Rolls are quick, easy, and versatile for meals at home as well as on the go. One example of a great roll choice is the Kaiser roll. Also known as Kaiser buns, Emperor rolls, or Vienna rolls, these hard, crusty, round buns are symmetrical with five prominent segments. Their resemblance to a crown lends to the names “Kaiser” and “Emperor”. They are made from white flour plus a combination of water, yeast, salt, and malt. As they originate from Austria, they are referred to as Kaisersemmel when joining a traditional Austrian meal and must be officially approved by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture. Similar varieties include Semmel from Austria and Bavaria, Brötchen in Northern Germany, and Weck in Baden-Württemberg.
Kaiser rolls have been around since at least 1760, likely named such at a later time in order to honor the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria who reigned from 1848 to 1916. In the previous century, however, the prices of Semmeln were fixed by the Habsburg Monarchy and so there may also be a connection between the roll’s name and this phenomenon. This connection is emphasized by distinguishing the Kaiser rolls from Mundsemmeln (also known as mouth rolls) or Shustersemmeln, which translates to “cobbler’s rolls”. Their popularity spread far beyond the area, however, and some countries such as Italy now produce their own versions of the bread.
The variations of the roll depend on a number of factors. The common roll can now come in different sizes, be baked with other kinds of flours, and be topped with various ingredients. The traditional versions of the rolls did not have any toppings, but now rolls are available with a topping of pumpkin kernels, poppy seeds, linseed, sesame seeds, or even sunflower seeds. The bread is still a common food item for typical Austrian breakfasts alongside jam and butter. In the United States, hamburgers and other sandwiches typically employ Kaiser rolls as an alternative option to the standard American hamburger bun. Sandwich varieties are also found in Germany that employ the bun, and some varieties include caraway and kosher salt. Many Long Island and other eastern delis and stores stock “hard rolls” – a kind of Kaiser variety – as staples regularly.
Nowadays, finding a Kaiser roll is fairly easy. Not only do restaurants serve them, but you can find them in a number of delis and bakeries. Some companies now produce Kaiser rolls that are available in convenience stores, pre-packaged and ready to eat. If you’re really creative, you could even attempt to bake your own rolls. It is no wonder the bread is so popular as Kaiser rolls are incredibly convenient to pack and very versatile. Whether as a bread serving to accompany the side of a meal or as the main component holding together a great sandwich, these rolls add an extra dimension to your food without overwhelming the flavor of what you’re eating. Now that you’ve learned a bit about the history of the bun, go grab some!