Sourdough Kaiser Rolls

Kaiser Roll (Viennese Bread Roll)

Kaiser Roll (Viennese Bread Roll)

By Cat, May 2012 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. About malt; 2. About the starter; 3. Modifications to original recipe; 4. Sourdough Kaiser Roll recipe. 5. Testing (incomplete

See also:  1. Sourdough Introduction; 2. Bread & Rolls Menu;

This last winter I got the urge to try making Kaiser rolls, a slightly-sweet hard roll with a crisp crust and a curved star pattern on top. Ultimately I’d like to use a part whole grain, part unbleached white flour sourdough method.  But first, I’d be wise to try a regular white flour version, to get the hang of the dough’s behavior, and the technique of forming the rolls.

Originally, these rolls were leavened with barm or sour mash from the local brewery/distillery, but these mostly disappeared during the latter half of the 20th century as merger after merger centralized these operations into just a few across the country. So recipes were modified to use bakers’ yeast and powdered malt (not malted milk, but malted sugar). Now in the early years of the 21st century, we find local operations sprouting up everywhere. Here in the Flathead Valley we have several breweries and at present, 2 distilleries.

After searching the web, the best recipe I found is on The Fresh Loaf ( 1).  The author sites two books as sources:  Bernard Clayton’s (2) and Peter Reinhart’s (3).  The latter uses a pre-ferment (sponge) method which the author chooses not to use, but tells how to modify the recipe to do it. However, even using a sponge does not deactivate the anti-nutrients as well as sourdough.

My preference is to use both malt powder and sourdough starter as in Sourdough Home’s recipe (4). The sponge method I like to use makes more sponge than you need so the extra becomes your next starter.

Understanding and altering reference recipes

About malt: 

I’m not familiar with using malt extract in bread, so I’m researching info about it. From Sourdough Home: Ingredients (5), on Malted Barley Extract:

We wouldn’t dream of making bagels or kaiser rolls without barley malt extract, and neither should you! [It] improves the taste and texture of breads. … For our recipes, [use] either liquid or dry, diastatic or non-diastatic malt extract and not worry about changing the recipe, any combination of these will work just fine…. Avoid hopped malt extract … and malted milk powder (a milk flavor enhancer which has too little malt in it and too much sugar). 

From Whats Cooking America (7):

Diatstatic malt contains active enzymes which help break starch down into sugar. The extra sugar feeds the yeast in the dough, helping the bread to rise, and also gives the bread a browner crust. 

The FreshLoaf (1) has a good article on using malt in sourdough bread, which suggests adding the malt after the sponge rise, as the lactic acid bacteria are most active in the sponge, producing the sour. Yeast in the sourdough, which would feed on the malt, is best active after the sponge stage, to rise the bread. However, Sourdough Home (4) adds the malt to the sponge. I will test this.

About the starter:

My sourdough starter is whole spelt, so I divided it into two, then fed one of the batches with unbleached white wheat flour to use for testing the Kaiser rolls. I call this a ‘part white’ starter. (The other batch will be maintained as all whole spelt for regular bread).

Modifications to the original recipe:

I plan to use unbleached white flour, instead of bread flour for the rolls while testing (to perfect the method). Then will replace part of the flour with whole grain (such as hard white whole wheat, which, like bread flour, is a high protein flour), and will feed the starter alternately whole spelt and white flour (wheat) to maintain the ‘part white’ character.

Sourdough Kaiser Rolls

This is my adaptation of the Sourdough Home’s (4) recipe, to use a sponge method (see also Northwest Sourdough recipe (6) which uses a sponge). The original makes 1 dozen hamburger-bun size rolls (3.5” diameter).

Ingredients & Equipment


The ingredient amounts in parenthesis () include extra flour & water to allow you to remove some of the sponge to be your next starter.

  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp unbleached white (or part white) sourdough starter*
  • ¾ (1 ¼) cup water, plus extra as needed
  • 2 ½ (3) cups unbleached white or bread flour, or part whole grain hard wheat flour

Next Day

  • 2 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Rapadura or white sugar
  • 3 cups unbleached white or bread flour
  • 3 ½ Tbsp malt powder


  • large bowl
  • plastic bag
  • sifter
  • cotton towel
  • waxed paper or plastic
  • baking sheets (at least 2)



  1. Add water to starter in bowl. Then add flour. Stir to combine; it should be quite soft. Add more water as needed to achieve the right texture.
  2. Dampen inside of a plastic bag, then place bowl of dough inside, and set in a warm place, covered with a cotton cloth to rest overnight.

Next Day

  1. If used greater amounts in sponge, remove 1 cup to perpetuate the starter.
  2. Sprinkle salt and oil over the sponge; lightly beat eggs and sugar with a fork and add to dough. Stir just to mix ingredients.
  3. Sift flour and malt. Add 1 cup at a time twice, then ¼ cup at a time until you can no longer work it easily in the bowl. Let it rest about 5 minutes and try again.
  4. Use some of the remaining flour to dust your work surface, then turn out dough to knead-in remaining flour, using the stretch-and-fold method (see Sourdough Home (4)). The dough should be slightly tacky, but not stick to the board.
  5. Divide dough into 12 equal-sized pieces by weight. Roll each into a ball, stretching surface to make a tight ball (see Sourdough Home (4)). Place on baking sheet leaving room to rise. Cover to rest 5 – 20 minutes.

Shape the rolls

1. Sprinkle another baking sheet with poppy seeds or rock salt. Shape individual rolls, three methods:

Traditional Method, from The Fresh Loaf (with photos of each step (1)).

    • Press each roll into a flat disk on a well-floured surface (rye is traditional but any flour works).
    • Let them rest another 5 minutes, then stretch the disk a bit thinner.
    • Fold in 5 – 6 sections, each up to the center and slightly overlapping the previous section, to make a classic cloverleaf shape.
    • When folded all around, press down in center to seal it tight.
    • Place face down on prepared baking sheet and cover. Repeat with all rolls.

Alternate method, from NorthwestSourdough (with photos (6)), makes 5 sections.

    • Roll each ball out to a 12” long rope; use enough flour on your board to prevent the dough from sticking to itself.
    • Tie a fairly loose half-knot in the middle.
    • Tuck the under-end up and over to center of knot and push through slightly;
    • Tuck the upper-end over and down to underside of roll.

Stamp method: using a stamp that divides the top of each roll into 5 sections)


  1. Cover sheet with damp plastic or waxed paper, and let rolls rise overnight in refrigerator – this improves the flavor, especially for sourdough rolls. Remove them an hour before baking, to warm and complete the rise, about double in size.
  2. While rising, preheat oven to 425°F (sourdoughHome) or 450°F (FreshLoaf). When ready to bake, flip rolls face-up onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Spritz with water. Place a heavy pan of boiling water in bottom of oven, transfer baking sheet to oven and bake about 15 minutes (sourdoughHome) or 20 – 25 minutes (FreshLoaf). Rotate pan once, halfway through the time, so they’ll brown evenly. Rolls are done when a nice rich brown on top (this provides much of the taste to the rolls) and test 190°F degrees internal.
  3. Remove from oven and transfer rolls from baking sheet to cooling rack


Making mostly-white starter

June 22, 2012: I have not yet tested the rolls, but when making sponge for Tassajara Sponge Method Sourdough loaf, I had about 2 Tbsp starter left over, so I fed it with water and unbleached wheat flour, to make a part whole, part white sponge for future testing Kaiser rolls. Will continue to feed with the white flour. However, when I started the ketogenic eating plan (low carb), I threw out all my sourdough starters.

When to add malt and general process

I have not yet gotten to this.


  1. The Fresh Loaf recipe ( and (
  2. The Fresh Loaf review of Bernard Clayton’s book on breads (
  3. The Fresh Loaf review of Peter Reinhart’s book on breadmaking (
  4. Sourdough Home recipe (; stretch-and-fold instructions (
  5. Sourdough Home on Ingredients (
  6. Northwest Sourdough recipe & shaping method (
  7. What’s Cooking America rustic sourdough bread recipe (

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