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May 27, 2023

Spaccatini Rolls | Little Cleft Rolls

Spaccatini rolls are lean crusty Italian buns that have a split down the middle. While the only ingredients are flour, water, salt, and yeast, they are totally flavorful from the overnight rise. 

Spaccatini Rolls in a basket with a plate in front with one roll.

These spaccatini rolls are wonderful with a salad, soup, or a pasta dish, just as I imagine they might be enjoyed in Italy. 

According to The Italian Baker by Carol Fields, these Spaccatini rolls originated from Lugano, Switzerland. These rolls have a little split down the center that you form by pressing down on the dough with the handle of a wooden spoon or a dowel. 

Spaccatini Rolls on a baking sheet.

They kind of look like little tushies, don't they? 

The Biga: 

These rolls have a soft crumb and a thin chewy crust. To develop a wonderful flavor, you make these by beginning with a good amount of biga, which is a starter made from flour, water, and yeast that you make the day (or two) before and allow to rest. 

Biga is often found in recipes for Italian breads, and the method was developed to give strength to Italian flours that were perceived to be weaker. It also brings out the flavor of the wheat. 

It will definitely grow and become all bubbly with well-developed strength. 

Spaccatini Rolls in half to show the crumb.

A biga is different than a poolish (which is a French-style starter) because it has a higher ratio of flour to water (60 percent hydration), while the poolish typically is 100 percent hydration by weight. 

A biga is different than a sourdough starter in that you don't have to maintain it. You just make it, let it ferment from 12 to 24 hours, and then use it. In addition, a sourdough starter does not contain any commercial yeast, while a biga contains a tiny bit (about one percent). 

The final dough for these spaccatini rolls contains a fairly high percentage of biga, 75 percent. 

Basket full of Spaccatini Rolls.

Procedure for Making Spaccatini Rolls:

The day before you make the rolls, make the biga. Combine all of the ingredients (flour, water, yeast) in a two-quart or larger bowl and stir them pretty vigorously with a spoon, your hand, or a Danish dough whisk. I usually start with a dough whisk and then finish with my hand. 

Cover the bowl and let the biga rest for 12 to 24 hours. It will likely triple in size. 

The next day, mix the biga with water and yeast in a stand mixer or by hand, and then add the salt and flour and knead by hand or machine for about five minutes. 

After that, cover the dough and let it rise until doubled. This should take about 1 to 2 hours. 

Once the dough has risen, divide it into 16 pieces, form them into balls, and then press the centers all the way down with a thin dowel, chopstick, or spoon handle. Proof the rolls, split side down, for about an hour, until almost doubled. 

Flip the rolls over and reemphasize the split. I used the end of a wooden spatula and gently pressed it into the split. Bake the rolls in an oven set up for steam for 20 to 25 minutes. You can also spray the oven interior with a water mist right after placing the rolls in the oven. 

Spaccatini Rolls stacked in a row on a slant.

The rolls fit on two baking sheets. I baked these one sheet at a time but you can bake them both at the same time. 

These rolls are crispy on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. They make great dinner rolls and sandwich rolls. We used these for barbecued pork sandwiches....

Pork sandwich on a roll with pickles and red onions..

And hamburgers on the grill...

Spaccatini Roll hamburger with onions, ketchup, and mustard.

Doesn't this make you excited about summer cookouts? Are you hungry yet?

Tips for Success:

Don't add any extra flour to the dough if you can help it. The dough will be tacky, and possibly slightly sticky, but will still be easy to handle. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale that tares and measures in grams and then measure the biga and flour directly into your mixing bowl. 

Also, when you proof the rolls upside down, you can either proof them on a floured surface or an oiled surface. I've done it either way and they both work. I do recommend flouring the tool you use to put the split in the rolls. 

Finally, these rolls, after baking, can be individually wrapped in plastic and placed in a freezer bag to freeze for later. Just thaw and reheat in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes for fresh rolls!

Spaccatini Rolls in a basket with a roll in front on a plate.

This week, the Sunday Funday group is sharing recipes for barbecue and cookout side dishes. Be sure to check out everyone's recipes:

Updated post, first published in June, 2013 and revamped with new photos and information in May, 2023. 

Spaccatini Rolls in a bread basket.

Spaccatini Rolls

Spaccatini Rolls
Yield: 16 rolls
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 35 MinCook time: 25 MinInactive time: 12 HourTotal time: 13 Hour
A Spaccatini is a plain lean bun that has a split down the middle. While the only ingredients are flour, water, salt, and yeast, they are very flavorful from the overnight rise.


For the Biga
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 260 grams (1 cup plus 4 teaspoons) room temperature filtered or bottled water
  • 330 grams (2 1/3 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
For the Final Dough
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) warm (90 to 110 degrees F) water
  • All of the biga
  • 250 grams (a little less than 2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt


To Prepare the Biga
  1. Place the yeast in a medium/large bowl and add the water.
  2. Add the flour and stir with a dough whisk, large spoon, or your hand for about four minutes.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit room temperature overnight (up to 24 hours). If you are not using it after 24 hours, refrigerate it until you are ready to make the rolls.
To Make the Rolls
  1. Add the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer and add the warm water. Stir.
  2. Add the biga and squish it into the water with your fingers until it is in smaller pieces.
  3. Add the flour and salt and mix with a dough whisk or the paddle attachment of your mixer until the ingredients come together.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and knead on second speed for about 5 minutes, until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled, one to two hours.
  6. Place the dough onto your work surface and divide it into 16 equal pieces.
  7. Form the pieces into balls and then press the floured handle of a wooden spoon (I used a chopstick) into the rolls to form the cleft.
  8. Place the rolls, cleft side down, onto two parchment lined and then floured or oiled baking sheets (8 per baking sheet).
  9. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. and set it up with a steam pan.
  10. Once they have risen (about an hour), flip them over, and re-press back into the cleft to reemphasize it.
  11. About 5 minutes before baking, add two cups of ice to the steam pan in the oven.
  12. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, spraying the oven with water a few times during the first ten minutes.
  13. Cool the rolls on a wire rack.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

0.4 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

0.06 g

Carbs (grams)

27.97 g

Fiber (grams)

1.18 g

Net carbs

26.79 g

Sugar (grams)

0.1 g

Protein (grams)

4.05 g

Cholesterol (grams)

0 mg
rolls, spaccatini, biga
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Recipe adapted from The Italian Baker: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside. There's also a similar version with a slightly different twist in The Book of Buns: Over 50 Brilliant Bakes from Around the World

Both books belong in your cookbook library if you are a bread baking enthusiast like I am. 

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Karen, is it wrong to want one of your tri-tip sandwiches for breakfast? They look do your spaccatini buns :)

    1. Not wrong at all. I actually had this one for breakfast!

  2. Your spaccatini are spectacular, Karen! You are such a great bread baker...I always look forward to seeing what you've come up with. A couple of these with some homemade jam would be so nice right now...(and a caffe latte;) Thank you for being a part of the group!

    1. Thanks so much Lora. Thanks for creating this group!

  3. I like how the line is made with a spoon! I love bigas. They seem to add a deeper flavor, more developed and less "yeasty" for lack of a better word. I love these adorable little rolls!

    1. Thanks Dionne, and I agree, such great developed, less yeasty flavor.

  4. Your rolls turned out beautifully! I haven't baked bread with a biga yet and am a bit intimidated but if this is the type of result I can hope for then I should jump in and give it a try.

    1. You should Holly! It's really amazing and not that hard. Let me know if you need any help.

  5. What great little rolls...these look great! I'd definitely like a BBQ now with one of these! Your photos are lovely too :-)

  6. Yes, it does make me excited about summer BBQ's and is getting me hungry. Wow your sandwiches look fabulous!!!

  7. As soon I read Spaccatini I became very curious. I've made then. They look really great.

  8. Oh Karen, these are awesome! I can´t tell you how much I adore that book, the pandoro recipe alone is worth the entire book. I´m glad you made these, since there are so many recipes I marked but never get to most of them. And breads with biga are such a simple way of getting good flavor and nice crusts! And then you go on and add those sandwich pics...!

    1. That's so cool Paula! I've made two of the recipes, but will be making more for sure.

  9. These look fabulous! They look beautiful and hearty enough to hold up to a burger or other grilled wonderfulness this summer! Love them :) Krista @ A Handful of Everything

  10. These look delicious, I love rolls with a nice crust on them. Great job for this month's theme.

  11. They do look like little tushies, in the cutest possible way! Lovely rolls!

    1. It's hard to get it out of one's mind once you see it!

  12. Another amazing bake from your karen. Looks so good, wish I could grab some

  13. These wee rolls are just so adorable! And I bet that they taste just as good as they look!

  14. Such lovely soft rolls. This is a must try recipe. The split in the middle makes it ideal to share if one does not want to consume too much bread. I have some tomato soup planned for tomorrow night.. may just pair it with spaccatini rolls.

  15. Cute looking rolls, perfect for BBQ's.

  16. I love bread recipes - these sound amazing


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