Kaiser rolls can be traced back to the 1700s in Austria where they were named to honor the Emperor, or Kaiser. In fact, the signature curved shape on top is said to resemble a crown. As a New Yorker, I simply knew these rolls as a staple in the corner bodega or from the breakfast street vendors. I can’t resist getting a warm “egg and cheese on a roll” from a cart on a laid-back Sunday morning. Little did I know these humble rolls wrapped in tinfoil had such a regal background.
When making Kaiser rolls at home there are two ways to form that iconic petal shape. You can use a Kaiser roll stamp, which can be found in kitchen supply stores or purchased online. Alternately, you can snip an “x” on the top using kitchen shears. Either way, the key is to cut the unbaked rolls so the shape doesn’t disappear as they bake, but also not so deep that the cuts go all the way through.
The key to achieving the crisp, perfectly browned exterior of a Kaiser roll in the standard oven of a home kitchen is to mimic a bakery-style steam oven. This can be done by placing a pan in the hot oven and filling it with water just before the rolls go in to bake. Steam will quickly fill the oven and create a moist environment for baking. The rolls are also lightly spritzed with water just before baking. (A plastic atomizer filled with water does the trick.) This is an easy technique for creating a steam oven at home with results that make you feel like you have elegant baked rolls fit for an Emperor! —KristinaVanni
- Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- makes 16 rolls
4 1/2 cups
bread flour, plus more for dusting
diastatic malt powder
2 1/4 teaspoons
(one 1/4 ounce packet) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups
hot water (about 120°F)
whole egg plus 1 egg white
unsalted butter, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or cornmeal
- Measure 3 1/2 cups of the bread flour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, salt, diastatic malt powder, and yeast. Stir to blend well. Pour in the hot water and mix for 1 minute by hand or with the stand mixer fitted with the flat beater. A smooth but heavy batter will form. Add the egg, egg white and butter. Beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. (At this point if you are using a stand mixer, remove the flat beater and continue with the dough hook.) Stir in the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is a solid but soft mass.
- If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding an additional dusting of flour as necessary to keep your hands from sticking. If kneading in the stand mixer, run the mixer on low for 10 minutes with the dough hook until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and forms a ball of dough around the hook. If the dough clings to the sides, additional flour can be sprinkled in as necessary.
- Once the dough has been kneaded, place in a large greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Uncover the dough and punch down the dough with your fingers. Cover again with the plastic wrap, and allow to double in size again, about 45 minutes.
- When ready to form and bake the rolls, cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 16 equal sized balls. Flatten each roll slightly with your hand and dust the top lightly with bread flour. Center a Kaiser stamp over one ball of dough. Press down firmly, cutting nearly to the bottom but not all the way through. Repeat with the remaining rolls. If you don’t have a Kaiser stamp, use kitchen shears and snip a 1/4-inch-deep “x” on the top of each rolls.
- Sprinkle the parchment-lined baking sheet liberally with your choice of either poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or cornmeal. As each roll is shaped and stamped, place it stamped side down on the sheet. This will help the rolls retain their shape. Cover the rolls with parchment paper and leave at room temperature to rise slightly one more time, about 40 minutes. (This time they will not double in size.)
- During the final rise, prepare the oven for baking. Place another large rimmed pan on the lower rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Just before the rolls are ready to bake, pour 1 cup of hot water into the pan to steam and provide a moist environment for the rolls.
- Uncover the rolls and turn them right side up. Spray the rolls lightly with water. Place the baking sheet in the middle of the preheated oven. (The second baking pan with water will remain on the lower rack below the rack with the rolls.) Bake for 3 minutes and then spray the interior of the oven with more water, but not directly on the rolls. Bake for an additional 12 to 15 minutes or until they are crispy and browned all over.
- Remove the rolls from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. They are delicious when served warm with a pat of butter and your favorite jam. They can also be split and used as a sandwich roll or hamburger bun.