BBA Challenge #16: Kaiser Rolls

As mentioned in my last BBA post, I powered through some BBA Challenge breads over the Thanksgiving weekend (and in typical fashion, am late in posting the results!)  Recently we’ve had France and Italy featured, now onto Germany in the form of Kaiser Rolls!

It was actually a really good time to make them.  As my mother-in-law pointed out, kaiser rolls are perfect for making turkey sandwich leftovers.  But she upped the ante as she reminisced about the lovely bakery in Floral Park NY (half in Queens, half in Nassau County/Long Island) where she grew up that made wonderful kaiser rolls.  She then sadly noted that her only available kaiser rolls nowadays, i.e. the supermarket version, are nothing more than a glorified hamburger bun.  Peter Reinhart, the gauntlet has been thrown!  (OK, we already know that this recipe will turn out better than supermarket Kaiser Rolls.  There’s really no suspense here, is there?  As for the Floral Park bakery, that’s another story).

First the dough.  Once again, the recipe called for diastatic barley malt syrup, which I didn’t have.  As this time round, it was not an optional ingredient, I decided to give up on these being bakery quality.  But given Reinhart’s explanation of what the purpose of this additive is (caramelization and crust), I figured it would be good enough without.  On the other hand, I knew they would not be as lovely as the picture in the book.  I don’t have a link to the photograph, but they really are the “Platonic ideal” of a kaiser roll.  (I realize that is a completely bizarre comment, by the way.  But my mother-in-law, ex-philosophy major, will hopefully enjoy me linking kaiser rolls to the great Greek thinkers).

Oddly enough, my dough was quite wet–I say oddly enough because not only did I add a tad less water than necessary, I also did not include the diastatic barley malt syrup which would have provided even more moisture.  (Also, this is in contrast to my experience with foccacia and ciabatta where I have added more than the required amount of liquid, which wasn’t always enough).

After the dough rose came the shaping.  Not owning a special kaiser roll stamp, I rolled these by hand.  Once I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy–I tied my “knot” too close to each end of the dough rope at first so had a hard time folding them back over each other, but after a few rolls that got better.  Once formed, the rolls are left to rise, are flipped, and allowed to rise some more.  I was a bit surprised that they are turned over halfway through–I thought this might flatten out the distinctive shaping of the bun, and isn’t that what makes them kaiser rolls?  It didn’t seem to matter  in the end; I still wonder why this is done, however.

So here’s the final rise, giant pillows of risen kaiser rolls.

With an obligatory sprinkle of poppy seeds!

And baked.  Much like the Italian bread, the crust on these was a bit “blah” and dry looking.  Must be that diastatic barley whatchamacalit.  Lacking this not-so-commonly-found-in-kitchens ingredient, I probably could have used an egg wash to make a prettier, more tender crust, but I only thought of that now as I am typing.   (Not so helpful a revelation for me–but I’ll mention just in case anyone else out there is contemplating the “challenge” without this recommended ingredient!).

However, I must report that my mother in law thought they were great, even if I did not follow the recipe precisely!  And yes, they were used to make some turkey sandwiches, more than once.


3 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #16: Kaiser Rolls

  1. Sadly, I don’t think I ever actually tasted these rolls. However, I thought they looked pretty even without the diastatic stuff. Then again, I like the sort of natural bumpy bread finish. You never get that on non-homemade bread so I think it is sort of a badge of honor.

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