Kaiser Rolls – BBA Challenge bread 16

Kaiser Rolls Collage

Homemade kaiser rolls? Why not?

Kaiser rolls are a childhood favorite of mine. They reside deep in my memory, as the bread of my first sandwich love: the heaping hot pastrami sandwich at the restaurant where my sister, grandmother, and I would meet my grandfather for lunch once or twice a summer.

We’d meet my grandfather at his office. He was always impressively dressed in nice pants, a button-down shirt, and a tie. He’d tour us around the office a bit, and then we’d drive over to a favorite deli restaurant in a nearby strip mall.

I have no idea what else was on the menu, because I always ordered the same thing: a pastrami sandwich on a kaiser roll, with french fries. I was small and the sandwich was huge. The meat portion was large, but it was the kaiser (also known as a bulkie roll) that put the sandwich over the top. I’d open my mouth as wide as I could and still there was no way that sandwich was going to fit into my mouth. I had to use my fork first to pull out a meal’s worth of pastrami, and then proceed to eat half the sandwich. The other half we took home for later.

In all the years since, I’d never thought that normal people could make a kaiser, and now that I live in northern New England where there is no such thing as real pastrami, I’d kind of given up my lust for a good kaiser. In the past year, though, Michael had hunted up a source for artisanal pastrami (okay, I’m kinda laughing at myself as I write that phrase. I mean, really….) and though it tasted great on the local rolls and sandwich breads (and, yes, I know, many people believe that pastrami and rye bread are the only natural combination, but I am emphatically NOT one of those people), something was missing.

Unfortunately, by the time I got this recipe, the good pastrami was once again not available in our neck of the woods, so I had to eat the kaiser rolls with inferior sandwich meats, but I still enjoyed the rolls. And, what’s more, I enjoyed making them, mostly because it’s so much fun to shape them.

The recipe itself is another simple, two-day affair, where the first day is just mixing up a quick pâte fermentée and allowing it to ferment for a few hours before refrigerating. The next day, de-chill the pâte fermentée by allowing it to sit on the counter for an hour, mix the dough (flour, salt, diastatic barley malt powder, yeast, pâte fermentée, vegetable oil, and water), knead for about 10 minutes, and then ferment for two hours.

When the dough has doubled from its original size, divide it into four-ounce pieces for large rolls (what else would you want to make?), shape into rolls, and let them relax for a few minutes.

To make the distinctive kaiser roll shape, you have a couple choices. One is to use a kaiser roll stamp/cutter, which allows you to press the swirl pattern into the top of the round roll. The other is to shape the roll into a rope and knot it. I chose the knot method, mostly because I didn’t own the stamp and didn’t feel like buying a single-use tool. I’m happy with my choice because the knotting method is simple and the results were terrific.

After shaping, proof the rolls for about 45 minutes, seed them if you want (we didn’t) and then bake.

See step-by-step pictures for this bread here.

The resulting rolls were the best kaisers I’d had in a long time. And guess what Michael found at the co-op today? A new brand of pastrami, and it’s pretty darn good. I think I’ll be making kaiser rolls again very soon.


The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!


  1. gaaarp says:

    Nice write up. Don’t you just love these rolls? I’ve made them several times. I’m one of those people who will use any excuse to get a new kitchen toy, so I bought the kaiser stamp after my first batch. After reading about your and some others’ experiences, however, I want to try knotting them next time.

    1. grongar says:

      Phyl, we’re all bread geeks here, so I can admit that knotting the rolls is really a lot of fun. 🙂

  2. ap269 says:

    Your kaiser rolls look great. Enjoyed reading the little story…

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