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German Kaiser Roll Recipe

German Kaiser Rolls, handcrafted

These are so delicious and if you never had German Kaiser Rolls, let me tell you: The stuff you get at the grocery in the US is a tasteless sponge, compared to this! (No offense, though).

Video

Kaiser Rolls are called Kaiser Semmeln or Kaiser Brötchen in Germany. Kaiser means Emperor but I am not sure why they are called this. My assumption is that the pattern on the top of the rolls is compared to the crown of an emperor but this is just a wild guess from me. Their taste is definitely royal!

How to make kaiser rolls

The Shape of Kaiser Rolls

The shaping that I show and describe in the video is the traditional way that it is done in German bakeries. I have seen people doing it differently or using a kaiser roll stamp. Though these methods might result in more even patterns and results, I am convinced that they will taste differently. Often, when baking bread, the way the dough is shaped before baking makes a difference in texture during the baking and therefore also affects the taste. But you can do it with a stamp if you must, I am sure they will still taste good with this kaiser roll recipe.

traditional, authentic German rolls

The Malt

As I mentioned in my other recipe & video for German Rolls, the malt is important for two things: The taste if the kaiser rolls and the color. The more malt you are using, the darker will be the color of your rolls. This recipe is using 10g of barley malt and gives the rolls a very nice, reddish-brown color. In my opinion, it is also one of the things missing in the rolls here in America. I got my malt at amazon here.

homemade dinner rolls

Best Practice to Prepare ahead

Like most baking goods, these rolls are best enjoyed very fresh. You should just let them cool after baking and once they are cold, eat them right away. The time from starting the dough to the finished kaiser rolls takes about two hours. So if you want to eat them for breakfast (which is the German way), you can prepare them the day (or a week or so) before and then instead of baking them, you freeze them. The next morning you preheat the oven and put them frozen into the oven and bake them. The baking time will take somewhat longer, just stick around and watch them turning brown once they are ready.

shape dinner rolls

Best Practice to Eat German Kaiser Rolls

We love these rolls for breakfast. Depending on the individual taste or region, we eat them with something sweet like jam or honey or we put some cold cuts or a slice of cheese on it. Very common is the Leberkäs Semmeln in Bavaria. The recipe for Leberkäs is here if you want to try it.

My absolute favorite way to eat Kaiser Rolls is, however, the way I could get them at the bakery on my way to school. I think no German student my generation would disagree here. What I am talking about is called a Schaumkuss-Brötchen. It is a Kaiser Semmel with poppy seeds on top, cut open and with a thick layer of cold butter on both halves. Then we take a “Schaumkuss” and put it between the buns and squish it. Now it is ready to eat. I guess younger generations have replaced it with Avocado Toast.

A different recipe from my grandparent’s generation is called “Rundstück warm”. It is a dinner, where you have a really soft cooked pork roast with gravy. Instead of pairing it with potatoes, you pour the gravy on one half of a kaiser roll and top it with a slice of that roast. You then eat it with a fork and knife. It used to be a great way to feed a crowd at a family party – at least in the region of Hamburg. I don’t think people do it very often anymore.

German Rolls Recipe

Reheat a Kaiser Roll

As mentioned before, they are best when they are really fresh. Kaiser rolls are still good after some hours but will become slightly chewy. The next day they appear a little dry and if you still want to eat them as rolls (instead of turning them into dumplings / Semmelknödel), you do this:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.
  • Let each roll get quickly wet on the outside under the running water from the faucet.
  • Put the rolls on an oven rack and bake just for a few minutes. Tap on them with your fingers to see if they are crisp.
  • Take them out and eat the way you like them.

Some people simply reheat them in or over a toaster but that also makes them a little dry.

Pin Kaiser Rolls to Pinterest

German Kaiser Rolls, made from scratch. Traditional recipe and the best there is! These rolls taste better than any other rolls!

German Kaiser Rolls

Barbara
The traditional recipe, handcrafted, made from scratch
5 from 26 votes
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Breakfast, Dinner, Side Dish, Sides
Cuisine Bavaria, German
Servings 9 rolls

Equipment

clean kitchen towel
thermometer (optional)
Oven

Ingredients
 
 

  • 400 g flour, organic all purpose
  • 10 g barley malt
  • 8 g salt
  • 5 g sugar
  • 15 g soft butter
  • 7 g dry yeast usually 1 pouch
  • 50 ml milk
  • 190 ml water at 22°C / 74°F about room temperature
  • some dusting flour made from 50% flour + 50% corn starch

Instructions
 

  • Put the flour, sugar, salt, butter, malt, milk, yeast and water into a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix on the slowest speed for 3 minutes, then increase the speed and knead for 9 to 10 minutes.
  • After the kneading, leave the dough in the bowl but dust it with some dusting flour and then cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 9 portions of about 75g each.
  • Shape each dough portion into a sphere, using the method shown in the video. This is important to create tension in the dough.
  • Dust each sphere in dusting flour and cover them with a towel or linen.
  • Let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Use your palm to flatten each sphere, then use the method shown in the video to shape the dough into kaiser rolls.
  • Put the kaiser rolls "face down" onto a linen or kitchen towel and cover them with a towel or linen.
  • Let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / 428°F (convection oven) or 230°C / 445°F (traditional oven).
  • Place the rolls face up onto a baking sheet.
  • Use a spray bottle with water to spray all rolls until they are very wet on the outside. Optional sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top of the rolls.
  • Place the baking sheet with the rolls on the middle rack of the oven. Then create some steam by either spraying water to the walls of the oven or by using a baking pan with hot rocks on the bottom of the oven and pouring 50 ml of water in the stones.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes but open the oven 2 minutes before they are done to release the steam.
  • Let the kaiser rolls cool completely, then eat them fresh.
Keyword baking, rolls
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

About The Author

57 thoughts on “German Kaiser Rolls, handcrafted”

  1. 5 stars
    I love this recipe, and so does everyone else who has tasted these rolls; I made them several times since I first found the recipe last month!. The rolls are gorgeous when they come out of the oven. I use diastatic malt powder and the only change I make is to add 1 egg. Despite your clear instructions, I was not able to master the lovely folding technique that you show, so now I make them by rolling the dough portions into long ropes with the dusting flour, then I tie them in knots, and place them upside down on the baking pan.
    Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!

  2. I am intrigued by the addition of barley malt to this recipe. While I saw the link you provided to Barley Malt Powder on Amazon, I am curious 1) whether I could use the various barley malt extracts (both liquid and powdered) that I use for making some beers and 2) how to compare quantities of the extract to the powder.

    Thank you

    1. I don’t know what barley you are using in brewing but liquid barley usually works, too. I’m not sure about the quantities though. I found a recipe where they ask for 15g of liquid malt with 500g of flour, so that might maybe give you an idea.

  3. Regarding the etymology of the word “Kaisersemmel”…
    To get to the origins, we first need to recognize that these rolls (like many other foods on this wonderful website) come from Austria. Wikipedia.de lists several theories (which for convenience I summarize here):
    – 1487 Friedrich III had rolls baked with his likeness
    – 1730 a baker named Kayser was claimed to recognize that increasing the amount of crust gives better flavor
    – 1789 Joseph II agreed to relax price regulation because he was so impressed with this type of roll.
    Tangentially also the most plausible theory is mentioned: In Austria, we sometimes use the prefix “Kaiser” to indicate the superlative (or beyond the superlative). You can see this also in “Kaiserschmarren” or “du bist der Kaiser” (may also be used ironically). In that sense “Kaisersemmeln” are differentiated from “Schusterleiberl” or “Handsemmeln” which were considered lesser rolls (albeit I much prefer the “Schusterleiberl”). That the name probably has nothing to do with the shape of the roll can be seen when examining the shape of a “Kaiserschmarren”.
    In any case, you may enjoy this picture of a painting by Martin van Meytens showing a “Kaisersemmel” at a royal banquet (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaisersemmel#/media/Datei:Hoftafel_mit_Kaisersemmel.jpg).

  4. 5 stars
    I just made these today, recipe as written, and my husband was blown away at the texture and flavor. He said they were identical to the Kaisersemmels he grew up with. Thank you for making me look like a superstar at home!

  5. 5 stars
    Hallo Barbara
    Thank you very much for a wonderful recipe. i have done this several times and we loves it very much.

    I have some question. If I would like to substitute the all purpose flour with the 100% whole grain wheat, what should I do? I am used to read that I should put much more water. I have tried myself once but the dough were rise only the first two times of the rest but not in the oven.

    It will be very kind of you if you could give some advice.

    Thank you very much in advance.
    Koong

  6. I’ve had this recipe for quite some time, but I haven’t tried it yet, because (like others) I was having trouble finding the barley malt (especially in a smaller quantity). I finally found some yesterday on Amazon and hope it’s the right thing.
    I lived in Germany for 24 years and LOVED the bread there, so I’m excited to think that I might be able to duplicate the Brötchen here in NM. And I really appreciate your writing these recipes in English. However, I must say that I’m going a bit crazy trying to put together decimal parts of cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces, grams. Could you translate everything into fractional parts of cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons. How many teaspoons is .35 oz of barley malt? And what’s 75 grams of dough? Oh, and should I be using rapid-rise or active dry yeast? I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to make these rolls, only to find out that I used the wrong amounts of ingredients. Help, please!

    1. Hi Betty,
      when it comes to baking, the correct amounts are important. Unfortunately, all German recipes are created for the metric system … well, not really, unfortunately, just unfortunately for Americans who are used to a different system. The really unfortunate part is, that grams cannot always be converted to the US customary system as precisely as one wishes. So, if the i.e. convert flour and the amount in cups is 1.6 cups, I could make this into 1.5 cups, which is one and a half cups … but it would reduce the amount of flour by on tenth. I don’t want to dig too deep into Math, so to make a long story short: Ideally get a scale (costs about $ 10) and use the metric measurements in my recipe.
      Almost every time, someone has not the perfect outcome, it is due to the US customary measurement, which is already unreliable in itself because it is volume-based.
      I will, however, go through the ingredient list and see if I can optimize some of the customary quantities, since the program often is very random on how it converts.

      As of the yeast: Instant, fast rising … use what you have, as long as it is yeast it will not make any difference.

      I hope you will be able to bake wonderful rolls!
      Barbara

  7. 5 stars
    Hallo Barbara,
    I have tried baking the kaiser rolls for several times, i and my daughter love it very much and it is now our favourite roll!

    Last time, I changed from the all purpose flour to 100% whole wheat flour with 15 gram instant yeast. I have red that if i substitute the all purpose flour with whole wheat, i should add some water so i added the water to 260ml. At the first and the second resting the dough was rise very goed but after I turned the dough face up and put it in the oven, it was not rise any more and reasonable flat. However, the taste is still very goed and nice cristpy from the outside.

    Could you please help what should i do to make the dough rise as you show on the video.

    Thank you very much in advance for your help.

    Koong

    1. Hi Koong,

      switching out ingredients most of the time has downsides since recipes are made up of certain percentages of ingredients that align with each other. There is a reason, why becoming a baker takes three years in Germany and that is, that one has to learn all the math behind it. I am just a “home baker” so I can only be of help to a certain point. But here is what I think: You are using 15 g of instant yeast, which is double the amount of the original recipe (one pouch of instant yeast has 7 g). It is possible that for that amount of yeast, the proofing was too long and there is no energy left for an oven spring. You were not entirely wrong with increasing the yeast to give this heavier dauch more lift but I think 10 g should be enough. Make sure the rolls are not over-proofed when you put them into the oven. If this doesn’t help, try to add 1/2 tsp. of baking powder to the recipe. I do that in my pretzels to make them fluffier. I hope this will help you for a better outcome.

      1. Thank you very much Barbara for your advice. I will follow your advice and hope the outcome will be as beautiful as yours ?.

  8. Eike-Wulf Kaiser

    5 stars
    Can’t wait to try this recipie! I’ve been looking everywhere to find a descent Kasier Roll… without luck. Now just need to find Barley Malt Flour (discontinued on Amazon). Can I use a little of the Eden Foods Barley Malt Syrup to get the same effect (plus added regular flour)? Also, any suggestions for modifying this recipe for whole wheat flour? Echt Dankbar!

    1. Hi Eike,
      I think this will work but I can’t tell exactly how much liquid malt you need to use. I would start 1 tsp. on 1 kg of flour.
      Let me know how it turned out!
      Barbara

  9. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe and directions, could not have done it without the video!
    delicious rolls, even though I used honey and molasses instead of barley malt and sugar.
    great color, but a bit on the dense side- so not truly a Kaiser roll for me!
    I think next time I’ll let the final rise go for a bit longer….
    Thanks so much, I look forward to eating many more “tries”.

  10. 5 stars
    Just made these! Did it all by hand, no kitchenaid or stamp. Used Everything bagel mix on top as I did not have sesame or poppy seeds separate. Husband loves them!

  11. 5 stars
    These are great and an awesome video on shaping them. I made them spur of the moment and didn’t have barley malt powder so I used molasses and adjusted the ingredients accordingly. They still came out great- looking forward to trying with the barley malt very soon! Thank you!

  12. I have not tried this recipe but i plan to. If i decide to freeze them before baking , at what point of the baking process should i store them in the fridge? Thanks!

    1. I have tried several ways and the way it worked best for me, is to bake them to being 2/3 baked and then take them out of the oven. Let them cool completely and freeze them. Then later put them into the oven frozen and reheat & finish baking.

      1. Hi Barbara,
        I have tried this recipe twice. Love the flavor!! Like the German bakery I worked at as a young girl. But…. because I am kneading the dough by hand, the dough is dense and heavy. Any tips on kneading by hand.
        Thanks for any advice.

        1. Hi Laura, you could increase the amount of water for more hydration. Make sure you knead at least 10 minutes if you knead by hand.

  13. 5 stars
    Just made it tonight… first time… and bought the malt.
    Taste is amazing. The Kaiser pattern didn’t really work for me so I’ll try the cutter to see if I can get it to have that distinct “look”.

    Thank you for posting your recipe and the video :)

  14. 5 stars
    There was a bakery in my hometown that we used to get rolls from for over 50 years that closed just this past year. They were a family favorite and I was mourning their loss. These are the exacts same rolls! Thank you so much for this recipe. I have to work on the folding technique, but the taste was identical

  15. 5 stars
    These were absolutely perfect. I’ve been trying to find a recipe that came close to the Kaiser rolls I used to get from a German bakery back in NY when I was a kid and these fit the bill. I will admit I used the stamp but they still came out great.

  16. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe that gives consistently great results. With regard to diastatic vs. non-diastatic malt, they are essentially the same in terms of flavor and color added, but diastatic malt still contains active enzymes and, as a result, too much will result in “wet” or mushy texture in breads (due to the way the enzymes break down gluten. If you’re using diastatic malt and getting a bad texture, but back on the malt a bit. I’m using non-diastatic malt (also labeled “barley malt flour”) and have gotten wonderful results.

    Thank you so much for this recipe and especially the folding technique — the only other place I’ve found the proper folding technique is on German-language websites that don’t typically show up when you search in English.

  17. 5 stars
    These Kaiser rolls were delicious. Unfortunately, I only had dry yeast and, because of that, I believe, I should have allowed more time during resting stages, would have resulted in a higher and lighter roll overall. The tutorial and instructions were terrific. I am so grateful to have found your site. I look forward to improving the result of my first Kaiser roll attempt.

    1. Yes, you can bake it without. The downside will be that it will not have the special taste that it has in Germany and it might not get that nice golden color.

  18. Pingback: German Kaiser Rolls – Chez Louise

  19. 5 stars
    Very good recipe. They reminded me of the kaiser rolls I would get in NYC on my way to school , delicious slathered in butter! Thank you

  20. Adele Schoterman

    My grandfather was a ships baker from Amsterdam, then had his own bakery in Northport, Long Island. He taught my father the ritual of creating kaiser rolls. In my memory they were food for the gods, ambrosia. I recall my father making folds in the dough to create those exquisite rolls, and I have been frustrated in my search for technique. This may be my answer! More to be revealed. I’m sooo excited! Thank you.

      1. Adele Schoterman

        My 60yo son exclaimed, “these are Grandpas rolls!”
        Success! Indeed, this recipe and technique are what I’ve searched for! Wunderbar and danke ! ❤️

  21. 5 stars
    Just wondering… Do you think you could substitute (Carnation) malted milk powder for the malt and milk called for in the recipe? It sure is a lot cheaper and it is readily available. Thanks! (also living in Texas)

    1. Hi Marylin,
      Unfortunately that won‘t work, they are completely different products.
      Best, Barbara

    2. Malted milk powder contains malt powder, dry milk, sugar, preservatives, and anti-caking ingredients. You can make malted milk powder at home using malt powder, but you can’t substitute malted milk powder for malt powder – too much other stuff in it. You only need a few grams of malt for recipes — so a little actually goes a long way!

  22. Elaine Woolward

    Thank you for this recipe, in London we have Percy Ingles the bakers who make these rolls I now live in Cambridgeshire and can’t find them anywhere. I lived in France for a year and used to travel 40mins to Galeries Lafayette in Rennes as they had them there in the in-store bakery!! My first attempt isn’t too bad shape wise but I think I need to be a bit firmer next time and I didn’t have the malt either, need to find some in UK.
    Best Regards
    Elaine

    1. Hi Elaine,
      the malt is really important for the authentic taste, I hope you can find it.
      Greetings from Texas,
      Barbara

    2. In the UK search Amazon for Ritchies Medium Spray-dried Malt Extract. It’s sold for home-brewing, but works wonderfully in breads as well.

  23. Hi Barbara,
    Thank you for this recipe! When I used to visit my grandparents in Bayern, my Opa and I would walk down to the backerei every morning and get these. Never found anything even remotely similar here so I thought I would give it a try.

    I don’t have a stand mixer (next Christmas I’ll ask for one). Is the kneading time similar if I combine the ingredients to make the dough and knead by hand?

    Danke!
    Anneliese

    1. Hi Anneliese,
      yes, walking to the bakery with grandpa in the morning is one of my son’s memory of his childhood in Germany, too. :-)
      The kneading time should be about the same, just watch the consistency of the dough (I explained that in this video https://youtu.be/ISG14r_2FUQ ) so you know when it’s kneaded enough. Enjoy your rolls!

  24. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks so much for the recipe. I wasn’t able to find malted barley flour at my local markets (I live in Brooklyn, NY), so I substituted it with barley malt syrup and the rolls were delicious. My question to you is can I simply double the recipe to make the same quantity of rolls that are twice the size?

    1. Yes, you can do that. I agree, the rolls are a bit small and I have started to make a smaller number but larger rolls. Just make sure that you add some extra time when baking larger rolls.

      1. They turned out wonderful!!!! I can’t believe that worked so well. Thank you so much!!!!

    1. You can find Brötchen recipes on this blog. I like the „Schrippen“ recipe very much.

  25. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe, but I could not find the malt you suggest because the link failed. Are you using diastatic or non-diastatic malt in your recipe? Specifically, which product do you use? Thank you for further information.

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