HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Soup kitchen challenge: a case of frozen unbaked Subway rolls

So today I found a whole case of frozen Subway sub buns - unrisen, unbaked. There are 70 of them in the box. I took a couple of the buns home just to see what I might do with them for next week. These are the things that, when risen and baked, are the buns they use at Subway sandwich places. In their frozen state, they're probably about 7 or 8 inches long and maybe 1/2 inch thick. Looks like a big breadstick. I figure, risen, they'll more than double in size.

Any genius ideas for something to do with these things that isn't just letting them rise and baking? The logistics are a bit problematic in any case, but if I could fancy them up a bit maybe they would be ok. Subway bread is just awful on its own.

My test buns are currently on my kitchen counter. I'm trying to figure out thawing/rising time. But beyond that I'm stumped.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You might want to check out the recipes here to get some inspiration: http://rhodesbread.com/recipes
    Thaw the dough in the fridge so you can work with it or cut it into pieces before you rise it.

    1. bread soup is a pretty thrifty usage for stuff like this, although i have no idea how bad those rolls really taste. i've never had one.


      strata could help stretch them out too.

      1. Can you smash them out into pizza crusts? I know the texture is all wrong but perhaps if they're rolled thin and baked in a hot oven they'd be passable? What about rolling them out, brushing with butter and sprinkling with cheese/sesame seeds/other seasoning and turning them into crescent rolls or something? Or roll out small pieces, fill them with something tasty and deep fry? Or deep fry pieces and dust with sugar for "doughnuts"?

        ETA: with Thanksgiving coming up, can you save them until a few days before, then bake them off and dry them out for stuffing?

        1. I like the idea of baking them, drying them out and using them for stuffing.

          Or what about garlic breadsticks to go with spaghetti and sauce? Thaw the dough, cut them into smaller pieces, and roll them out for easy baking - brush with melted butter, sprinkle with some garlic powder and grated Parm cheese, and bake.

          1. I don't know what else you have available, but they might work in a savory egg strata or sweet bread pudding.

            Otherwise, I'd have to think on that one for a bit. I'll get back to you if something pops in my mind.

            1. Are they the plain rolls? What about a fake calazone, if you can manipulate them?

              1. Soup bowls
                Cheese toast to serve with soup or salad
                Garlic bread

                1. Ok - I've done an experiment and I think it's going to work. Thanks to gmm for suggesting the Rhodes website - it helped me wrap my brain around the puzzle.

                  First - lay the long pieces of frozen dough out on a few large baking sheets and let them thaw for a couple of hours. I can do this at home in the morning before going into the soup kitchen. When they're soft-ish but not risen, cut them each stick into 4 or 5 pieces and roll each piece in melted butter/garlic powder mixture. Arrange in a greased pan, leaving a bit of room for them to continue to expand. Sprinkle the top with a little Parmesan (if I can get my hands on some) and let them rise. Bake until done. They'll puff into a solid mass of pull-apart buns - and they're not half bad done like that. The bread is kind of marshmallowy-insipid-tasteless but with the garlic butter it's somewhat better. We're making chili next week so these will go well with that.

                  Thanks for the ideas - it was helpful to think outside the, um, box.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Along the lines of the chili, you could make sloppy joes and use those rolls as the bun. It'll save on the amount of chili, since you can't put as much on them.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Will discuss this option with my cohorts. Thanks for the suggestion.

                    2. re: Nyleve

                      If you wanted to go the sweet route, you could do something like a sticky bun using the same method, but roll the dough pieces in a sugar mixture with a little extra sugar mixture sprinkled into the pan before you place the dough pieces in.
                      Maybe something like this recipe? http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quick-an..., but using a regular baking pan instead of a bundt pan.

                      1. re: gmm

                        I thought of that, actually. But really our challenge is always main meal first, sweets later, so a roll that can accompany the chili will be a great use for that dough. That said, there's no way I'm going to use it all for one meal so maybe next week I'll do something else.

                      2. re: Nyleve

                        Could you smush the rolls together, roll it out and then spread with the butter/garlic/cheese mix? Then roll back up, slice into pieces, and arrange in a pan Cinnamon Roll style. The flavor would make its way to the inside of the rolls.

                        I have no idea if this would work, but it might be worth a shot

                      3. How about a stuffed bread? Roll it out (combined several if need be), toss on some cheese, meat, veg, whatever. Roll up, bake, and slice.

                        Or make cinnamon rolls in a similar fashion.

                        1. Bierocks! Cabbage and hamburger stuffing. If you have hamburger. Or Cabbage and cheese.

                          1. I just want to know how you "found" 70 frozen Subway roles ...

                            4 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Right. This place is a drop in centre that serves lunch every day and gives folks a place to hang out, use a computer and connect with social services and mental health professionals. It depends on volunteers to prepare the food, along with paid staff who are there every day. Food comes from wherever it comes from. Food bank, donations from individuals and companies, restaurants, supermarkets. The Subway rolls, I assume, came from Subway. You just never know what you're going to find there - it could be two cases of cabbage, five pumpkin pies or 100 bottles of salad dressing. Once I found two buckets of fresh mozzarella cheese and another time an entire crate of lemons. I call it the Iron Chef for Poor People. You make something out of whatever you find. It's fun!

                                1. re: Nyleve

                                  Some years back our local soup kitchen put out a call for recipes using 100 lbs of unidentified canned fish.

                                  1. re: ninrn

                                    Har! My favorite was when we got these huge deli-sized blocks of meatlike stuff. Probably meant to be sliced as a sandwich meat but we didn't really know specifically which kind. Plus it was frozen. So we made soup. We never did figure out what it was.

                              2. I'm sorry. Subway buns are so awful I can't think of anything to do with that any one let alone any animal would enjoy are be nourished by. Maybe the fact that some one threw them away should tell you something. LOL I'd wouldn't even subject a landfill to them bc the birds might eat them.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Puffin3

                                  They weren't thrown away. They were a donation, and properly frozen. I know what you mean about the buns - they are awful. But when you're working with donated food, you try to make the best out of whatever you get. There is no way we would discard something like this when it could possibly be used to feed folks who are hungry. Remember - these people aren't likely going to go out and buy themselves a nice loaf of whole grain bread. They don't have food. We have this. We'll make a nice hearty chili and they can have the buns to go along with it. The buns will be warm from the oven and, no matter what I may personally think of that sort of bread, they will almost definitely love the meal. There will be a salad also. And maybe even a dessert if we manage. Would I prefer to serve wonderful bread? Of course. But it just isn't always available.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    I didn't understand about the loaves being donated. Bake them and serve them. My hats off to you for your caring. I too donate time cooking and serving those in need. As I once was.

                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      The goal is to give the buns a more exciting flavor. To make them seem part of the meal rather than just a side of bread.

                                      1. re: cheesecake17

                                        Garlic butter should do it at least a little. If I find cheese, I'll sprinkle the buns before baking.

                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                          Added garlic and butter should be great on them - a little cheese added even better. These are hungry people who have no money - and subway rolls are not THAT bad!! I think they'll love them.

                                  2. re: Puffin3

                                    They might not be great but there are ways to doctor them up so they're not as bad, especially for those who are hungry.

                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                      If you're eating at a soup kitchen, I'm guessing you're not complaining that you're being served Subway bread... it's not like it's not eaten by thousands of people every day worldwide.

                                    2. Nyl
                                      I just read your post in haste, major haste because I'm supposed to be leaving for the gym and markets.

                                      I'd use them up baking as normal and then letting them sit over night on a counter to dry out and stale up a bit.
                                      Cut them up or tear them up next day.
                                      Organize the ingredients for Thanksgiving stuffing.
                                      Mix all together and find a soup kitchen or mission that needs a stuffing for their Thanksgiving Day meals. Donate your creation.
                                      If this wasn't your question, again, I read in haste.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                        Heh! I'm in Canada. We're about a month past Thanksgiving already. I'm just making them as I said above for this week. Cut into pieces, rolled in garlic butter and baked as pull-aparts. They'll be deeeee-lish. Sort of.

                                        Thanks all for your ideas and suggestions. I'm holding on to all of them for next time. More challeges to come, I'm sure.

                                      2. Can't believe I'm suggesting this, but sometimes you just gotta adjust your standards....

                                        Could you thaw and proof them (slightly warm oven with a pan of boiling water for moisture), then when they have risen, stuff a hot dog inside to bake? Assuming you have hot dogs or sausages donated.....

                                        Truly, I hate hot dogs, but I recently bought the Pillsbury hot dogs wraps as a lark and the kids and I enjoyed them. Something about a more freshly baked bun made the dog tolerable, especially with mustard. :-)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: applgrl

                                          Great idea for another time. If we ever get hot dogs and we still have some of those rolls left - it would definitely work.

                                        2. Just wanted to let you know that my Subway bread dough experiment was such a success that the coordinators have offered me another case of the wretched stuff for future use. Just for the record, there are about 70 frozen unbaked buns in each case. Yesterday I used about half of them to serve about 75 people or so. Here's what I did. Took the frozen buns out first thing in the morning - 7:30-ish. Since each piece is about 10-inches long and 1/2-inch thick, I hacked each one into 4 pieces. Rolled them in melted garlic butter (butter with garlic powder) and laid them out in large parchment-lined catering pans, with a bit of space between them. Sprinkled the top with a bit of parmesan and some crumbled Italian seasonings. By the time I got to the soup kitchen at 11:00, they were ready to go into the oven. Baked at 350 for about 30 to 35 minutes, they rose to fill the pan completely and were beautifully browned. I swear that as much as I don't consider that Subway bread to be real food, those buns were fantastic. Everyone loved them and they were devoured.

                                          Thanks to all who gave me ideas. I may try something else next time but this was a huge hit.

                                          26 Replies
                                          1. re: Nyleve

                                            I think your creativity should be celebrated! However, not with another case of frozen subway rolls.

                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              Thank you but I think I will have no choice.

                                            2. re: Nyleve

                                              I salute your creativity Nyleve. I would have tried rolling out each bun flat, then brush melted butter or oil on the flattened surface. Coat the top with chopped scallions and a generous sprinkle of salt, then roll back up like a cinnamon roll. Brush the tops with a little more oil, salt, scallion, then bake. My desired result is to make something like the savory scallion buns at the Chinese bakery.

                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                I've always called this volunteer work Poor Man's Iron Chef. You just never know what you'll have to work with but somehow you have to make it into food. It's amazingly fun.

                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                  I like the way your shelter is run. Our local men's shelter pretty much just opens donated packages and heats them up, without much actual cooking. I'd like to change that but I don't call the shots. One time we just dumped an entire pallet of assorted variety canned soups into a giant pot and mixed them all together for the main course. Stirring that cauldron of inter-swirled clam chowder, gumbo, spaghettios, chicken and dumplings, and matzo ball soup was like staring into the eye of Jupiter.

                                                  1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                    God that's really awful. When I started at this place it was a little like that, but worse. We would show up and there was a filthy stove and a box of rotting vegetables on the floor and we would have to figure out how to make soup for that day. There was a guy - one of the clients - who was kind of OCD and would peel and chop potatoes all day. He would fill whole 5-gallon buckets with peeled potatoes, onions, carrots and water. It would go into the half-working fridge and ferment. We used to try to find the parts of that stuff that were still edible to use after sitting around for a week. We couldn't stop him from chopping - it was insane.

                                                    I guess you just have to hope that some funding comes on board to pay for a bit of food at your shelter, and then maybe things can get better. I've been volunteering for about 3 years now and it's been a gradual process. Ugh - just the thought of clam chowder, spaghetti-os and matzo ball soup mixed together is enough to give me nightmares! Good luck - hang in there. It's an experience, isn't it?

                                              2. re: Nyleve

                                                Good for you!! Big congrats on the transformation.

                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                  Glad the garlic breadsticks worked out!

                                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                                    Great work, Nyleve! Thanks for letting us know, delighted to hear what a great success it was.

                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                      Glad to hear it worked out! Don't know if it would be more or less work for you, but you could also flatten the dough and use any combo of olive oil/garlic/parmesan/rosemary to make a foccacia next time.

                                                      1. re: gmm

                                                        It's on the list. I may even do some kind of pizza bun for next time. We'll see what the pantry gods provide!

                                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                                          Great to hear it went so well, Nyleve. Please post the next secret ingredient in Soup Kitchen Stadium.

                                                          1. re: ninrn

                                                            LOL! YES! That's exactly what it is - Soup Kitchen Stadium! And Nyleve is Iron Chef Sakai. ;-)

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              Ha! Hilarious! Will have to share this with my cohorts.

                                                            2. re: ninrn

                                                              Well the gruesome truth is that this week I am working with 5 lbs of mushrooms that we got several weeks ago. I sliced them up and froze them. On Monday I'll saute them and bring them into the soup kitchen where they will be combined with several industrial-size cans of assorted cream soups to become a sauce for pre-cooked hamburger patties (we'll call it Salisbury steak!). Will serve with roasted vegetables (we have the veggies, just need to roast) and mashed potatoes. I am also making sour cream chocolate frosting for what I think might be some banana cakes that another volunteer is making. They had a 5-gallon pail of sour cream in the fridge and a few packets of chocolate chips.

                                                              It will be what it will be. We serve on Tuesday.

                                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                                makes me happy to read about your creativity and dedication to making better than the lowest common denominator-type food. Best wishes to you, the other volunteers, the staff, and all of your clients!

                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                  Truth is I get as much pleasure out of this kind of cooking as I do when I'm planning a dinner party with great ingredients and excellent recipes. It makes me feel good to turn crap into decent food. And it also makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to afford to be choosy in my own life. I get as much (or more) out of this experience as I give.

                                                                2. re: Nyleve

                                                                  Doesn't sound awful to me. If you can get some fresh herbs, it would brighten the soup mixture tremendously

                                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                    Good idea - I might just spring for a big bunch of fresh parsley at least. That wouldn't take much and it would make a difference. Thanks for the suggestion.

                                                                  2. re: Nyleve

                                                                    I love that you do this. It's fun and helpful--what could be better? I'm not sure if it would work, but what if you dropped some balls of bread dough into the soup and make dumplings? If you have sour cream leftover, you could make it creamy.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      Lunch was great. We made salisbury steak with pre-grilled burger patties (left over from some church event) baked in a sauce made with sauteed mushrooms, onions and an alchemical mixture of cream soups - plus the aforementioned parsley. Cut off all the icky bits from about 6 heads of cauliflower and roasted with carrots, onions and peppers in olive oil and balsamic salad dressing. Mashed potatoes and somehow cole slaw happened too. Dessert was banana cake with chocolate sour cream frosting. Everything was snarfed up - no complaints. We served almost 80 today. Every week it gets bigger.

                                                                      Next week: pancakes and bacon, with fresh fruit and whatever else we think up.

                                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                                        That is magical, Nyleve, really good-sounding meal from what was at hand!

                                                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                                                          If you happen to come across a lot of apples, make an apple topping for the pancakes.

                                                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                            Oh good idea! Will keep that in mind.

                                                                  3. re: Nyleve

                                                                    That's wonderful!!! And I think another case would be great - there are many things you can do with them! Or repeat them with pasta, a hearty soup or chili again! Good going - you're a blessing to the center.

                                                                  4. french bread pizzas / garlic bread?

                                                                    1. Not sure how many you have to feed and timing etc..but
                                                                      Cut in 2-3 inch slices
                                                                      roll each out to a look like mini pizzas

                                                                      Top with the Parm you found and may some cooked onion and cooked ground beef ....if ya have some mozzarella.add that

                                                                      Let rise 30-40 mins. Bake at 375 for about 25 mins

                                                                      Timing is approx

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                        This is all just really, really inspiring--making the edible from the impossible.

                                                                        Where are you located geographically Nyleve? This makes me want to come out and join you.

                                                                        1. re: femmevox

                                                                          I'm in Ontario. The center is in a mid-size city - about 70,000 - 1-1/2 hours from Toronto. They ARE looking for volunteers for other days of the week!

                                                                          1. re: Nyleve

                                                                            How did you find the opportunity. I'd love to do something like that.

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              I got into it by accident. A friend had been volunteering with them for a little while and kept calling me to ask me what to do with some of the weird food that got donated - a whole block of processed deli meat, a 5 lb. bucket of bocconcini - and I'd give her recipes or advice. I finally decided that I could afford the time to volunteer once a week, so that's how it started.

                                                                              Actually my son recently told me that he was looking into similar volunteer cooking in Toronto - so I suspect if you do a bit of digging no matter where you are, you may find a place that can use help. I was lucky where I am because it's pretty non-bureaucratic, so no need for the kind of background checking that many places require. But it's worth looking for if you're interested. These places can really use Chowhounds!

                                                                              1. re: Nyleve

                                                                                I need to start looking! I help at a place that passes out food but I'd love to be on the cooking end. A win-win for all. Thanks!