We Knead To Bake #26 : Kummelweck (Kimmelweck) Rolls & A Vegetarian Weck Sandwich
This month we’re baking something savoury and simple. What makes these simple rolls rather special and different is the sprinkling of sea salt and caraway seeds on the top. These rolls are great for sandwiches and even burgers.
So what exactly is a Kimmelweck Roll? I didn’t know either but I discovered that it's a hard roll, much like a crusty Kaiser roll, but sprinkled with caraway and coarse salt instead of poppy seeds.
They are German in origin and I understand that “Kummel” means caraway seeds while “Weck” from “wecken” which means roll (in southern Germany, “brötchen” in the north). It seems that in Buffalo (New York), these rolls are used to make a speciality sandwich called the "Beef on Weck", with thinly sliced rare roast beef and horseradish which is typically served with fries and a dill pickle.
According to a story, the origin of the Beef on Weck sandwich goes back to the 1800s. It seems a German immigrant ran a bar on the Buffalo waterfront and he was looking a way to increase his sales. He hit upon the idea of selling his hungry customers roast beef in the Kummelweck roll. The salt would make them thirstier and buy more beer in the bargain. I have no idea if he sold more beer than before, but his sandwich become so popular that it became a food icon in Buffalo!
A Kummelweck roll is best eaten fresh when it is chewy and crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. The salt on top of it must be just so, as too much would make it unpleasantly salty and too little would mean it wasn’t enough.
If you can’t find caraway seeds, you can use “shahjeera/ black cumin” like I did. It’s not authentic but when one can’t find an ingredient then one makes the best of what is on hand. I personally found the taste of Shahjeera on the bread and the sandwich pretty much to my liking. This recipe makes 8 burger bun sized large rolls, but half the recipe also works well if you would prefer to bake a smaller batch of rolls.
If you scroll down beyond the recipe for these rolls, there are instructions for a vegetarian “Weck” sandwich.
Kummelweck (Kimmelweck) Rolls
(Adapted from Jewish Food)
- Mix together the warm water and the warm milk and stir in the yeast. Let it sit aside for about 5 minutes. Knead by hand or with the machine.
- In the bowl of your machine, combine the yeast mixture, oil, honey, the egg white and stir.
- Now add the salt and about 2 1/2 cups of flour and knead, adding as much more flour as required till you have a smooth and elastic dough that is tacky but not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball, and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover loosely with cling film and let rise for about an hour, until it is almost double in volume.
- Deflate the dough well (not kneading), shape into a round and and allow it to rise, covered, for 30 minutes more.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each into a smooth ball, then slightly flatten it. Place them on lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Spray or lightly brush with oil, loosely cover and let the dough rise for 30 more minutes. Brush with eggwash (or something else that will make sure the topping sticks when baking), then cut slits ( like an +) on the top using a sharp blade or scissors.
- Sprinkle the top of the rolls with sea salt and caraway seeds, and then mist with water. Bake the rolls at 220C (425F) for 5 minutes and then quickly mist with water again making sure you don’t keep the oven door open for too long.
- Bake for another 20 minutes or so until they’re brown and done. Cool on a wire rack. This recipe makes 8 large burger bun sized rolls.
*To substitute for bread flour add 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten to 2 to 3 cups of all-purpose flour.
For the Vegetarian Weck Sandwich
As mentioned earlier, a typical Weck sandwich is made with thinly sliced rare roast beef and horseradish. Then top half of the bun is dipped in a bit of beef au jus before you placing it on the beef. Otherwise the sandwich is just roast beef and served with hot horseradish and the au jus for dipping, along with the French fries and dill pickle.
My vegetarian version is much simpler. I decided to keep my “Weck” sandwich as healthy as I could so I used this delightful Roasted Red Pepper Hummus as a spread and then added some crunchy lettuce, thinly sliced cucumber, tomatoes and carrots.
I topped it with a little more Hummus and some freshly crushed pepper and my sandwich was done. The salt and caraway (shahjeera in my case) was more than enough seasoning so I didn't add anything more.