Kaiser Buns and Vienna Bread (BBB August 2011)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for BBB Kaiser Rolls and a Boule baked on the barbecue; no really, it’s entirely unnecessary to oil the rising bowl; baking bread AND rolls on the barbecue at the same time can be tricky; information about Bread Baking Babes and YeastSpotting; (click on image(s) to see larger view and more photos)

kaiser rolls (bbb) And I’m back to my usual tricks. I THOUGHT of starting this earlier. But no. I made the starter on Sunday and we baked the rolls last night. Here I am posting – JUST under the wire!!

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) August 2011

Astrid (Paulchen’s FoodBlog?!) chose Vienna Bread for the BBBabes to make this month. She said that traditionally,

The Kaiser roll, also called a Vienna roll or a hard roll (original name: Semmel or Kaisersemmel; if made by hand also: Handsemmel), is a kind of bread roll, supposedly invented in Vienna, and thought to have been named to honor Emperor Franz Joseph. It is a typically crusty round roll made from flour, barm, malt, water and salt, with the top side usually divided in a rotationally symmetric pattern of five segments, separated by curved superficial cuts radiating from the centre outwards. Kaiser rolls are often produced by machine, as well as by hand.

– Wikipedia: Kaiser Roll

In Vienna leaven is never used for making the rolls and small goods for which that city is famous. Viennese bakers use either brewers’ yeast or a ferment, prepared by themselves, of which the basis is an infusion of hops.

– Hugh Chisholm, ed (1910). The encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences – Vol 4

Eeeeeekkk!!! When I saw “use either brewers’ yeast or a ferment, prepared by themselves, of which the basis is an infusion of hops” I immediately thought “Astrid IS evil!!!;-)

We don’t have hops growing in our garden!!! I don’t remember seeing hops at the weekly farmers’ market!!!!

But then I calmed myself and remembered to use my little-used reading skills to see that thank goodness, the recipe Astrid showed us calls for ordinary yeast.

And suddenly it sounded like fun. I LOVE Kaiser rolls! And I’ve never made them before so was very excited to do so!

Kaiser Rolls and Vienna Bread Diary:

13 August 1:32 pm:

I announced that I was going to make the starter and then we’d bake the rolls on Sunday evening. There was the gentle reminder that we were dining at friends’ house on Sunday night. Ooops!!

14 August 4:32 pm:

After having a computer alarm pop up several times over the course of the day AND walking past strategically placed little paper notes to myself to make the starter, I suddenly realized that we were leaving in half an hour.

Luckily, I’d already done a few calculations. This month’s BBB recipe is one of Peter Reinhart’s. I have a deep seated, unreasonable prejudice against the man and his recipes. I don’t really know why. It can’t really be because he calls for oiling the rising bowl for French bread. That would be petty. :lalala:

But one thing I’d noticed was that the starter for this particular recipe makes about 454gm (1 lb) but he only calls for 368gms. Being the freak I am, I worked out that I should make 81% of the starter to get the amount called for in the actual bread recipe.

Unsurprisingly, Reinhart calls for bread flour. I know he loves to use bread flour. I was thinking about using only all purpose but then I remembered that we HAVE high gluten flour in the freezer so I might as well use it.

So I mixed 115 gm unbleached all purpose flour, 3 gm vital wheat gluten, 112 gm whole wheat flour (hey!!! Reinhart didn’t call for whole wheat flour! And certainly, traditional “Vienna Bread” is supposed to be all white flour bread!!), 150 gm lukewarm water (81% of the starter recipe is 138 to 162 gms), 4 gm salt and .4 gm active dry yeast – about an eighth of a teaspoon (hey!!! 81% of the starter recipe is 1 gm of instant yeast!!).

In no time, the starter was mixed and hand kneaded.

Oil your bowl and transfer dough to the bowl coating it with oil all around! Cover with plastic
-Peter Reinhart, Pâte Fermentée recipe

What?! No. Way. Is. It. Necessary. To. Oil. The. Bowl. (I’m wondering if Reinhart has multiple shares in one of the oil companies….)

I put the dough into a lidded pyrex bowl and onto the counter. (Hey!!! it’s not covered with plastic either! Will the Reinhart recipe police come after me?)

And we jumped on our bikes to go to friends’ house to have a wonderful dinner of cold cucumber soup followed by shrimps in pernod on egg noodles. (Mmmmm, it was delicious!!!)

11:00 pm

Hmmmm. The starter is looking just a bit too active. Into the fridge it goes!!

15 August 8:00 am:

Good thing I put the starter into the fridge. It rose again nicely in the cold.

9:00 am

Now that I’d already started fooling around with Reinhart’s ingredients list, I decided I might as well continue. I added 10 gm ground up flax seed and decided to omit the sugar entirely. The dough was lovely and soft. Kneading was a dream.

Peter Reinhard says: “the dough should pass the windowpane test” – honestly I’ve never done this and it worked for me without this test…
-Astrid, BBB’s August kitchen of the month

Pffft!! Windowpane test??!! Like Astrid, I’ve never done this windowpane test either. And I’m not going to start now…. (Yes, it’s true. I’m an old dog. I can’t learn new tricks.)

3:00 pm

It’s so warm in the kitchen that I had to push the dough down AGAIN. (I’ve already pushed it down once at around noon.)

5:00 pm

I cut the dough in two and made a boule out of half the dough and then cut the other half into 6 pieces for Kaiser Rolls. Shaping was fun!! But will the little Kaiser buns get large enough to satisfy The Man’s sensibilities? Oh oh. There were visible muscle ticks when T looked at the just-shaped rolls….

Mist the dough lightly with oil and cover loosely with plastic

What?!@! More oil?

As usual, I skipped the misting part (okay, I’ll tell the truth; I didn’t even notice that section until MUCH later – after I’d already left the rolls and boule to rise) and simply covered the just-shaped bread with a clean tea towel followed by a loosely draped plastic grocery bag on top.

7:00 pm

Happily, the rolls had doubled in size and were decreed large enough. The boule had also doubled and was looking particularly good. I was brave and slashed a design in the boule. We fired up the barbecue and after some discussion decided to bake both the bread and the rolls at the same time, putting the rolls on the stone and the bread on a pan.


It didn’t seem like a mistake at first. The loaf and the rolls puffed beautifully. I can’t remember seeing such oven spring! Too bad I didn’t take a picture. Because naturally, I have no proof. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

The rolls puffed so much that they lost their definition. I DID shape them like Kaiser rolls. I DID!!

Of course, the rolls were done first and because there is a tendency for the bread to get done on the bottom, T turned all of them over. Including the boule. I watched as the boule slowly but surely deflated.

Me: Oh oh…
He: What?
Me: Rats, look at the bread…
He: What!? It’s fine… ohhhh… sorry!!

We left the poor thing, now a disc, in the barbecue to continue baking and went inside to toss salad and fry ham for making sandwiches out of the Kaiser rolls.

Wow!! Those are the softest Kaiser rolls I’ve ever had! (Hmmmm, do Kaiser rolls traditionally have an egg in them??)

Vienna Bread (bbb) Ooops!!! I see from looking at Astrid’s post that Reinhart’s recipe recommended making pistoles. Of course that’s what I should have done instead of a boule!! Two pistoles might have fared better in the barbecue with the rolls than this one boule did. (How do YOU spell “flat as a pancake”?)

Naturally, in spite of my errors and fast and loose attitude towards what “Vienna Bread” means, you’ll want to make this bread too. But may I recommend that you learn from my mistakes and make Kaiser rolls only?

Here’s this month’s BBB recipe. And here is what I did to it:

A Boule and Kaiser Rolls
based on Peter Reinhart’s Vienna Bread & Kaiser Rolls

makes one round loaf and 6 rolls

“Old Dough” Starter

  • 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
  • 150 gm luke warm water ¹
  • 115 gm unbleached all purpose flour
  • 112 gm whole wheat flour
  • 3 gm high-gluten flour ²
  • 4 gm kosher salt

Vienna Bread (for Kaiser Rolls)

  • all the starter from above
  • 3 gm (1 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 100 gm boiling water
  • 7 gm unsalted butter
  • 100 gm additional water
  • 330 gm unbleached all purpose flour
  • 10 gm high-gluten flour
  • 10 gm flax seed, ground finely ³
  • 14 gm sugar4
  • 7 gm malt powder
  • 7 gm Kosher salt
  • 1 egg 5


  1. Starter: The evening before making the rolls: In a medium sized bowl, whisk yeast into the water. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon.
  2. Knead (no need to add more flour) the dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and the sides of the bowl are clean looking.
  3. Cover the bowl with a lid or a plate and leave on the counter (or in the fridge if your kitchen is particularly warm) overnight to double.
  4. Bread: The next morning on the day you’ll be making the rolls: An hour before beginning to mix the actual dough, remove the starter from the fridge to bring it up to room temperature.
  5. In a largish bowl, whisk yeast into the water. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon until roughly mixed and the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Kneading: Plop the dough onto an unfloured board and leave to rest as you wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  7. Once the bowl is clean and dry, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and silky. Put it into the clean bowl with a plate or lid overtop and leave on the counter (out of drafts, please) to rise to about double.
  8. If it doubles before you’re ready to shape, just gently deflate it by reaching down the sides of the bowl to the bottom and folding the bottom of the dough onto the top.
  9. Shaping: Put the dough onto a lightly floured board. Cut it in half and set one half to the side.
  10. Boule: Shape one half of the dough into a boule shape. (Now I’m sorry that I didn’t cut that half in half and make two pistoles – I love those torpedo shaped rolls with the split down the center!)
  11. Kaiser Rolls: Cut the other half of the dough evenly into 6 pieces. Lightly form rounds. Then using a floured rolling pin, roll each round into a flat disc. Fold a small amount over towards the center. Place your thumb in the middle at right angles over the folded part and then fold the rest of the disc over to make a pinwheel shape. Push the last piece of the pinwheel into the place your thumb was. (Confused?? Of course, you are!! I would be too!! Please take a look at this great page on how to shape Kaiser Rolls (was at technoboulange.com/le-pain-empereur) Yes, it’s en français but there are LOTS of photos)
  12. Place the shaped rolls on a parchment covered tray. Cover all the shaped bread with clean tea towels and a couple of plastic grocery bags draped overtop. Leave on the counter (again, out of drafts) to not quite double. 6
  13. Baking: Put a pizza stone over the half of the barbecue you will turn on and preheat the barbecue to high. Just before putting the buns in the barbecue, spray the tops liberally with water (Oooops!!! Once again, I forgot to do that. It didn’t seem to make any difference.) Use a peel to transfer the buns to the pizza stone that is sitting over direct heat. Close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 8 minutes, rotating the stone once to account for uneven heat in the barbecue. Then move the stone over to cook with indirect heat (lid down again) until the buns are done (about another 8 minutes)… our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side. Watch for hotspots and move the buns around to keep them from burning on one side. (I cut the parchment paper into individual pieces.) If it’s raining, of course the rolls can be baked in a conventional oven 7
  14. When the rolls are done, remove them from the heat and allow to cool on a well ventilated rack. Wait til they are cool before cutting them. They are still continuing to bake inside! 8


1.) Yeast and Water: Reinhart calls for instant yeast. There’s nothing wrong with instant yeast; we just don’t happen to have any on hand. I used active dry instead. And a LOT less than Reinhart suggested. N.B. Under no circumstances do I ever use water from the hot water tap. Water from the hot water tap sits festering in the hot water tank, leaching copper, lead, zinc, solder, etc. etc from the tank walls… the higher temperature causes faster corrosion. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? I heat the water in our kettle.

2.) Flour: Reinhart calls for unbleached bread flour. It has been over a year since we’ve been able to get unbleached bread flour easily. So I used Susan’s (Wild Yeast) formula for substitution: 3% high-gluten flour + 97% unbleached all purpose (or 97% whole wheat….) Ooops!!! I slipped when measuring and put 9gm high-gluten flour into the starter rather than 3gm.

3.) Flax seed: This is entirely optional. I just wanted to add it….

4.) Sugar: With so much malt powder added, I made an executive decision to omit the sugar entirely.

5.) Egg: I wish I’d omitted the egg as well. For me, the bread was too soft. Not Kaiser rollish at all.

6.) Shaping and Proofing: In spite of my really rotten description, it’s really really quite easy to shape the Kaiser rolls. Please see technoboulange.com/le-pain-empereur as well as Astrid’s post Vienna Bread & Kaiser Rolls for a very clear description and photos on how to do the shaping.

Astrid writes: Be careful not to overproof them, otherwise they won’t hold their shape either… Of course, she’s right! I allowed the rolls to rise too far and they lost their definition almost entirely.

7.) Baking: Of course, Kaiser rolls can also be baked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray the tops liberally with water. Put the trays on the top shelf in the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake the buns for about 15 minutes until they are hollow sounding on the bottom. You will probably have to turn the trays around once to account for uneven heat in the oven. If the buns aren’t quite done after 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 5 minutes or so. (I bake all rolls on the top rack of the oven to ensure that the bottoms do not get burned.)

8.) But I LIKE warm bread right out of the oven: If you wish to serve warm rolls, reheat them after they have cooled completely. To reheat uncut rolls, put them on the top shelf of the hot barbecue for a few minutes. OR… turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the rolls in the hot oven for ten minutes.

Kaiser Roll (bbb) The rolls were delicious!! We had them still warm with Black Forest ham fried in butter and on the side a big salad of romaine, yellow pepper, tomato, basil and chives with blue cheese dressing.

Thank you, Astrid, for a most wonderful dinner! T was particularly ecstatic because I said it was okay to have sandwiches for dinner….

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Vienna Bread

Astrid (Paulchen’s FoodBlog?!) is the host of August 2011’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

The Viennese have a long history and tradition in bread baking, just think of that famous Kaiser rolls… so one of the oldest bread recipes known in Vienna is the Vienna bread (a dough you can easily make Kaiser rolls from as well) […] In the 19th century, for the first time, bread was made only from beer yeast and new dough […] The first noted or applauded example of this was the sweet-fermented Imperial “Kaiser-Semmel” roll of the Vienna bakery at the Paris Exposition of 1867. These sweet-fermented rolls lacked the acid sourness typical of lactobacillus, and were said to be popular and in high demand.

Happily, Astrid didn’t make us use beer yeast to make the bread and offered a recipe calling for regular yeast. You’ll want to bake along and receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site; bake Vienna bread and post about it (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it) before the 29 August 2011. If you don’t have a blog, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread!!

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBB, please read:

Thank you again, Astrid! We loved the rolls! I’ll definitely be making these again! (We’re going to slice and grill the flat bread tonight to go with barbecued pork and corn-on-the-cob. Remind me to report about that!)

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ results:


Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


As I was writing this post, I was very curious to see if egg is traditionally used in Vienna Bread and/or Kaiser rolls. I googled and found several recipes for Vienna Bread that called for flour, water, salt, yeast and milk – no egg. Of course there were also several online Vienna bread recipes that called for eggs. Then I looked in all of my bread cookbooks – rather a lot – and only one of the books mentions Vienna Bread and Kaiser Rolls at all.

Nowhere was fine, white bread more greatly prized than in Vienna where, at the World’s Fair of 1873, the roller-milled flour of Hungary was leavened with a “secret” yeast called Marxner Pressheffe to produce the famous Kaiser Semmel bread, a name which sounds like the title of a waltz by Strauss. The Viennese established a reputation for excellence unsuprassed to this day, the apogee of the baker’s art.


Vienna bread 8 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 packages dry yeast
1 cup water
1 cup milk


Kaiser Semmeln 5 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons malt extract
1 package dry yeast
1 tablespoon melted shortening
1 cup milk
Poppy seeds

Adrian Bailey, The Blessings of Bread, p.76, 77, 204, 260

I confess that I’ve never made any of the recipes in this particular book. My snot-nosed reason is that it calls for “packages” of yeast. Sheesh!! Exactly how much is in a standard package of yeast purchased in UK??! :stomp: In the book, there is even a page of conversion tables with oven temperatures in F, C and Gas Mark; weights and measures (pan sizes, cups, spoons, grams, etc) but NO mention of various kinds of yeast, let alone how much dry yeast is in a package…. Also omitted is an explanation of Marxner Pressheffe. Perhaps it was still a secret when this book was published in 1975. :lalala:

The yeast is a Viennese specialty, known as the “St. Marxner Press-heffe,” and its composition is a secret It keeps two days in summer and a little longer in winter.

-Jessup Whitehead, “The Real Vienna Bread”, Cooking For Profit

Austria-Hungary produces wheat which makes the finest
bread-flour in the world, […] at Vienna the wheaten bread, especially the Kaiser semmel, which is what we should term a dinner roll or manchet, is simply perfection.

The excellence of the Viennese bread is said to be owing to the bakers, the ovens, and the yeast. […] The yeast is a Viennese speciality, known as St. Marxner Pressheffe, and its composition is a secret. It keeps two days in summer and a little longer in winter.

– John Ashton, The History of Bread: from pre-historic to modern times, “Bread in Europe and America”, p. 74

(I just looked up “presshefe” and see that in German, it means “compressed yeast”.)

Kaiser Rolls (BBB August 2011)

edit 23 August 2011: pizza stone To bake bread and pizza on the barbecue, we use one of those inexpensive (around $10) pizza stones available in most kitchen stores. The advantage to this sort of stone is that it’s lighter weight than the stone we have for the oven. Because of hot spots in the barbecue, we move the stone back and forth from direct to indirect heat to prevent (for the most part) burning on the bottom.
When I shape buns for baking on the barbecue, I place them on parchment paper and cut the paper so that each roll is on its on piece of paper. Before the crust has set so it’s not so easily pierced and dented, it’s easier to turn the bread around by grabbing a corner of the paper than to turn the bread with tongs. And there is a lot of turning that is required – there are LOTS of hot spots on our barbecue….


edit 28 August 2011: Please read about what we did with the squashed loaf: Flattened Vienna Bread Rescue


This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes, PPN; YeastSpotting; MLLA; T&C on by . BBB August 2011 ejm kaiser rolls

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10 responses to “Kaiser Buns and Vienna Bread (BBB August 2011)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Yes! Oh how I would love your sandwich! Looks marvelous!
    Alas, my grill baking isn’t taking off. We do use the grill lots now but mostly veggies and some meat. The rest of the day is taken up with unpacking, organizing, cleaning up from construction this winter and things like today = we’re making a temporary kitchen counter 8ft.
    We loved the Kaisers too!

  2. Natashya

    I can’t be bothered with the windowpane either, but I do like the lightly oiled bowl. I seem to use less flour and get a better crumb with that method.
    Buns on the grill – great idea! And that sammie sounds divine.

  3. Astrid (PaulChen’s FoodBlog)

    I am with Natashya: windowpane: pha! but I do like what a little (!) as in some drops of oil do to most of my doughs and the crust afterwards. Just like bread baking is: everyone is welcomed to do like it pleases him or her.

    as for the egg in Vienna bread or Kaiser Rolls: Honestly I do not care what the internet says or not. What I know is that the recipe of Peter Reinhard i pretty close to how we make this bread and rolls here in Vienna. I should know ’cause one of my former boyfriends was a baker by profession and believe me I spent many o nights in the bakery downstairs to make bread dough and all sorts of rolls with him.

    I am glad you loved the challenge and the bread – though with all your changes – technically you would not call that a Vienna bread or typical Kaiser roll anymore. – Hope yu don’t mind that a bit snarky rant of mine, Babe! ;o)


  4. Kate

    To my shame I have never tried baking bread on the barbecue. Maybe V would be more enthusiastic if I tried that….. (Also never made pizza) Your rolls look delicious – what did you do with the boule? Would be perfect for teething puppies… ;-))

  5. ejm Post author

    The sandwich really was delicious, Tanna. The following night we grilled pork with the BEST bbq sauce and for a picnic lunch yesterday, we had thinly sliced pork with bbq sauce and julienned red pepper and lettuce sandwiches on the rest of the Kaiser rolls. Those sandwiches were also very very delicious.

    I’m always so relieved to hear that others don’t bother with windowpane testing, Natashya. I’ve only once lightly oiled the bowl and then I forgot to oil the bowl – very early on in my breadmaking career – I’ve found that the dough just pulls away all on it’s own, leaving nothing behind on the edge of the bowl.

    Yay, Astrid!! Another anti-windowpane tester! I really should have asked you earlier about the texture of Viennese bread – what with you actually living in Vienna! Clearly, the Kaiser rolls I’ve had in the past are ersatz Kaiser rolls (and they were white flour ones). We really loved the rolls we made using the recipe you gave us though. One of these days, when I’m not on my “must have wholegrains in everything” kick, I’ll make them using only white flour….

    There is no shame in not baking bread on the barbecue, Kate. I haven’t really done it either – my husband is in complete charge of the barbecue. (I don’t even know how to turn the stupid thing on.) As for pizza on the barbecue, I highly recommend getting one of those inexpensive round stones – about $10 from a kitchen supply store. They are GREAT for making pizza on the barbecue.

    The boule turned out surprisingly well inside. We sliced it and grilled it with a little olive oil drizzled over. It was pretty fabulous!


  6. Baking Soda

    NO window paning here either (just out of fear my window wouldn’t and I most definitely would be in pain/pane after that). Oiling yes, I do. Just the bowl, not again and again. Uncle Peter and I have a mixed relationship because of his pedantic tone of voice but also great recipes…

    I shamefully haven’t really been able to get past his pedantic tone, Karen. And I think this Vienna bread recipe is only the second one of his I’ve tried. The other one was his bagel recipe. I’m afraid I didn’t manage to follow that to the letter either…. :lalala: -Elizabeth

  7. Susan/Wild Yeast

    OK, fine, be that way, Babes! I ALWAYS do the windowpane, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! :) And I oil the bowl. I haven’t ever baked on the grill, though, and this I would very much like to learn to do. Elizabeth, do you have a special stone for your barbecue, or is it the same one that you use in the oven?

    I think I tried doing the windowpane test once and even though the dough was beautifully kneaded, silky and smooth, I kept botching the test. -Elizabeth

  8. ejm Post author

    pizza stone To bake bread on the bbq, we use one of those inexpensive (around $10) pizza stones available at most kitchen supply stores… the stone fits perfectly on the bottom shelf of our barbecue.

    It does get quite discoloured but it works fabulously. One of the things I like about it is how light-weight it is in comparison to the stone we use in the oven. The lighter weight is ideal for the barbecue because the bread does have to be moved back and forth from direct to indirect heat (lots of hot spots in the barbecue!!)


  9. Lien

    finally I’m taking a tour to visit the Vienna bread. Wow your rolls looks perfectly folded, very nice.
    Window paning? Me neither, you can feel if it’s elastic or not without all that fuss. I find bread is much forgiving than people/bakers are making us believe.
    I never baked bread on a BBQ, very brave to experiment with it!


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