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 specialty 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.
To substitute for bread flour add 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten to 2 to 3 cups of all-purpose flour. 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. (Recipe adapted from Jewish Food).
If you scroll down beyond the recipe for these rolls, there are instructions for a vegetarian “Weck” sandwich. Here’s a video demonstration of how to make these rolls .
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.