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I like to play with bread dough. I like to get my hands in it, to knead, and form the rolls. Usually, I don’t have time but I like to nurture the dough along (those yeast spores are alive and they feed and create byproducts). It’s an artistic thing; that’s why they call it artisan bread.
And Kaiser rolls are the most fun you can have making rolls–making ropes out of the dough and twisting and turning it into knots.
How to Make Kaiser Rolls
The rolls above are topped with poppy seeds but you can use sesame seeds just as well.
You can make Kaiser Rolls out of any lean bread dough but if you would like to make your rolls from a mix, we suggest using our Sunday Dinner Rolls. Simply leave the butter out and add another half-tablespoon of water.
A Kaiser Roll is merely a lean roll, specially shaped, and baked in a steamy oven to make it crusty. Choose a recipe or mix for a lean bread dough—or leave the butter or oil out of the recipe. Make per the directions for rolls including letting the dough rise the first time.
(If you don’t want to use the steamy oven, you can still make Kaiser rolls but they’ll be soft, not crusty.)
Here’s how to shape the rolls:
Cut a piece of dough off about twice what you would use for a dinner roll. (We scale the dough at 3.5 ounces for our sandwich rolls.) Roll the dough out into a rope about eight inches long.
Form a simple over-hand knot in the center of the dough. Leave the knot loose; do not try to draw it tight. You will have two protruding ends a couple inches long.
Take one of the ends and continue it around the rope and push it down through the center hole. It should look like the picture to the right.
Take the other end of the dough, go around the rope, and push the end up through the center hole. The finished roll should look like the one to the right.
It’s more complicated to try to describe the forming process than it is to form the rolls. After the first couple, you’ll breeze right through without even thinking.
Now let the formed rolls rise covered on a baking sheet. When they are ready to bake, brush them with a whisked egg and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds. You can bake them as you would dinner rolls but if you would like crusty rolls like true Kaiser Rolls, follow the directions for baking breads in a steamy oven.
How to Make Crusty Breads and Rolls
To form the thick, chewy crust that is typical of artisan breads, follow these instructions: Place a large, shallow, metal pan in the oven on the lowest shelf. You will pour hot water in this pan to create steam in the oven. High heat is hard on pans so don’t use one of your better pans. An old sheet pan is ideal. Fill a spray bottle with water. You will use this to spray water into the oven to create more steam.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven is hot and the bread is fully raised and is soft and puffy–being very careful not to burn yourself with the rising steam and with a mitted hand, pour about two cups of very hot water in the pan in the oven. Quickly close the oven door to capture the steam. With a spray bottle in hand, open the door and quickly spray the oven walls and close the door.
Immediately put the bread in the steamy oven. After a few moments, open the door and spray the walls again to recharge the steam. Do this twice more during the first ten minutes of baking. This steamy environment will create the chewy crust prized in artisan breads.
You can use this baking procedure for crusty hearth breads also. For rolls, bake for ten minutes at 450 degrees then lower the temperature to 350 degrees until done. How long you will bake them will depend on how quickly your oven loses heat but it will probably be about ten additional minutes (a total of 20 minutes). As for all hearth breads, the internal temperature of your crusty rolls should be about 210 degrees. (If crusty rolls are not well-baked, the internal moisture will migrate to the crust and make it soft.)
About the Author
Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book or as a Kindle book on Amazon.
Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and six beautiful granddaughters.