When I finally started baking from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I didn’t have good luck with the first two breads I tried. Maybe I chose poorly and should have started with less fussy varieties, but the efforts weren’t completely wasted. I became more familiar with pre-ferments and how chilling them overnight before mixing them into a dough develops flavor. Flavor was definitely not a problem with those first two breads, but I decided to take a break from ciabatta and pugliese and attempt Kaiser rolls. I wanted to jump right in and order a Kaiser roll stamp to make the distinctive cuts in the tops of the rolls, but given my track record with this book, I decided to wait and see how the first batch went before buying a special tool. The stamp makes the pinwheel cuts with one press. There’s also an alternative suggested in the book which involves making a knotted kind of roll that looks similar. I decided to just make multiple cuts in a pinwheel pattern using a lame. The rolls turned out fine, so I’ll have to order the stamp for next time.
Once again, a pre-ferment, this time a pate-fermentee, was mixed and chilled in the refrigerator overnight. The pate-fermentee was brought up to room temperature and then mixed into a dough with flour, salt, barley malt syrup, yeast, an egg, vegetable oil, and water. The dough was kneaded and then fermented for two hours. It was divided into eight pieces which were left to relax for ten minutes before shaping each into a Kaiser roll with pinwheel cuts on top. Then, oddly enough, each roll was placed top side down on a semolina-dusted baking sheet. The pretty, swirly cuts were smashed. That just seemed wrong. After 45 minutes, the rolls were flipped cut side up, and I ended up re-cutting the swirls into most of them. They proofed for another 30 minutes while the oven warmed. Then, I had some questions. The rolls pictured in the book have glossy tops that I assumed could only be achieved with an egg wash. However, the instructions for pre-baking were to simply mist with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. I proceeded with just water and sprinkled poppy seeds. That was question one. Question two was why was the oven spritzed with water after loading the rolls? Steam produces a crispy crust and these should have been tender and shiny rather than crisp. So, as suspected, water on the rolls and water spritzed in the oven resulted in crisp surfaced rolls that were perfectly fine and tasty but completely lacking gloss, and next time I will try an egg wash and no water sprayed in the oven.
It was a lot of fun to make Kaiser rolls at home for the first time, and they were delicious rolls. Sally, who is a great bread baker at Bewitching Kitchen, has told me that Reinhart’s later books include slightly different techniques with more consistent results. It will be interesting to bake from and compare the more recent books. Not that I’m giving up on this one. I’ve learned so much, it was almost like bread college in a book. I’ll definitely be trying more from it, but up next, I have to show you how I used these homemade Kaiser rolls.
I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.