Recipe – The Roll In Honor of a Kaiser

May 10, 2012

Who does not appreciate a warm Kaiser roll with their morning coffee?

This tasty roll goes by several names including Imperial, Vienna and Emperor Roll. All of them, however, respect its origins. In 1850, Austrian bakers introduced a roll to Viennese society that was made of high quality flour fermented with yeast, as usual, but through a process of “sweet fermentation.” They called their production a Kaiser-Semmel (an Imperial roll), in honor of the much-loved Kaiser Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1830-1916). Franz Joseph himself enjoyed this roll with his morning breakfast of tea and cold meat. The Kaisersemmel (Kaiser Roll) has a five-segment, curved starry pattern that gives it a “crown” appearance like a 19th century royal crown.

A painting by Johann Ranzi of Franz Joseph of Austria in 1851 at the age of 21.

So the next time you have a Kaiser roll in the morning, try enjoying it while leafing through an album on Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary and the Habsburg Imperial Family.



  2 envelopes of active dry yeast

    1 ½ cups lukewarm milk

    3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

    1 ½  teaspoon salt

    1 stick of butter, melted and cooled

Before starting the recipe, you need to decide which way you want your rolls to look, the Knot or the Crisscross. To achieve the star pattern that most commercial bakeries make, you need a “Kaiser Stamp” which can be purchased at the store. Whichever design you choose will not effect the taste. Depending on the size, this recipe will make 9 to 12 rolls.

 There is a video at the bottom showing you how to make the knot shape. The 4 step process is also listed below.



In a small saucepan, heat the milk to 120° F. Pour heated milk into a small metal bowl and add the yeast and stir to dissolve the yeast. In another bowl, sift the flour and salt together and add the cooled melted butter.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and mix together. You can use a dough hook or flat beater on your kitchen mixer. The dough will be a bit sticky. Turn it out onto a floured counter, dusted with about ¼ cup of flour, and briefly knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Pour about a Tablespoon of oil (olive oil is best) into a large bowl, greasing the bowl’s insides with the oil.  Place the dough in the oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled (45 minutes to an hour).

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto the freshly floured board.  If you want your rolls to turn out with the knot shape, follow the 4 steps in A. below. If you want the Crisscross look, then follow the steps in B. below.


The Knot look

A. Knot steps:

1.  Divide your dough into rolls and then roll the dough out into a rope about 12 inches long.

2.  Tie into a loose knot.

3.  Bring one end up around and tuck it under (into the middle).

4.  Bring the underneath one around and tuck it in the middle. Proceed to C. below, the Baking Step…



The Crisscross look

B. Crisscross step:

1. With a clean pair of scissors, cut a ¼ inch deep cross on top of the rolls. 6 cuts are sufficient. Proceed to C.  below, the Baking Step…



C. The Baking Step

Place dough balls 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Let them sit, covered for another 45 minutes to 1 hour to rise again. They need to double in size. Preheat the oven to 425° F (220 C).

Beat an egg white and 1 Tablespoon of cold water; brush over rolls. You can cook them as is or sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds if desired.

Once the oven has reached 425° F, quickly open the oven door and [mist] with 2 sprays of water. Close oven door again and wait 5 seconds. Open the oven door again and put the rolls in. Spray (not on the rolls) twice more and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden browned. Remove from baking sheets and let cool on a wire rack or eat warm.


This recipe was taken from: The complete bread, cake and cracker baker by J. Thompson Gill 1881, pg. 222, and was scaled down for family use.





Video showing how to make the rolls:



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