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Viennese Crescent Rolls



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Viennese Crescent Rolls

Kaffee Haus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague
Kaffee Haus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes
of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

by Rick Rodgers, 2002, Clarkson Potter/Publishers

The Story Behind Kipferln

“The French may have refined the croissant, but they certainly didn’t invent it. The flaky, buttery, crescent-shaped Kipferln had been a specialty of Viennese bakers for years before the Austrian princess Marie-Antoinette took them with her to her adopted country.
There is a distinction between the Kipfel, which is an everyday roll made from a simple yeast dough (Germteig), and the Kipferl, a fine, high-quality roll made from layered butter dough (Plunderteig, the so-called Danish pastry). In Viennese dialect, the addition of an ‘r’ toward the end of certain words elevates their status. Kipfeln are plain rolls, but Kipferln are more special.
It would be nice to believe the stories that connect the crescent roll to the half-moon on the Turkish flag. These tales relate how the Viennese invented the roll to sub their hated Ottoman enemies: By eating a crescent roll you would be figuratively killing a Turk. Some sources cite the inventor as baker Peter Wendler, and some historians even say it was the wife of Georg Kolschitzky (who supposedly introduced coffee to the Viennese) who served them at the Blue Bottle coffeehouse. But Peter Wendler died three years before the Turkish siege, and it is questionable whether Kolschitzky had anything concrete to do with coffee at all.
Kipfel is related to the High German word for goat horns, ‘kipfa’. Well before the seventeenth century, horn-shaped rolls were baked in the cloisters for Easter, when animal imagery is common. Whatever the origin of the word, the crescent roll became the favorite bread of any self-respecting Viennese; it is said that Frau Constanze Mozart was especially fond of her breakfast Kipfel.”

 Makes 12 crescents

“Here are the authentic Viennese crescent rolls, based on the ‘Danish’ sweet dough. Granted, with less sugar and no egg yolks in the dough, French croissants are flakier, but the jury is out as to which country’s crescents are the most delicious.
If you are serving these for brunch, make the dough the night before and roll it out the next morning. Allow 2 hours for the rolls to rise and another 20 minutes for them to bake.”

1/2 batch Viennese Sweet Yeast Dough (recipe follows)
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt

1.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch square. Cover the dough with plastic and let rest for 5 minutes. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Using a pastry wheel or very sharp knife (you want clean cuts so the layers are not compressed), cut the dough in half lengthwise, making two 6 x 12-inch strips. Working with one strip at a time, stretch and pull out the upper right corner to bring the right side to an approximate 45-degree angle. Pull the lower left corner out to bring the left side to a 45-degree angle. Starting at the lower left corner, mark 4 inches in on the bottom of the strip. From this point, cut up diagonally to the upper left corner to make a 6-inch triangle with a 4-inch base. Make a mark 4 inches in on the top edge of the strip, and cut diagonally from the left corner to make another triangle. Continue in this manner to cut out four more triangles. Repeat with the other strip. If the dough has softened, refrigerate the triangles until they are chilled and firmer.
3.  Roll out a triangle on a lightly floured surface to make it wider (about 5 1/2 inches) and longer (about 7 inches). Starting at the base of the triangle, roll up the triangle. Place it point side up or down, depending on your preference, on the baking sheet, and curve it into a crescent. Repeat with the remaining triangles, placing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the crescents look puffed (they won’t double in volume), about 2 hours. Be patient; it takes time for the chilled dough to rise.
4.  Position the racks in the center and top third of the oven and heat to 400°F. Beat the egg and salt in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the crescents with the egg glaze. Bake, switching the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes, until the crescents are golden brown, about 20 minutes. (The crescents will seem a bit underdone inside at this point, but they will cook further as they cool.) Let cool completely on the sheets.

Make ahead
The rolls are best the same day they are baked, but they will keep for 1 day, wrapped in aluminum foil, stored at room temperature. They can also be frozen, wrapped individually in foil, for up to 1 month. To refresh the rolls, reheat them, wrapped in foil, in a 350°F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Viennese Sweet Yeast Dough

Makes about 3 pounds

“The technique for this dough, used primarily for ‘Danish’ pastries, is similar to the one required by puff pastry, which is also created from layering butter with dough. As with Butterteig, temperature is important: Only after the dough is cut out does it stand in a warm place for its final rise. The same basics about puff pastry apply to this dough:

  • If the dough softens in a hot kitchen, refrigerate it until it is cool and form enough to work with.

  • For proper layering of butter and dough, they must be near the same cool temperature. The optimum temperature for the mixture is 60°F. (thanks to Bernard Clayton, who identified the proper temperature in his ‘New Complete Book of Breads’), If too warm, the butter will soak into the dough; if too cold,
    it will break through. The 60°F. butter temperature is easy to attain in a cool kitchen by working the butter in a bowl with our knuckles. Don’t use your palms too much as they are warmer and could melt the butter.

  • If any butter does peek through the dough during rolling, generously sprinkle the offending spot with flour to seal it, then proceed.

  • Keep the dough as evenly shaped as possible, stretching the corners as needed to keep them at right angles.

  • Brush off excess flour from the top of the dough before rolling the layers; too much flour will toughen the pastry.

  • Even when the recipe calls for a half-batch of dough, make the full recipe and freeze the remainder. It is difficult to make puff pastry [or Plunderteig] with amounts smaller than recommended here.


1 1/2 ounces (3/4 cube) compressed yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk (heated to 105° to 115° F. if using dry yeast)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups unbleached flour, as needed

Butter Mixture
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup unbleached flour

1.  To make the sponge: Crumble the compressed yeast over the milk (or sprinkle in the dry) in a small bowl. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk to dissolve. Add the flour and sugar and whisk for 100 strokes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
2.  To make the dough: Whisk the milk, confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, yolks, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Add the sponge. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle blade. On low speed, gradually add enough flour to make a very sticky dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.  To make the butter mixture: Combine the butter and flour in a medium bowl and use your knuckles to work them together until the butter is smooth and malleable, but still cool. (An instant-read thermometer will read 60°F.) Scrape onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap loosely in plastic. Using a rolling pin as an aide, roll and shape into a 6-inch square. If the temperature isn’t 60°F., refrigerate or let stand at room temperature until it reaches that point.
4.  On a lightly floured work surface, rollout the dough to a 10-inch square. Unwrap the butter square and place in the center of the dough, with the corners of the butter square pointing north, south, east, and west. Using the back of a knife, lightly make the perimeter of the butter square on the dough, and remove the butter square. Using a rolling pin, roll out the [corners of the] dough from each mark to make four 4-inch-long “petals”. Replace the butter square in the center of the dough. Brushing off the flour as you work, fold each petal over to enclose the dough.
5.  Dust the work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle. Brush off the flour on the dough. As if folding a business letter, stretching the corners of the dough as well as possible to kept them at right angles, fold the top third of the dough down, then the bottom third of the dough up, making a three-layer rectangle about 4 1/2 x 7 inches. This is called a single turn. Reposition the dough so that the open side faces left. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and roll again into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle. Brush off the flour. Fold the top  quarter of the dough down, then the bottom quarter of the dough up to meet the center. Fold the dough in half at the center crease to make a four-layer rectangle about 3 1/2 x 7 inches. This is called a double turn. Flatten the dough slightly by tapping it with the rolling pin lengthwise and crosswise. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6.  Unwrap the dough and return it to a lightly floured work surface. Repeat step five, giving the dough another single turn, then another double turn. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. [The cookbook includes photographs to illustrate the rolling and turning process.]

Make Ahead
The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated.
While the unbaked dough can be frozen, some of the yeast could die during the freezing process. It is best to bake the leftover dough within a day or two, and freeze the extra baked goods instead.

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