This is a very typical bread roll made & served in Austria known as the Kaisersemmel, meaning Emperor’s Roll. It is also called a Vienna roll and distinguished by the top side usually divided in an asymmetric pattern of five segments.
Kaiser bread rolls are typically eaten with cold meats or a thick warm ham & cheese slice called Leberkäse and are a lunchtime favourite for workers or schoolchildren.
All the Vienna coffeehouses serve baskets full of Kaiser bread rolls at breakfast to be enjoyed with jams, sliced cheese, cold meats and eggs. Dinner is often accompanied with these rolls especially with soups like popular pumpkin soup, goulash and any dish that has an abundant serving of sauce.
Making these rolls from scratch calls for some basic ingredients when following a gluten recipe, however in order to make a decent gluten-free Kaiser roll, sweet rice flour, gluten-free plain flour, potato starch and psyllium husk are required. The result is a crisp exterior with a fluffy, tasty centre. The flavour is close to the real thing and can be eaten over two days provided the rolls are reheated to enjoy their texture. They are also excellent to freeze and reheat on the spot when needed. This recipe makes 10 rolls but divide the recipe in half if you only need 5 and want to try out this type of bread roll for the first time.
The classic pattern created on the top of each roll is normally done with a Kaisersemmel stamp, but for practical purposes, I resorted to using a sharp knife to sketch out the pattern. Scoring a cross on the top is also fine if you are less inclined to sketching!
Keeping the tops plain is more traditional, but if you like more flavour and texture, poppy seeds or sesame seeds are often used as alternative toppings.
Gluten-Free Kaiser Bread Rolls (Kaisersemmel)
- 500ml milk, lukewarm
- 1 ½ tablespoons dried yeast
- 30g sugar
- 200g sweet rice or glutinous rice flour
- 300g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- 3 teaspoons psyllium husk (leave out if your store-bought flour already has xanthan gum or psyllium husk)
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 60g butter, at room temperature
- Extra sweet rice flour for rolling
- 1 egg, for brushing the rolls
- Poppy seeds, for decorating
- Sesame seeds, for decorating
- Benchtop mixer or elbow grease
- Sharp knife or Kaiser bread press (optional)
- Preparation time: 20 minutes
- Resting time 2 hours, plus 10 minutes for the yeast activation
- Baking time: 15 minutes
- Mix the milk, yeast and sugar together and set aside covered for 10 minutes to activate.
2. Mix the flours, potato starch, psyllium husk and salt together in a large bowl or benchtop stand mixer bowl.
3. Add the activated yeast mixture and butter to the flour mixture. Beat well for 5 minutes. The mixture should start to be slightly sticky and come away from the sides.
4. Cover and allow to rest for two hours in a warm place.
5. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F.
6. Divide the dough into 10 equal size balls, rolling them in some sweet rice flour if they feel too sticky.
7. Using a sharp knife either sketch out the classic Kaiser flower design or simply score a cross in the centre. Allow the knife to go halfway down the roll. Due to the nature of the gluten-free rolls, the dough may seal up again but most of the design will be visible once baked.
8. Brush each one with some egg. Sprinkle some with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds or leave the tops plain, if preferred.
9. Spray some water over the rolls and around the tray just before baking. Bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf. The bottoms of each roll should be golden and sound hollow when tapped.
10. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. Cover with a clean tea towel if serving later.
These rolls are excellent to eat freshly baked. They lose their softness slightly the next day but can be restored by spraying some water on each roll and reheating them in a moderate oven or in an air fryer for 5 minutes.
- Makes 10 rolls
- Best eaten on the day of baking
- Freeze well and can be reheated directly from the freezer to a moderate oven in 10 to 15 minutes. Cover the rolls with foil while reheating to prevent the outside from over-baking.
Cross the tops with a sharp knife if you prefer to not sketch the classic Kaiser design. These rolls are served with my upcoming recipe for Austrian Goulash with Dumplings.