A Kaiser roll is a hard, crusty bread roll which is sometimes simply known as a hard roll. Kaiser rolls are often used to make sandwiches, and they can also be served whole to accompany hearty soups and stews. Many bakeries and grocers stock Kaiser rolls, and they can also be made at home, although shaping them can be a bit challenging.
A classic Kaiser roll is round with deep lines in the top which make the roll look almost like a flower. Most Kaiser rolls are divided into five segments by these lines, although four segments are not uncommon. Before baking, a Kaiser roll is brushed with poppy or sesame seeds. During the baking process, the roll rises up into a puffy shape with a rich, chewy crust.
Supposedly, the Kaiser roll was invented in Vienna, Austria to honor Emperor Franz Josef. Because of this, some people call the rolls “Vienna rolls.” Recipes for Kaiser rolls vary; some are yeasted rolls enriched with egg and milk, for example, while others are made with sponges or starters, which develop a more chewy crust since they rise more slowly. The rolls are generally about the size of hamburger buns, and some cooks make them with a thinner, less chewy crust, although this is not traditional.
To make Kaiser rolls, mix up a batch of bread dough of choice and divide it into rolls. Allow the rolls to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size, and then form them. There are two ways to form a Kaiser roll. The traditional technique involves rolling the dough out into a square and then folding each corner into the middle, creating a four-petaled shape. Some bakers use a Kaiser roll stamp instead; these heavy metal stamps make lines in the middle of the Kaiser roll.
If using the traditional technique, it helps to let the Kaiser rolls rise face down, so that the seams in the dough do not split as it rises. Kaiser rolls made with a stamp can rise face up. After a second rising of around half an hour, brush the Kaiser rolls with water or egg and sprinkle the seeds of choice on top before baking them as directed in your bread dough recipe. Kaiser rolls are particularly excellent when served warm, although they can also be eaten after they have cooled in sandwiches or on picnics.