A Brief History of the Kaiser – The Bun, Not the Man

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The Kaiser bun has been around for an awfully long time. Being a favorite of New Yorkers, the popularity has gradually spread across the United States as well. These rolls have been around since at least 1760, at least in the version that you see now. It’s quite possible that the recipe for Kaisers have been around a lot longer. 

Kaiser buns are thought to have been as such in honor of Kaiser Joseph II, also referred to as the Emperor. He was the monarch of Austria, where the rolls originated. Known for their crispy exterior and hot, soft center, the bread became a favorite during a time when fermented foods would keep longer. 

Wine and beer were both popular also because they were fermented drinks that didn’t require refrigeration. The dough for Kaiser bread is made with a fermentation process that gives them a subtlety sweet flavor. They keep longer thanks to fermentation. This made them extremely popular in a time when there was no such way to keep foods cool, unless you were lucky enough to live near a cold spring, where the water was sometimes diverted into a special cold house, where food could be stored. 

During the period when Kaisers become popular people were eating a lot of bread and drinking mostly beer and wine. Even young children often drank wine or beer due to the abundance of it. It’s quite possible that the fermentation process in these foods also helped to keep the proper enzymes in the stomachs of those who lived during this time. 

As the bread gained in popularity it was traded around the world and gradually it spread to many countries in various forms. In the United States, Kaiser rolls or buns are used for sandwich making. In New York City, they are the breakfast sandwich choice of fashion and popularity. Perhaps people are finding that there is an advantage to eating this type of fermented bread is best after all? 

The likelihood of people choosing to eat Kaiser rolls for their health is not nearly as likely as the fact that they offer a unique flavor to sandwiches that other types of bread cannot offer. The exterior crust that forms when baked is also a wonderful quality for sandwiches that may contain sauces, cheeses or things that could leech through other types of breads and become quite messy. Restaurants love using the Kaiser for specialty sandwiches for this very reason. 

The crispy shell that forms on the exterior of the baked bread earned it the nickname of ‘hard roll’ early on. The hard shell gives way to a soft and sweet interior that is unlike other types of bread. The hard shell is no doubt part of the reason that the bread also keeps such a long time. You can easily keep Kaiser bread for up to three weeks without worry. It can be kept even longer in the right conditions. Kaiser rolls also can be frozen and thawed with little effect on their soft interior or flavor.


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