When I was in high school, I worked in a local grocery store. It was the cool place to work; everyone in my high school worked there. When I applied, I assumed that like all of the other female teenage employees, I’d become a cashier. I was a little disappointed when they told me I’d be working in the bakery, because I thought I wouldn’t see all my friends, all the females of whom were cashiers. It didn’t take long for me to realize that working in the bakery was the very best assignment possible. The bakers, who all started at some obscene hour like 4 a.m., went home about half an hour after my weekday shifts began, which meant I was working with no supervision all night long. Shortly after I started, one of my best friends applied to work in the bakery with me and was also hired, which meant we spent every night goofing off, decorating donuts with cake icing and putting them out to sell, decorating cakes with our own ridiculous drawings, and chasing around and being chased by the produce guys, whose back room was connected to ours. I guess we somehow managed to do our work as well because I got along very well with the bakers, with whom I did have to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
This is me behind the bakery counter, selling my donut wares.
This is my friend, Dawn, looking at me through a cart of “trayed-up” frozen rolls. We had to do “tray-up”, which involved lining frozen rolls and breads on trays, putting them on a cart, and pushing them into the freezer, every night. I used to leave the bakers stories about the Tray-up God on the backs of the tray-up checklists. I’m very curious now to know what the heck I wrote, but one of the bakers told me at the time she saved them all. I’m sure they were ridiculous.
Anyway, if you’d have told me when I worked in the grocery store bakery that I’d one day consider being a baker, I’d have called you crazy. I couldn’t fathom the hours, for one thing (really, I still can’t), and it just didn’t seem very me, as much as I did like my after-school job. Culinary arts weren’t something I aspired to or had any interest in. Then when I went vegan and started teaching myself how to cook, I tried baking bread a few times and never had any success, so I gave up for several years, although I did get a bread machine. Eventually I got tired of the bread machine – it made funny shaped loaves and the paddle kept coming off and getting baked into the bread – and I tried my hand at baking by hand again. This time I for some reason had success, and after baking several breads from recipes off the internet, I got The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic by saying it changed my life, but in a way it did, because I always thought I just didn’t have a knack for bread, but after buying that book, I did have a knack for it. Or, more likely, Peter Reinhart is just really good at teaching bread baking, even through a book. And his breads taste amazing. If you have any interest in bread baking, I can’t recommend his books, particularly this one, enough. After my huge successes baking nearly every bread in that book and his others, I fell in love with it so much I have considered working in a bakery – baking this time, not washing dishes and arranging frozen rolls on trays.
We’re not doing much for the Fourth of July this year – just hanging out with the kittens and taking care of some stuff around the house – but I usually try to at least loosely follow tradition for holiday meals, so I decided I’d make homemade veggie burgers today and I decided to make Peter Reinhart’s kaiser rolls for them. These kaiser rolls taste amazing. They are definitely the best kaiser rolls I’ve ever had. I never fail to think of the frozen kaiser rolls I used to tray up in high school and always think how much better these are.
I’m normally hesitant to publish Peter’s recipes because I really do want you to buy his books, but I found the following online in several places (including Google Books). The only change I’ve made is I substituted En-R-G egg replacer for the egg he calls for, though I suspect you could just leave it out entirely. Also, I doubled the recipe in the book, which made six rolls, because if six rolls are good, a dozen is even better. They freeze well. The measurements below are Peter’s original for 6 4-ounce rolls, but you’ll see my doubled measurements in the pictures.
Finally, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Weigh your ingredients. If you are at ALL interested in baking, buy a scale and use it. I’ve included the volume measurements because I’m a nice gal, but it is very hard to consistently measure ingredients – especially flour – by volume.
Peter Reinhart’s Kaiser Rolls
From The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
5 oz (1 1/8 cups) all-purpose flour*
5 oz (1 1/8 cups) bread flour*
.19 oz (3/4 tsp) salt
.055 oz (1/2 tsp) instant yeast
6-7 oz (3/4 cup to 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp) water
* Peter says you can use all all-purpose or all bread flour if that’s all you have, but that this combination seems to yield the best results.
8 oz (1 1/2 cups) pate fermentee (half of the above recipe)
10 oz (2 1/4 cups) bread flour
.2 oz (3/4 tsp + a pinch) salt
.17 oz (1 tsp) diastatic barley malt powder OR .33 oz (1 1/2 tsp) barley malt syrup
.11 oz (1 tsp) instant yeast
1 Tbsp En-R-G egg replacer + 4 Tbsp water, whisked
.75 ounce (1 1/2 Tbsp) vegetable oil
5 – 6 oz (10 Tbsp to 3/4 cup) water
poppy and/or sesame seeds, for topping
The night before baking, make the pate fermentee. I didn’t take pictures of this, but all you need to do is add all the dry ingredients to the bowl of your electric mixer (or a regular bowl if mixing by hand), then add 6 ounces of the water and mix on low speed or stir for about a minute until everything comes together in a coarse ball. Add the extra water if there is loose flour left over. Then mix on medium speed for 4 minutes, or knead by hand for 4 to 6 minutes, until the dough is, in Peter’s words, “soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky”. Lightly oil a bowl, roll the dough in the oil, then cover the bowl with a plate (in lieu of the plastic wrap Peter calls for). Leave the bowl out at room temperature for an hour or until the dough has risen to 1 1/2 times its original size, then refrigerate overnight or up to three days.
When you are ready to bake, remove the pate fermentee from the refrigerator.
Remove it from the bowl and use a bench cutter (or a serrated knife) to cut it into about 10 small pieces.
Cover with a tea towel and let come to room temperature for an hour. When the hour is up, add the flour, salt, malt powder, and yeast to your mixing bowl. Add the pate fermentee pieces, egg replacer, oil, and 5 ounces of water.
Mix on low speed for a minute (or stir by hand) until it comes together in a ball. Add the additional ounce of water if there is still loose flour.
Mix on medium speed for 6 minutes (10 minutes by hand), adding flour if needed, to “make a dough that is soft and supple, tacky but not sticky”. I like to finish it off by hand for a few seconds for a smooth dough.
It should pass the windowpane test.
Let sit at room temperature for two hours. If the dough doubles before two hours are up (mine had doubled at one hour) …
… remove it from the bowl, knead very lightly to degas (you don’t want to “punch down” dough as old recipes tell you to do; it’s too harsh), and return it to the bowl.
When the two hours are up or the dough has doubled again …
… remove the dough and divide it into six 4-ounce (or nine 2 2/3-ounce for small rolls) pieces. Because you may have had to add flour or water when kneading the dough, I like to weigh it before dividing, then divide the weight of the dough by the number of rolls I want. I’m always very excited when the dough weighs exactly what it should. Mine weighs exactly 48 ounces! (Remember, I doubled the recipe.)
Here I am weighing the individual rolls.
I was surprised, however, when the last roll weighed in at only 3.75 ounces, even after I’d weighed the first eleven twice each and they were all exactly 4 ounces. What this tells me is my scale is not as precise as I’d like it to be. I just took about .05 ounces off the five rolls that looked the biggest and added it to the runt.
Form the pieces into individual rolls. To do this, pinch the dough together on one side …
… creating and smoothing a seam, whilst creating surface tension on the opposite side.
Turn over and smooth into a round with your hands, seam side down.
When all the rolls have been created …
… cover with a tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or a Silpat and misting lightly with oil.
Shape the rolls into kaiser rolls by using a kaiser roll cutter or by using this shaping method. (It was very hard for me to get pictures of this, so I suggest you read the book for a much better explanation.) Roll each roll into a rope about 8″ long.
Tie the rope into a simple knot.
Tuck the ends of the knot into the middle of the roll. (I didn’t get a good picture of this.) Tray the rolls, cut or prettier side down.
Cover with a couple of layers of tea towels and let rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit at this point. Turn the rolls over. If you want to seed your rolls, mist lightly with water and sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds.
Cover again, and let rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until doubled from their original size.
Peter recommends spraying the walls of the oven with water just after putting the rolls in, but I used a different technique of his and instead poured 1 cup of hot water into a cast iron pan I keep on the bottom shelf of my oven. If you go the water-in-pan method of creating steam, make sure the pan was preheated with the oven. Put the rolls into the oven and steam using one of those methods, then bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate to the pan and reduce the heat to 400 degrees, then bake another 15 to 30 minutes for large rolls (less for small rolls), or until golden brown.
Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Here are the veggie burgers I made; I baked them in the toaster oven.
A closeup of one of the rolls …
… and the crumb.
And here’s my burger …
… and my whole meal.
I probably can’t get away without posting any kitten pictures, but since this has been such a long, photo-heavy post, I’m going to restrain myself to just one.
Okay, two, because Gomez started to yawn and it was funny.
I hope all of my fellow Americans had a happy and safe Fourth of July.