Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Kaiser Rolls

Roast Pork Sandwich on Kaiser Roll

We’re back to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge! Today I’m sharing my experience with the 16th bread in the challenge:  Kaiser Rolls.  I enjoyed these rolls so much I’ve made them twice already!  Like many of the breads in the book, these rolls do take two days to make, but they aren’t difficult and I found that they were both easy and a lot of fun to shape.

Kaiser rolls, also called New York hard rolls or Vienna rolls, are known for the distinctive star pattern on the top of the roll.  The traditional method for achieving the classic kaiser roll shape requires a series of overlapping folds that intimidates me quite a bit. Luckily, the book offers a couple of other options for creating beautiful kaiser rolls.

The first of the easier shaping options is to use a special kaiser cutting tool that stamps a star pattern right into the top of the shaped rolls before they are proofed.  While this method appears to be the easiest, it requires the purchase of the specialized tool and quite frankly seems a bit boring.  The other option is to make a knotted roll.  The knot method appeals to me because it looks easier than the folding method, but is more hands-on than the stamping method.

Most commercial bakeries make these rolls using the faster direct-dough method, but Mr. Reinhart’s version uses a pre-ferment to improve the flavor, texture, and color.  The pâte fermentée, or old dough, is mixed up on day one and allowed to ferment slowly and develop flavor in the refrigerator overnight (or longer).

Pate Fermentee for Kaiser Rolls

The following morning, or whenever you are ready to make the rolls, the old dough is taken from the fridge, chopped into pieces, and mixed into the new dough.

Kaiser Roll Ingredients

The dough ingredients should be quite familiar at this point in the challenge:  bread flour, salt, diastatic malt powder (or barley malt syrup), instant yeast, egg, oil, and water.

Kaiser Roll Ingredients Mixed

The ingredients can be stirred together by hand (I like to use a wooden spoon or dough whisk), or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.  They should be mixed until the ingredients form a ball and there is no loose flour in the bottom of the bowl – a bit of extra water can be added if needed.

Kaiser Roll Dough Ready for Kneading

As I decided to knead the dough in the stand mixer, I switched to the dough hook once all the ingredients were well mixed.  I might have accidentally added a bit too much water at the beginning because my dough was fairly wet and sticky, but I never mind starting with a sticky dough.  It’s easier to knead extra flour into a dough if it’s too wet than to add extra water if the dough is too stiff.

Windowpane Test

I kneaded the dough for about 7 minutes, adding small amounts of flour until the dough seemed right – soft and supple, tacky but not sticky.  I checked the gluten development using the windowpane test, and it looked great.

Kneaded Kaiser Roll Dough

I placed the kneaded ball of dough into an oiled bowl, turning it once to coat both sides with oil in order to prevent the dough from drying out during the bulk fermentation stage.

Checking Temperature of Kaiser Roll Dough

According to the book, the dough temperature after kneading should be between 77 and 81 degrees F.  It was close, but a little on the cool side.  My house was also fairly cool, so I knew there was a possibility that the two hour fermentation time might need to be extended a bit if the dough hadn’t doubled in that time.

Kaiser Roll Dough Doubled

However, the dough appeared to have doubled after two hours, so I continued to the dividing and shaping phase.

Dividing the Kaiser Roll Dough

The dough can be divided into 6 pieces for larger rolls, or 9 pieces for smaller rolls.  I decided to divide it into 8 pieces – it just seemed easier to divide the pieces into an even number.  I used my scale to make sure they were all close to the same weight so the rolls would be uniform in size.

Eight Kaiser Rolls Ready for Shaping

As the dough was divided and measured, I pre-shaped the pieces into rounds and let them rest for ten minutes.  The resting period is important because it lets the gluten relax, allowing for easier stretching and shaping.

Roll Dough Into a Rope

Next it was time to shape the rolls into knots.  Using my hands, I rolled a ball of dough into a rope.

Tie Dough in a Knot

I tied the rope into a simple knot, leaving a bit of length at each end.  As you can see, the rope shrunk as I tied the knot.  Luckily, the dough is elastic and it was easy enough to stretch it and complete the shaping.  To finish the knot, I pulled the right end of the rope up and over, and tucked it into the center.  Next, I took the left end of the rope and pulled it down and under, pushing it through the bottom of the knot and up into the center.

Tuck Ends Into the Middle of the Knot

It’s hard to show the process using photos, but this is what a knotted kaiser roll will look like.  The little nub in the center is from the left strand that was wrapped under and pushed up through the center of the knot.  Some of mine ended up with the little nub in the center, some didn’t.  The process was simple to learn using the photos and instructions in the book, and once I completed the first one, I breezed through the rest without any problems.

Knotted Kaiser Rolls

The shaped rolls were placed on a baking sheet, covered with plastic and allowed to proof at room temperature for about an hour and 15 minutes.

Kaiser Rolls after Proofing

They were supposed to double in size, but I’m not sure if mine quite made it.  I was tired of waiting and my oven was pre-heated and ready to go, so I decided to bake them anyway.

Seeded Kaiser Rolls

Right before placing the tray in the oven, I sprayed the rolls lightly with water and sprinkled seeds on top.  The first time I made the rolls, I used only poppy seeds, but this time I topped some with poppy seeds, some with sesame seeds, and a few with both.

Kaiser Rolls

The rolls were baked for about 25 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 200 degrees.  The crusts were thin and crisp, and the insides were soft – perfect for a sandwich roll!

Pulled Pork Sandwich on Homemade Kaiser Roll

We used the kaiser rolls for these delicious pulled pork sandwiches made by my friend Amanda.  If you’d like the recipe, head over to What We’re Eating – you won’t be disappointed!

Are you ready to give homemade Kaiser Rolls a try?  The recipe can be found on page 175 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The next bread in the challenge is Lavash Crackers…something a little different!

Want to Join The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread, which is the first bread formula in the book.  You may also visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group.

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Kaiser Rolls from other BBA Members:

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35 Comments
  1. The Teacher Cooks

    You have done an outstanding job! Your photos are great and the written instructions are easy to understand. I saw the photo on What We’re Eating and am glad to get to read your post!

    11:44 am  Jan 14th, 2010
  2. Dianne

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Reinhart’s kaiser rolls. Definitely my favorite bread so far! I’m hooked, and have made them several times. I’m especially fond of eating them piled high with crispy fried egg. Here is my post: http://stoveria.blogspot.com/2009/11/bread-bakers-apprentice-1643-kaiser.html

    11:45 am  Jan 14th, 2010
  3. Margaret

    Those are beautiful. Thanks for the close up pics. Those will help a lot when the Slow and Steady group finally get there. Those would be great for sandwiches.

    11:47 am  Jan 14th, 2010
  4. tagan engel

    Excellent post! I love all the detailed pictures. I have been in a bread baking frenzy lately, I tackled bagels, which was great! Thanks for the great blog, I have just started blogging and enjoyed looking at your wonderful blog! Thanks for the inspiration!
    taganskitchen.blogspot.com

    11:49 am  Jan 14th, 2010
  5. Maribel

    Just got the book. Can’t wait to make these. Looks so fun to make and so good to eat!

    12:04 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  6. Sook

    Oh thank you so much for this post! I have always wanted to make my own sandwich rolls and this looks fantastic!

    12:43 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  7. Charles Thompson

    I love reading these posts because of all the science and technique that’s involved, and you spell it all out so perfectly. Not being a regular baker it does give me encouragement to consider doing more myself. These rolls look great too!

    12:56 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  8. Tamara

    I tried to make kaiser rolls for my German class in high school using the folding method; it was dismal! I didn’t know you could achieve such a pretty look with knots. Now I’m tempted to try again.

    1:36 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  9. angela

    Your rolls turned out gorgeous! This was a fun recipe to make….& the visual was very appealing…the knots & seeds…so pretty!

    Thanks for featuring my site!

    Looking forward to the rest of the recipes in the book!

    3:27 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  10. Rebecca

    YUM!!! Those look amazing! Can’t wait to make them.

    4:32 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  11. Laura

    Those look beautiful!

    4:53 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  12. Phyl

    Nice job, Nicole! I love this recipe, and your rolls look amazing. I made them twice: the first time, I “stamped” them with an apple slicer; by the second time, I had a kaiser roll stamp. Seeing your post, I want to make them again and try the knotting method.

    5:38 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  13. Conor @ HoldtheBeef

    Great work and post, Nicole! These look professional, and I’m glad you didn’t go the ‘stamp’ route :)

    6:27 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  14. TasteofBeirut

    Wonderful post! I like the step-by-step photos too; I used to love eating those rolls especially with onions on top.
    By the way, I have a raffle going till the ned of this month; organic spices I brought back from my trip to Lebanon, all you need to do is leave a message on the post about Kamal Mouzawak.
    Cheers, Joumana

    7:29 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  15. Phoo-D

    Beautiful job on the Kaiser rolls! We really enjoyed eating these and they even lasted well in the freezer until the next batch of sandwiches. Your final photo is making my mouth water!

    7:38 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
  16. AP269

    Good job on the Kaiser Rolls. I used the apple slicer “technique” (which didn’t work at all) and the knotting technique (which worked fine). My ability to knot rolls has improved a lot since the kaiser roll post because I’ve made quite a lot of rolls until now. Here’s my post: http://ap269.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/bba-challenge-16-kaiser-rolls/

    4:30 am  Jan 15th, 2010
  17. My Year on the Grill

    A couple more weeks, and I am in on the challenge!

    These look GREAT!

    6:49 am  Jan 15th, 2010
  18. Karen

    These look beautiful! As good as anything I’ve seen in NYC delis. I bought Reinhart’s bread book when you started your challenge, but haven’t had the time/energy/courage to jump into it yet. But Kaiser rolls…you’ve inspired me to take the plunge!

    7:12 am  Jan 15th, 2010
  19. Devany

    Beautiful as always Nicole! I did my first two batches with the cutter and next I am going to try the rope. Thanks for keeping us on focus.

    10:09 am  Jan 15th, 2010
  20. Amy

    Oh my gosh! These look amazing! : ))))

    11:15 am  Jan 15th, 2010
  21. Kathy - Panini Happy

    Oh my goodness. I was going to say that these look so professional, but HELLO…you essentially *are* a professional baker at this point! Stunning.

    2:54 pm  Jan 15th, 2010
  22. Di

    Nice! These are next up on my list, and I’m looking forward to them. Can’t go wrong with a good sandwich roll. =)

    8:35 pm  Jan 18th, 2010
  23. Nancy (n.o.e.)

    Your rolls look wonderful. This is the next bread up for those in the Slow&Steady subgroup. I have a roll stamp but I love making knots, so I might experiment both ways. Thanks for your leadership – and fab job on this formula.

    10:04 am  Jan 20th, 2010
  24. Charles

    That is really really impressive!

    12:00 pm  Jan 21st, 2010
  25. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes)

    Wow… those rolls look delicious! I don’t bake bread, and usually just pass through these posts, but these looked so good, I had to stop and comment!

    3:35 am  Jan 24th, 2010
  26. Trina

    Nice work! Those are just beautiful.

    8:02 pm  Jan 28th, 2010
  27. Dan

    Nice recipe for Kaiser rolls, especially the step-by-step photos to show how things should look in process. One of the photos shows a snazzy little thermometer [CDN brand?] being used to take temperature of the dough. Where can I buy one of those? I’ve looked for such a device in various catalogs, but none showed the model seen in your photos. Many thanks for your assistance.

    10:31 am  Oct 22nd, 2010
  28. Angel Chodie

    That’s very cool. I need to work on mine…

    1:21 pm  Dec 13th, 2010
  29. Carolyn G

    Hi I just ordered your book with the hopes I can replicate the kaiser rolls I used to enjoy when lived in NY. One question, can you freeze the dough for later use? Would that affect the quality of the rolls?

    Thank You

    10:09 am  Jul 26th, 2011
  30. Viola Stuteville

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I to find this topic to be really one thing which I feel I’d never understand. It seems too complex and extremely huge for me. I’m looking ahead on your subsequent put up, I will try to get the hold of it!

    5:40 pm  Oct 14th, 2011
  31. thepilatesbiz.com

    Lots of people used to tell me to check out my girlfriends mothers to see the future and not lock in solely based on current appearance and characteristics:-)

    7:25 am  Feb 8th, 2012
  32. Heritage+Joy: Blog » fed friday: kaiser rolls

    [...] 4 with dried onions. It was an easy to follow recipe, although I did use the shaping process from here. The texture inside was perfect, so airy and soft, and the outside had a nice crust thanks to [...]

    7:03 pm  Mar 16th, 2012
  33. HERITAGE+JOY » fed friday: kaiser rolls

    [...] 4 with dried onions. It was an easy to follow recipe, although I did use the shaping process from here. The texture inside was perfect, so airy and soft, and the outside had a nice crust thanks to [...]

    1:32 pm  May 9th, 2012
  34. Jalapeño Cheese Rolls #TwelveLoaves June | "blackberry-eating in late September"

    [...] ends.  I’ve attempted instructions and accompanying pictures below, but if you are lost, try this recipe, which explains the knotting and tucking process pretty [...]

    6:22 am  Jun 3rd, 2013
  35. Gail

    Can someone help me. I made these rolls today and I had a problem which seems to happen anytime I make any type of rolls. During the second rise, the rolls always spread out but don’t seem to rise up, so that they get fluffy and a thinner crust. What am I doing wrong? I never have this problem with breads.

    6:34 pm  Jan 10th, 2014
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