it into a freezer bag and store it in the freezer. You can use it straight from frozen without issue—it’ll warm up quickly enough. If you can't get SAF Instant Yeast, buy some other “instant yeast” in the store. Instant yeast is not the same as active dry yeast, and I am not recommending the latter.
Since it’s customary to present a dough recipe in large quantities, this recipe four dough balls for 12-inch hoagies, at 400g of dough per hoagie. You can leverage the powers of mathematics to bring this down to fewer hoagies per batch, or make all four, bake them throughout the week, or bake them all, and freeze the ones you don’t eat—do not store breads or pizza in the fridge, lest you form disgusting retrograde starches that make the bread stale.
For kneading and shaping this dough, my preferred work surface is a freshly oiled and wiped (with food-safe mineral oil, which won’t go rancid) wood cutting board. If you follow the instructions of this recipe, the wood board should be very easy on which to work.
Mix the dry ingredients, stir, add the oil, and add the water. Mix until vaguely together. Knead by hand until almost smooth or throw into a stand mixer on “stir” for 10 minutes or so until nearly smooth. Do not use bench flour. Bench flour perturbs the recipe—power through it. Use your bench scraper to move the dough if it’s sticky, if you must. Do not use bench flour. Do not use bench flour. Power through it.
Remove the dough from your bowl using a bowl scraper, and be sure to remove all of the dough. Place the dough on your working surface. Knead the dough a few times, and then cover the dough with your mixing bowl inverted over the work surface (let’s not needlessly dirty new containers). Wait 30 minutes to an hour (stick closer to latter if your house is cold), and then split into each hoagie-sized portions. Use your bowl or bench scraper to remove the dough from the work surface if it’s a little sticky. Do not use bench flour. Knead each portion briefly, and form a ball.
Place each ball into a lightly oiled container. Size the container so that the dough has some room to grow. You don't want to use a completely airtight container, but a basic seal is fine. Place the dough in the fridge for one-to-three days. I’ve had it in the fridge for up to six days, and it was still fine.
I typically remove the doughs from the fridge before I go to bed, and then first thing in the morning, I shape the dough. I’ve found that in my approximately 67°F kitchen, it’s fine. If your kitchen is much warmer, you can take the dough out sooner relative to when you shape it, and drop the yeast quantity next time if you want to leave it out overnight. The key is for the dough to have warmed up fully by the time you shape it, but it’s very hard to over-proof. If you’re pressed for time, three-to-five hours at room temp should be enough time for the dough to warm up fully from the fridge (you may be able to get away with just two hours).
When the dough is ready for shaping, get a tea towel, and cover it lightly with rice flour, and put the towel aside for now. Take the dough, and on your bare work surface, flatten it and roll it into a 12-inch long log (be sure to pinch any seams when you’re done). If you do a poor job of shaping it, don’t worry, you can reball and start over without much worry, because, you didn’t use bench flour.
Proceed to roll the shaped dough in a small baking sheet full of sesame seeds, if you’d like to use sesame seeds (optional), and then place the shaped dough on a flour sack towel, and fold over the towel to cover the dough.
The hoagie dough will need to rise after it’s shaped for two-to-three hours.
I preheat my oven to 500F on convection bake at this point. with a stone on the middle rack of the oven. You’ll want to preheat an hour to an hour and a half prior to baking. I preheat after I’ve shaped the dough, so I don’t have to worry about hoagies again until l bake.
I prefer to bake one hoagie at a time, but do no more than two at a time.
Lightly cover your peel with semolina flour. Roll the dough onto your peel (carefully so it doesn’t fall on the floor) , and shake it a few times to make sure it moves freely.
Get a lame ready and dip the blade in water.
With the lame (or you can use a knife if you don’t have one), slash the dough vertically using the corner of the blade. Cut deep across the entire length of the dough.
Launch the dough into the oven, and immediately spray surface thoroughly with water.
Set timers for 2.5 minutes, and 5 minutes, and 12 minutes.
For the first two timers, open the oven and spray the roll with water.
Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. In general, if you’re nervous about doneness for a bread, you can test the interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Approximately 200F is a good goal. For this recipe, once it's golden brown, it should be fine.
When done, remove the roll, place it on a cooling rack, and spray lightly with water. Wait at least a half hour before cutting the hoagie roll.
When ready to serve, cut lengthwise with a good bread knife. Keep the roll uncut until you’re ready to use it. I prefer to cut almost all the way through, almost like a hot dog bun, rather than cutting the roll into two separate halves. The roll can then be folded open and stuffed.