• At Azuki Bakery, the golden flaky puff pastry encases a filling rich with Japanese flavours. (Shun Hashimoto)Source: Shun Hashimoto
Love a juicy, meaty sausage roll, with flaky golden pastry? Here's what you need to know.
Kylie Walker

14 Oct 2019 - 10:05 AM  UPDATED 14 Oct 2019 - 10:06 AM

There are three keys to a great sausage roll, says baker Chinhh Do, and we rather think he knows what he’s talking about, because he makes thousands of sausage rolls every week, and one of them – a lasagne roll – was recently named the best gourmet sausage roll in Australia.

Do works at Molly Dene Bakehouse in Bentleigh in Melbourne, which was this year named Overall Winner in the gourmet sausage roll category at the Great Aussie Pie Competition.

The lasagne roll – beef mince, pasta, tomato paste, onion and herbs and spices, wrapped in flaky golden puff pastry – is actually not the best seller at the bayside bakery; that honour goes to the classic beef sausage roll. Do, who’s been at the bakery for eight years, makes at least 900 of those every week. Add in the other creative variations on the bakery’s list (as well as the lasagne roll, there’s pumpkin and pasta; cauliflower and cheese; and spinach and ricotta, that last one in a wholemeal puff pastry) and it’s obvious that, after eight years at the bakery, Do has made a LOT of sausage rolls.

So what are the keys, we ask?

“Good sausage rolls, they have three components,” he says. “One is the ingredients, the second is the pastry and the third is how to bake them.”

The two things you need to know about the filling

With the ingredients, Do says, there are two things that make for sausage roll success: “The good quality of the ingredients and then how you combine them.”

Bakery manager Ly Chua, whose parents bought the bakery in 2006, explains that all of those gourmet twists on the classic were on the menu already, but the family tweaked the seasoning.

“When we bought the business, the pies we changed around a lot, and the sausage rolls. The original flavours that they had, it was beautiful, but lacking seasoning. Because, I don't know, maybe because I come from an Asian background, I put flavours with everything,” she says. “We’re from Cambodia, and we eat strong flavours at home.”

The flavours of home are also the inspiration behind the sausage roll served at Azuki, an artisan Japanese bakery in Sydney, another example of how very varied the humble snag roll can be.

Azuki’s sausage roll is filled with a mix of pork mince, soy sauce, Japanese soup stock, onion, garlic and ginger. “Because it has soy sauce and Japanese soup stock, the filling is full of tasty flavour. The pastry is also hand-made and it is very flaky,” says owner-baker Shun Hashimoto.

“Our shop concept is to introduce Japanese culture into different cultures. Our sausage roll is a good example of it,” he tells SBS Food.

“The key to creating good food is to think of customers, I believe. Even if you thought you could make the best sausage roll in the world, those who decide if it's the best or not is not yourself, but customers. So when I first started selling our sausage roll, I could have put more soy sauce and more Japanese soup stock to attract more Japanese customers.  But if I did that way, a lot of Australian customers who are not used to strong Japanese flavour would not like our sausage roll and wouldn't come back again, and then our mission - introduce Japanese culture to others - wouldn't be accomplished.”

At Nord Bakery in Albury, Thor Sonnichsen also points to quality ingredients as one of the essentials for a good sausage roll.

Sonnichsen is half Danish, and his partner, in life and the business, Filippa Nilsson is Swedish, so the bakery menu draws a lot of inspiration from Scandinavia and its neighbours (think a Norwegian fruit loaf that changes with the seasons; Swedish AND Norwegian buns for annual Cinnamon Bun Day; traditional cakes and other bakes, and pretzels, too) while others, like croissants with cookie dough filling (yes, go have a look, you won’t regret it) and the beefroot roll, are looser inventions.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s what Sonnichsen has dubbed his beef and beetroot sausage roll. Other variations come and go, but the beefroot is the constant.

“Sometimes I do pork and apple or a pork and fennel. And also a chorizo and gorgonzola with caramelised onion,” says Sonnichsen, who’s been a pastry chef for 20 years.

 “The flavors of the sausage rolls complement the type of meat that I use. Beef and beetroot are a good match together. I love the combination, so that's why I put grated beetroot in with the beef mince. And then bit of ginger and garlic and salt and pepper. It's that simple.”

But it has to be good quality meat, he says – and no breadcrumbs.

“A lot of people will bulk out because if you just have straight meat, it's more expensive, so they'll bulk it out with water and breadcrumbs to make a sort of a paste. I prefer to use a vegetable as my filler because it's got more flavour and it's nicer for you.”

“The pork one with apple is a bit more, I suppose, inspired by a Danish dish. But in general, you don't have the savory pastries in Denmark. But in Australia you need to have that in a bakery, and I thought, I'm not going to do what other people do, it needs to be a bit unique. So, beets are common in Scandinavia. It's a traditional vegetable and I love beetroot … so it came pretty quickly to think of beetroot.”

One of TV’s most popular bakers, Paul Hollywood, likes to bump up the flavour in his sausage rolls (get the recipe here) by adding something with some bite.

“Adding pickle or caramelised onions gives my sausage roll an extra flavour dimension and a little tang that works perfectly with the herby sausage meat and buttery pastry,” he says of his hearty rolls.

He uses pork but says you can use whatever meat you prefer, and he’s right. The same goes for the flavours you mix with it.

The variations really are endless – try this recipe for char sui sausage rolls (Umami-rich yellow bean sauce adds to the meaty juiciness of these pork rolls); tom yum pork and veal sausage rolls, a Thai twist on the Aussie favourite with lemongrass and ginger adding zing, while shrimp paste adds to the salty-umami flavour; these kangaroo, salsa verde and chilli sausage rolls; a vegetarian version, packed with lentils, quinoa and spices; or these Middle Eastern-inspired lamb and harissa sausage rolls, made with store-bought puff for quicker satisfaction of the sausage roll craving!

For some, it’s all about the pastry

You can’t have a good sausage roll without good filling, but you REALLY can’t have a good sausage roll without a good pastry.

“I'm quite fussy about the pastry - no surprises there!” says Hollywood. And he’s got some encouraging words on that front.

"Puff pastry has a reputation for being difficult but it's not at all, you just need to know what you're doing,” he says in Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds, where he shares his recipe for beef and thyme sausage rolls (in these ones, it’s pickle providing the bite).

“Puff pastry is about the difference between cold and hot. If you can get your dough as cold as possible as quickly as possible, then you’ll end up with something that when you put it in the oven will just go ‘boof’!” he says.

Just as important for a crisp, flaky pastry is the butter.

“The crispiness comes from the temperature and the butter. Good-quality butter is key with a good puff pastry,” he says, answering a question from guest on the show, Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell. “I tend to use Normandy butter – French butter – the slightly higher melting temperature means you can manipulate it more in the dough. If you get a cheap butter, you’ll tend to find that in the dough itself it will just melt out the side as you’re laminating it, as you’re beginning to fold it, and that’s a bad sign.”

The laminating he refers to is the process of creating many very thin layers of pastry and butter that make puff pastry so good, by repeatedly rolling, folding and chilling the pastry. The chilling in between each stage is important – allowing the butter to harden up helps maintain even layers of butter and pastry.

The more times you roll and fold the pastry, the more flaky layers you’ll have. In Pies and Puds, Hollywood shares an easy way to keep track of how many ‘turns’ you’ve given the pastry – every time you roll and fold, use a finger or a knuckle to make indents in the top of the pastry block (one indent for one fold, two after the second, etc). It’s a trick also shared by Michael James and Pippa James of Melbourne’s popular Tivoli Road Bakery in their puff pastry recipe, which takes two days but makes an excellent buttery, flaky pastry that will last up to a month in the freezer. They also share an important tip for those in hot climates: unless you have great air conditioning in your kitchen, don’t attempt puff pastry on a hot day. The butter will melt into the pastry rather than laminate properly.

Our Bakeproof columnist, Anneka Manning, is also a fan of using butter in puff pastry. “you’ll find that most commercial-made puff pastries use margarine and other vegetable fats, and because they have a higher melting point than butter they make the pastry rise more spectacularly. However, the flavour of a home-made version using good-quality unsalted butter, you’ll find, far outweighs this,” she says (get her puff pastry recipe, along with her tips for freezing puff pastry, here).

Sonnichsen agrees: “I make my own butter puff pastry. That's equally important [for a good sausage roll], not to use margarine in pastry. You make real pastry with butter.”

If you’re short on time, a rough puff is another popular option for sausage rolls – try Hollywood’s recipe here. You can also use store-bought puff or shortcrust pastry.

Speed and heat

Before you go to roll out your pastry and shape your sausage rolls, make sure you’ve got everything ready: oven preheated, filling mixed, egg wash mixed if you’re using one. “roll this out as quickly as possible, before it gets too warm,” Hollywood says.

Next, “roll it properly, not too tight, not too loose,” Chinhh says. “Because when you roll it too tight, the pastry, it pops up [in the oven] … you can break the pastry.”

Temperature is also important, he says – if the temperature isn’t right, the meat inside won’t cook through. (For most domestic ovens, you’ll want to cook at 200°C /180°C fan-forced)

If you’re using an egg wash on your sausage rolls – it will give them that rich colour – Hollywood has another tip. “The secret with egg wash is don’t let the colour kid you. You think it’s going dark [in the oven] but stick with it, it’ll flake up and it’ll be absolutely beautiful … You’ll end up with a gorgeous-tasting puff pastry,” he says.

To sauce, or not to sauce…

This one is entirely up to you! And it may come down to what’s in the roll, too.

Chua says the Molly Dene lasagne roll doesn’t need it – “they already have a tomato-based sauce inside, you know, we put fresh tomato paste in there” – but with the classic beef sausage roll, she prefers it with the sauce.

“A lot of customers say ‘oh it doesn’t need sauce’ – but for me, I think it's more what you grow up eating, and, especially for us, first arriving to Australia, when I first had sausage rolls, in high school, they served it with the sauce, and ever since then, we always have them with sauce. It’s already good, but sauce makes it better!”

At Nord, you can get home-made tomato sauce if you want it but Sonnichsen says most don’t: “I think we'd sell 100 before we do one with tomato sauce.”

At Azuki, they serve the sausage roll with wasabi mayo on request. Why wasabi mayo? “The biggest reason is because wasabi mayo makes it more delicious!” Hashimoto says.  “Our sausage roll has Japanese ingredients so wasabi flavour enhances its taste.” He explains. “On the other hand, I knew some people don’t like too strong a wasabi flavour, so I tried to make the wasabi flavour more mild by adding mayo to it.”

Or how about some nuoc cham, with these tom yum sausage rolls:

Tom yum sausage rolls

Does size matter?

No, it does not. You can make them bite-sized, lunch-box sized or downright huge. We’ll let Paul Hollywood have the final word on this one: “Make your sausage rolls any size you want, but don’t expect them to last long. They go down a treat!”

See Paul Hollywood making his sausage rolls in Paul Hollywood’s Pies& Puds Tuesday 15 October 8.30pm on SBS Food Channel 33, then on SBS On Demand.

On a roll
Char siu sausage rolls

Umami-rich yellow bean sauce adds to the meaty juiciness of these sausage rolls, and a handful of fresh and powdered spices bring an aromatic spin on tradition.

Vegetarian "sausage" rolls

Filled with lentils, quinoa and spices, you'll forget about the meat versions of the classic Aussie snag roll pretty fast. #RecipeForLife

Sausage rolls

These classic Dutch homemade sausage rolls are a favourite across the Netherlands. SBS Radio Dutch program’s Yvonne Davis speaks to fellow producer Anneke Mackay-Smith about how to make the perfect sausage roll. Once you've tried this recipe, these will become a regular fixture at all your parties.