The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

March 3 should be a TFL holiday!

dmsnyder's picture

March 3 should be a TFL holiday!

Norm's onion rolls and kaiser rolls

Norm's Onion Rolls and Kaiser Rolls

March 3 should be a TFL holiday. That's the day in 2008 that Stan (elagins) asked Norm (nbicomputers) if he had a recipe for New York style onion rolls.  Norm did, and he posted the recipe the same day

I just know there are some here who have yet to bake these. No one's perfect. It's not the end of the world. On the other hand, it would be a terrible thing for the end of the world to happen, and you haven't gotten around to baking these rolls. You shouldn't be depriving yourself. You never know ...

It should be noted that the same dough that is used for onion rolls is also used for kaiser rolls (aka "hard rolls," "Vienna rolls," "bulkies"). The only differences are in the make up (how the rolls are formed), the proofing and the topping. Well, there is also a slight difference in the recommendation for steaming the oven.

I am posting Norm's recipe together with tips he contributed in response to various questions and problems others posted.

So, without further ado ...

 The Dough

(Makes nine 3-oz rolls)

  • High Gluten Flour 16 oz

  • Water                  8 oz

  • Yeast                  0.3 oz Fresh or 0.1 oz Instant

  • Salt                     0.25 oz

  • Sugar                  0.75 oz

  • Malt                    0.25 oz (diastatic malt powder or malt syrup. If you don't have either, just add an additional 0.25 oz of sugar.)

  • Eggs                   0.75 oz (a little less than 2 Tablespoons)

  • Oil                      0.75 oz (a little less than 2 Tablespoons 

  1. Combine flour, salt, sugar (And malt, if using malt powder. And crumbled fresh yeast, if using fresh yeast.)

  2. Pour water in a bowl. (Add instant yeast, if using it, and mix. Add malt syrup, if using, and mix it.)

  3. Mix egg and oil together.

  4. In a large mixing bowl, preferably the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in the flour mixture. Add the egg and oil mixture and combine. Last, add the water mixture and combine.

  5. Using the dough hook, knead on Speed 2 (for a KitchenAid mixer) or equivalent for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and silky. (This is a very stiff dough, so your mixer may "walk." Keep an eye on it!) Depending on your flour, you may have to add a bit more water, but the dough should be rather dry. Not sticky or even tacky. It should clean the bowl sides and not adhere to the bowl bottom.

  6. Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover tightly. Let it ferment until doubled in volume. (About 90 minutes, depending on the room temperature.)

  7. Turn the dough onto a dry, un-floured work surface. Divide it into 2 to 4 oz pieces, depending on the size rolls you want to end up with. (For reference, a 3 oz piece will result in a 4 inch onion roll or a 3 inch kaiser roll.)

  8. Pre-shape each piece into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and/or a towel and let them rest for 10 minutes. (This is to relax the gluten, not to rise.)

  9. If making onion rolls, spread the topping on your work surface, a cookie sheet, a pie tin or whatever.

  10. Flatten each piece using a rolling pin and/or the palm of you hand. They should be 1/4-1/2 inch thick.

  11. Press each flattened piece firmly into the topping mixture, then place it topping side up on a baking pan lined with parchment paper which has been sprinkled with coarse cornmeal (polenta).

  12. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to fully proof. This may take 60-90 minutes. (Failure to allow the rolls to fully proof will result in more oven spring than is desirable. These rolls should not end up spherical, but rather flat, like a discus.)

  13. Pre-heat your oven to 450F and prepare to steam it using your method of choice.

  14. When the rolls are fully proofed, press a finger deeply into the center of each roll.

  15. Bake them for 5 minutes with steam. Then remove the steam source and continue baking until the rolls are well-browned - 10 to 15 minutes longer. (The tops may remain white if the onions were too wet or you had too much steam in your oven.) If desired, you can bake a bit longer to crisp up the tops.

  16. Remove the rolls from the oven and cool on a rack.

The Topping for Onion Rolls

(Makes enough for a double recipe)

  • Dehydrated onion flakes ¼ cup

  • Poppy seeds                  1 T

  • Salt                              ¼ tsp

  • Oil                                1 T

  1. Put the onion flakes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.

  2. When the onion flakes are fully re-hydrated, pour off the excess water but save it for use in the dough or in your rye sour or other good use.

  3. Mix in the other ingredients and put aside.

If anyone has additional tips, please submit them. Collectively, we have quite a bit of experience with this recipe. I'm hoping to collect it all in one place.





Eli's picture

I didn't have Malt so I substituted Sorghum Syrup for my malt and they turned out fine. I made the levain batch with the same syrup.

Another note, I didn't press the levain batch down well enough and you can see the rise on my blog page. So, unless you want a puffy bunch press the buggers down! BTW,  David those look great too!


dmsnyder's picture

I imagine you could make these with almost any source of sugar. I've not used sorghum. Does it have a distinct flavor?

I agree about the need for a firm pressing. However, making sure the rolls are fully proofed before baking is also important in limiting oven spring to get flatter rolls.


Eli's picture

wasn't detectable. I thought it may change the color but I guess the amount is so small.


SylviaH's picture


I just noticed your recipe above makes 9 rolls...the recipe I followed made 17 very large rolls...but it had the same recipe for the toppings...NO wonder I said next time I would make more just didn't seem to be enough...especially for going heavy on that great topping...the recipe I followed said...Onion Roll Recipe-Corrected per Norm....these turned out so great in my w.f.oven...I really love having the larger for sure I will double the toppings on my recipe.



dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Sylvia.

If you used Stan's write-up, he doubled Norm's original formula. I used Stan's recipe for the topping as is because I thought the quantities would be confusing to some if I cut them in half, e.g., 1/2 T. Besides, like you, I wanted to have more onions on my rolls. As it was, I used about 3/4 of the double recipe for topping, so 50% more than called for, proportionately.


SylviaH's picture

Sorry David,  I just noticed your note: makes enough for a Double recipe!  I still like to have plenty of topping so I'll double it on the double recipe!!

Have a double good day, and thank you for the nice recipe post!


holds99's picture

And very nice and helpful recipe post.


Richelle's picture

use the soaking water of the dehydrated onions for this very dough! I'm not the first to comment on this, I think Ehanner did as well sometime in the last couple of months, but it really enhances the onion flavor of the rolls. I also add a tablespoon or two of the soaked onions to the dough and to the topping I add sesame seeds - yummie!

By the way, the same ingredients work like a charm with a potato-dough, just in case you prefer a soft roll...


Oldcampcook's picture


Thanks for a nice clear, complete and concise posting.  Very, very helpful.



ehanner's picture

I'm with you all the way David,
I have really enjoyed these onion rolls and for that matter using onions and the water in a number of things. My onion rye with everything is just killer. The water from re hydrating the onions is the secret.

Let's have a holiday I agree!


Janedo's picture

No, I've never made them... I admit it! I promise to try. But seeing all those little "oz" makes me think of all the time I'll need to translate the recipe :-(


dmsnyder's picture

 The Dough

(Makes nine 85 gm rolls)

  • High Gluten Flour 454

  • Water                 227

  • Yeast                  8.5

  • Salt                     7

  • Sugar                  21

  • Malt                    7 (diastatic malt powder or malt syrup. If you don't have either, just add an additional 0.25 oz of sugar.)

  • Eggs                   21  (a little less than 2 Tablespoons)

  • Oil                      21 (a little less than 2 Tablespoons

All numbers are grams.

Now, just do it!


ph_kosel's picture

There'a a video of Norm shaping Kaiser Rolls here: (the video is pretty grainy)

There's another clearer video of an Austrian guy doing it about the same way here: