The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Kaiser roll shaping

dmsnyder's picture

Kaiser roll shaping

Ten or more years ago, nbicomputers (Norm Berg, may he rest in peace) made a video of the traditional method of shaping kaiser rolls. This question came up yesterday because my younger son posted some photos of rolls he had recently made which included some "kaiser rolls." He said he had shaped them in the traditional way, but what he really made was knotted rolls which are quite different. Now, Joel's rolls look delicious, and I'm sure they are, but they irked by bread geek nerve.

I went looking for Norm's video and found youtube had taken it down when his account was cancelled, presumably after his passing. But I found a couple other good videos, one in Spanish and one in German, and thought they might be of interest to any TFL Kaiser rollers.

There is also a good verbal description of the technique in Ginsburg and Berg's "Inside the Jewish Bakery." See pp. 117ff.

Happy baking!



OldLoaf's picture

Thanks for posting those links.  Seems that the traditional (karate chop) method of shaping kaiser rolls is fading into oblivion.  Even the knotting method seems to have been pushed aside for the stamp method (yuck!).

Here is another link for you:

BBGA had an article last year (issue 1-2018, pgs 31-33), showed pictures of the method.  Seems that very few people even know how to do that method anymore.


bonnibakes's picture

I grew up in Brooklyn 75 years ago when you could find a delicious Kaiser roll, with a cottony center and shattering crisp thin crust, anywhere in NYC. It was the vehicle that formed the base of the classic NYC quick breakfast, "egg and cheese on a roll", or any number of great sandwiches. I left NYC for 25 years and returned to live in Brooklyn 4 years ago. In all this time I have NOT found a Kaiser Roll that I can relate to. I remember, as David pointed out, that those of us who loved the old Jewish bakery products, were thrilled when Norm Berg posted his professional baking experiences and recipes on TFL. He was knowledgable, generous in sharing recipes, and willing to trouble-shoot the many questions pointed in his direction. Ultimately, Stan Ginsburg was able to put together a book of Norm's recipes designed for home kitchens plus a wonderful history of Jews coming to America. It encompassed many delicious items from those old Jewish bakeries that we took for granted.

When their book "Inside the Jewish Bakery" was published I owned a bakery cafe in Bradenton, FL. Over the  course of months we baked our way through the book and had customers taste-test the results each week, then submitted their comments back. The one item I never made was the Kaiser Roll. These rolls have such a strong emotional connection to my childhood that I wasn't ready to be disappointed. At that time Norm was asked many questions on TFL regarding how to create the rolls. I don't have his video but here are his Kaiser Roll notes. I re-post this for those of us, newbies included, who may have missed the original post from Norm and should bask in the love and care that Norm extended to all of us.

Kaiser Rolls   notes from Norm

As a retired pro baker i will try to shed some light on this. First malt is a yeast food and can be replaced with sugar ounce for ounce with sugar. 

Here is a small mix for these rolls cut down from the 70 lbs of flour that i used in the bakery. Note all ingredients are in weight

 sugar 1 oz

 oil 3/4 oz

 eggs 3\4 oz

 salt 1/4 oz

 water 8 0z

 cake yeast 1 oz 

hi gluten flour 1 lb

KA Sir Lancelot Hi-Gluten Flour this is the only high gluten flour you can buy in small quantity (personally i buy All trumps by the 50 pound bag for my home since I'm used to it) This is the highest-gluten flour (14.2% protein) available on the retail market today. It's a must-have for lusty, extra-chewy artisan breads, and breads made with lots of whole grains do not use patent bread flour which only has 12-13 percent protein

Crumble yeast in flour and set aside. If using powered yeast dissolve in water but cake yeast is best.

With cake yeast put all in mixer with water, add the flour and yeast mix on top of the water. Mix in a KitchenAid type mixer with hook and mix for at least 12 minutes till smooth

If using powdered yeast put all in bowl and add the water & yeast mix on top of the flour so the yeast does not come in direct contact with salt.

Bake with steam in oven by spraying oven with water and placing a dry pan on the bottom of oven. When you put the rolls in the oven add water to the dry pan to get a large burst of steam in the oven and close the door fast.

Spray the rolls after 5 minutes and then 5 minutes after that. Then 5 minutes later remove the pan of water.

Shaping them is involved but simply put your thumb on a round piece of dough and then fold the dough over your thumb 4 times creasing the dough hard each time without moving your thumb. Take the last section and give in a twist and place it in the space that your thumb was in and press it in hard to prevent it from opening during the baking.

Every recipe in their book that I've made has been a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Back then there was also another video suggested demonstrating the shaping of the Kaiser Rolls.

MiniOven offered some very helpful comments too and I'm posting them for folks who haven't read them

Mini Oven

use fine rye flour

with the folding, using it on the outside or bottom side of the rolled out disk.  Try to keep the top of the disk free from flour with the first fold.  Important is to keep several steps going at the same time in order to allow rests between shaping a round and flattening out the dough before folding.  

Note that in the excellent video from Herr Kappl, the first 6 rolls are rolled out and loosely stacked, then before shaping the pile is flipped over with the most relaxed disk on top.  As the roll balls have sat relaxing, it is no longer necessary to flatten out with a roller and making the disk shape can be combined with the folding.  

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Rye flour prevents the sections from sticking together and they separate nicely.  On the last fold, If you have over stretched the edge while working, push in some of the edge of the opening (where your thumb was) to thicken the dough which forms the first "petal."  Pinch near the base to seal.   Let formed rolls rise upside down after shaping but only for about half an hour.  Then turn over, Brush with water or a  little egg or just dip tops in a shallow bowl of whole milk (with maybe a pinch of malt and salt.)  Then let rise fully under a damp cloth. Dab on a little more milk if needed before baking with plenty of steam.

What a great place TFL is and thanks to all who share, support, post, comment & teach.


OldLoaf's picture

Bonnie,  thanks for that walk down memory lane!  ?  My wife and I are originally from Long Island (Nassau County) and we both remember the Kaiser Roll exactly as you described it.  That crumb, almost cotton candy like.  And your right, there has not been a decent Kaiser Roll around for a very long time.  Probably since about the 1980's.  If memory serves me correctly it was around the time when baking went to the industrial sized scale.  Local bakeries could not compete with with the lower prices of the machine made, mass produced, lifeless breads that were made.

Over the years I tried repeatedly the recreate them.  Came as close as I can remember to the the taste.  But never could match the crust and crumb.  I have not made them in about 4 years but you and David have renewed my interest.  I will have to dig through my archives and find my old formula's and compare them to Norm's.



The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Hi, Bonni.

 I too was born and raised in Canarsie Brooklyn. I wonder do know of the Italian bread that use to be made in Canarsie, by the Pernice family (Bread Box bakery?) That bread was sold throughout Brooklyn and beyond! Back to the topic at hand, I make some pretty good pillow soft brioche hamburger buns. I would like to try my hand at Norms Kaiser Rolls, and add this technique add to my repertoire. I also remember kaiser rolls just as you described, with poppy seeds on top. 

 I did a quick search and found that 1 oz. of fresh yeast equals 10.5 grams (.37 oz.) of instant. Does that sound right? If I was to convert this to a wild yeast recipe do you think 15% of the total flour in  sourdough levain would be a good? Naturally I would deduct the levain flour and water from the final dough. Thanks for reading and thanks to all that contributed to this great topic.

 Kind regards,

Will F.

suave's picture

I remember Norm's video, the speed with which he worked was awe-inspiring.

svstevens's picture

Thanks for the great video links on shaping as well as the notes from Norm. I, too, miss the kaiser rolls of my youth. I thought I couldn't get them because I live in California now, but it sounds like it's a more universal problem. What a drag! 

Anyway, those videos were fabulous (had my friend translate the details) and I was able to shape them quite well on my first try. While my spouse loved the rolls, that only because he's never had a real KR before. I will try once more with the notes from David...the lengths I'll go through for a proper egg & cheese sandwich!!