Who Can Fix My Kaiser Rolls?


OK, I’m pretty happy with this photo, but… well, they aren’t really Kaiser Rolls.  I was on a “roll” from last week (sorry), when I thought my Brotchen were more than passable.  So I wanted to re-create another German roll style– the famous 5-petal Kaiser roll.  I have to say that even though the picture is pretty, the rolls didn’t retain the 5-petal shape that defines the Kaiser roll– it ended up as just a round, though beautiful and tasty roll.

And so fellow bakers, I turn to you for help!  What did I do wrong?  Please make suggestions that help me perfect this beast…

Just like last week, I mixed up a batch of our plain white-flour Master Recipe but made two variations:  First, put three egg whites into the bottom of the measuring cup before you measure out your three cups of water– so it’s three cups of liquid, including the three egg whites.  AND one other variation– I used the drier dough version that we specify in the book, in the recipe for Pain D’Epi.  Just use an additional half-cup of unbleached all-purpose flour.  If you don’t use the drier version of the dough, you won’t be able to make the folds that define the shape of the Kaiser roll.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 450 degrees F for at least 20 to 30 minutes (place a broiler tray in the oven on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread).  Cut off 3 to 4 ounce balls of dough (like a peach) and briefly shape them (as in our videos), then roll out to about a quarter-inch thick.  You should end up with a circle of dough about 7 inches in diameter.  Then fold one side of the dough over as shown here, pressing firmly to seal.  You’re going to do this a total of five times to make the 5-petal shape.


The second fold includes about half the first fold…


… and so on, for the third fold…


… and the fourth fold…


Then you have to tuck the side of the fifth fold under the first fold, like so:


It looked like it would work, though I have to admit that I had my doubts when I took this picture.  I let the Kaisers rest on a silicone mat for about 60 minutes, though parchment would have been fine, or even cornmeal on a pizza peel.   I brushed with egg whites using a pastry brush and sprinkled with poppy seeds.  Then, onto the hot stone for about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on size.  Pour a cup of hot water into the broiler tray just before you close the oven door.

The result was the perfect texture I remember from New York City delis, with the crunchy poppy seed crust somehow working perfectly for dipping into chili (my kids absolutely loved the combination).  But there’s this cosmetic problem.  Anyone able to help me? Click here for the suggestions I received…

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111 thoughts to “Who Can Fix My Kaiser Rolls?”

  1. I’m not exactly sure what you did wrong, and it seems such a shame for all that effort to go flat! In any case, I’d love to win.

  2. I have a Kaiser roll stamp and have used it with mixed results. Sometimes they turn out great, other times they don’t if I cut too deep or not enough. I usually just tie a length of dough into a loose knot. When the knot is formed one end will be under the knot and one end will come out over the top of the knot. The end that comes out from the underside of the knot gets pulled up, over and through the top of the knot. The end of the dough that comes out of the top of the knot gets tucked underneath. After rising the roll looks more like a Kaiser. Snakes of dough are fun to manipulate. I’d say don’t worry if they aren’t exactly what you wanted… make up a new name for them and enjoy them anyway.

  3. What fun . . . spending my birthday trying to figure out a bread problem. 🙂 I mixed up a batch this morning and played around with it a little. I tried the slash method (instead of folding) but it came out looking more like hot-cross buns than kaiser rolls: I tried the folding method and, like yours, they lost the definition of the fold. The theory that ended up working best was fold; then before brushing with egg wash, re-define the fold by gently cutting it with a sharp knife.
    Sounds like you have a lot of great suggestions. 🙂
    Thanks, Jeff and Zoe, for all the work you’ve put into this. Your first book has re-defined bread at my house and I’m loving the changes!

  4. I realize this isn’t what you are after but really, as I look at the picture, my initial reaction was – I’d eat one of those… 🙂

  5. You are all so much fun,so informative and generous, thank you for being, the bread is only part of the nourishment….Paul

  6. when i’ve made kaiser rolls i’ve had good sucess with this:
    after your shape the top when you let the roll rest for 60 min (or however long)
    line the parchment paper with the poppyseeds and flip the rolls over for the rising. then right before you pop them in the oven flip them back over and bake.
    you can brush the rolls with water/cornstarch wash before you let them rise upside down. I hope that helps you out!

  7. Kaiser means king. Why not simply call them Graf (count) rolls and enjoy them without all that klopping and cutting and braiding?

  8. no Clarice, Kaiser means Emporer, Koenig means King =)
    (actually it’s an “o” with the 2 dots on top)
    coming from Germany I vote for the authentic method of the YouTube video that Astrid and Johanna posted. I’ll try it out tonight after work along with the knot method. I have the Kaiser stamp, but I’m not too happy with the result… only one thing left to say: mmmmm, Broetchen 🙂

  9. Ah, thanks for the correction. In any event don’t you suppose all those markings are suggestive of a fancy crown–and if so, why not a graf roll with a less fancy one –say a crease down the middle?

  10. My family’s coming in today for a visit from L.A. And so far the rye and boule loaves are in their final rise.
    After that I’m making mini tete a brioche, your brioche with chocolate frosting and your John Barrymore onion bread.

    I love all your recipes.
    (Tried the naan the othre night to go with a nice beef curry and it was absolutely delicious.)

  11. I’m not sure if this is stepping too far away from tradition, but my stepmother used to bake some rolls with the same “petals”, and she did it by rolling three little balls of dough and letting them rise in muffin tins. I can’t remember if she baked them there, or just left them for the rising. I’m sure you could do the same with four, although you might have to go to “mega muffin” sizes for a kaiser roll.

    It’s definitely a “cheater’s option”, but, if this is meant for publication, it might be friendlier to the general reader than the traditional method.

    Personally, I don’t care about the shape; I’ll be using this as a basis to make some kimmelweck rolls for beef on weck, which I can’t get here in new england (it’s a western new york thing).

  12. For a very ornate five petal look I think you need to:

    1. Make a long dough snake.
    2. Tie a loose knot in the middle of the snake.
    3. Loop the ends of the snake into your loose knot a la the King Arthur Flour’s site

    For a more subtle 5-petal look:

    1. Do exactly what you did but with less liquid and a bit of oil.
    2. Make a deep thumbprint in the center where you seal up the edges.

  13. I suggest keep making the “mistake” and send the “mistakes” all to me. Those rolls,no matter how they were supposed to turn out look fabulous.

  14. I just made kaiser rolls using the knot method, and the shape stays kaiser bun-ish looking, provided the dough is fairly firm. I tried with the usual ABin5 dough, but the hydration level is too high. This batch was made with a roll dough i made up in my stand mixer.

  15. It helps if you let the Kaiser rolls rise face down onto what ever seed you would like on them, so that the seams in the dough do not split apart as it rises. Try this, it works

  16. After shaping, spray them with hairspray (something organic that won’t taste completely repulsive, although they probably don’t make organic maximum hold).

  17. Hi, this is Bettina from Germany.

    In Germany, they use a stamp, or cut the rolls with a knife in a five-star-pattern.
    Fold the Brötchen-dough, then turn it upside down. Now the “smooth” side is cut.
    I’ve seen that many times!

    Good luck!

  18. The method you used should work — but you’ll want to roll them more into squares than circles — and then turn them upsidedown after folding.

    Will be eager to see what ends up working best!

  19. Roll out 3 to 4 ounces of dough into a 6-8 inch strand. Tie a simple overhand knot (like your beginning to tie your shoe). Loop the two loose ends (officially called the “bitter” ends) through the center a second time, by imagining a clock face, one end should go through what would be 7 o’clock and the other through 5 o’clock. One end will be sticking up and the other will be sticking down. There you have it … a Kaiser-style roll.

  20. 2 non expert suggestions. One is to form the petals from a rope that you’ve made the dough into. The other is to make it as you’ve done but cut cleanly through the petal edges after shaping. Idea in both is to allow the petals to break cleanly apart when eating.

  21. I’ve never tried this myself, but I know some bakers dust the tops with rye flour to help keep the sections from baking/rising together.

    Try using a hand sifter to lightly cover them. This will make the tops a bit drier than the inside, but it makes for a really nice crust, and should help the shape hold.

  22. I would try to use separate litle dough balls pushed together like others have mentioned. I am really hoping to win a copy of your book. I just fuond out about it on Mary Hunt’s website and it sounds absolutely wonderful.

  23. Hot Cross Buns:
    Today my Sunday School class made pretzels using your recipe from your book. They were wonderful and we had a great time.

    The children asked if we could do the same for Hot Cross Buns? I am thinking that I could use the Master bread recipe and add a little sugar, raisins and all-spice but wanted your opinion.


  24. Years ago I worked in a bakery and we used a metal stamp on a plain ball off dough. We had to press really hard all the way through the dough if I remember right. Try cutting a ball of dough into wedges and placing them close to each other to rise. They will connect but the mark where they were separated will remain.

  25. Hi Jeff

    Maybe the egg white brushed on just before baking keeps the petals together. You may want to brush the petals individually instead? Gd luck.

  26. Do you have a “Jewish Rye” bread recipe? Like the store bought heavy bread with or without seeds?

    I have substituted rye flour and it isn’t the same as the more dense type of bread. Husband requests. So far, either I haven’t substituted enough rye flour (in lieu of bread flour) or ???


    BTW – really love the book!! Easiest bread making experience I have ever had. Thank you!

  27. Jeff and Gail – Just wanted to comment that I got spectacular results using the panettone recipe to make hot cross buns, using raisins for the fruit and leaving out the zest. A 1/2 batch made 18 generous rolls. I made them for a religion class where we talked about traditions (including pretzels and hot cross buns). They were a HUGE hit. I just used a white buttercream to frost a cross on top.

    Hopefully you sold a few books as the moms wanted the recipe!

  28. Make five small (walnut-sized) balls, dampen one side with wet fingers, and lightly press them together –pinch a bit at the center to close any spaces. Let them rest and bake per usual! Letting them rest in a muffin tin with ensure the tight fit you want, but it makes a rigid outer edge that will not be authentic kaiser…yum! I’ve got my dough cooling right now!

  29. Hi D Jones,

    We have a dense rye in our up coming book that I think your husband is going to really enjoy!

    It will be out in the fall!

    Thanks, Zoë

  30. I have some picture book instructions for you: https://www.backrezepte-online.de/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2469

    It’s in German , of course but the pictures tell all. Just use your thumb! ;-).Doesn’t say anything about klopping the Brötchen to death, though… If you need some translation , let me know and I will happily translate for… lets say a signed copy??? Haha!

    Okay, because Zoe and you saved me from my homesickness with your wonderful book I would do it anyway. Did I mention that my husband – who swept me away from German Bakeries – was born and raised in Minnesota? There you go, you owe me one ;-).

    OK, about the Brötchen: It says the important thing is to let the Brötchen rest in upside-down position (to lock the “ears” in place) in the fridge overnight! If you don’t they open up again! From the third “ear” on the folds have to be tucked in a little underneath the thumb fold. The fifth and last fold goes into the hole the thumb leaves behind. Don’t use too much flour or the 5th fold won’t stay. It says that it needs some practice. Hope you don’t have two left thumbs like me…
    Hope this helps!

    Oh and the Kaiserbrötchen are called Kaiser (emperor)brötchen because the baker who perfected this shape was the last baker of Russian Emperor Zar Nicolas II. The revolution in 1917 made him go back to France where he trained young bakers.

    Good luck

  31. ive made the same kaiser rolls using your dough but following joe ortiz’s method in his book ‘village baker’mixed with a method i found on the net. u shape the same but then flip them upside down onto a tray filled with poppy seeds. you weigh them down with a baking sheet for bout twenty mins. before baking them. they turn out flatter, very crusty. not sure if thats what you’re after?

  32. I need help with Vital Gluten and King Arthur’s Rye Bread Improver. How do I use these products with “Artisan” recipes?
    To date your marvelous book gave me great basic bread, super bialys and this morning fantastic brioche (with lingonberry). The kaiser rolls of my youth in Brooklyn were not Kaiser nor Jewish….just rolls. One had to go in the bakery rear and select the rolls as they were pulled, cops and firemen fighting to be first. I have only seen them replicated on a street pushcart in Warsaw and in a Las Vegas Casino buffet. Some baker in Vegas has the secret.

  33. Hi Ted,

    In this book we didn’t use any vital wheat gluten or enhancers in our recipes. We wanted to stick to ingredients everyone would have on hand. It was a compromise for some of the loaves! In our next book we will go into the use of vital wheat gluten in some detail.

    As for the King Arthur Rye Bread Improver, I’ve never used it???

    Our new book will be coming out this fall. Stay tuned and hopefully we will answer your questions about Vital Wheat Gluten. I will also try to see what I can find out about the rye improver.

    Thanks, Zoë

  34. I worked in a bakery several years ago that made Kaiser rolls and they used the stamp: the baker always oiled the stamp (had a lid with veg oil that dipped the stamp in) before stamping each bun. I think he let the rolls rise for a bit before stamping, then stamped, egg-washed and sprinkled w/poppy seeds and let continue rising before baking. Also, I think if you very lightly oiled your round of dough before folding, then let rise part-way up-side down, then flip over and egg-wash and seed then let raise about 15 minutes (not completely) then bake. . .?!?

  35. I have just found your website. Love it. I made these rolls doing just as you did in the photo, except I pushed my thumb down into the center after shaping to give the roll that little indent in the middle. Then turned them over onto the poppy seed. Flipped them over just before baking. They came out perfect.

    1. I love that variation. Maybe I have to try these again— I have to admit that I wasn’t that excited about using the Kaiser roll cutter/form. Seemed like cheating! Jeff

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