Hard rolls, aka Kaiser rolls, aren’t indigenous to south Louisiana, and a decent Kaiser roll is difficult to find in these parts. Sure, every chain supermarket with a bakery department offers seed-topped, cellophane-wrapped sandwich rolls labeled as Kaisers. Go ahead, buy a sleeve of six: I guarantee you’ll be disappointed. The rolls are never crusty, are too soft, and are generally way too big to make a decent sandwich (as I’m a firm believer in the ideal ratio of bread:filling as the key component in a good sandwich). I haven’t found a good bakery hard roll, despite years of looking.
So I bake my own, using the recipe in Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice (p 177, go look it up on Google Books). For a few bucks, I bought a Kaiser roll stamp, which allows me to achieve the pleated top folds characteristic of a hard roll. Yes, you can make the shape by hand, but it’s a bit tricky and takes some practice. With the stamp, you simply roll the dough into balls and apply the stamp. The pattern bakes right into the roll.
After baking a batch of half white whole wheat/half bread flour rolls, I’m ready for thick-sliced, roasted turkey, thin pastrami, or homemade roast beef. Or how about a righteous burger? The burgers at Phil’s Grill (3020 Severn, Metairie, LA) set me a-thinkin’ about Kaiser rolls in the first place. The burgers are decent, with a mix-and-match approach allowing each diner to customize to his or her heart’s content. Excep for one major disappointment–the standard-issue, food-service buns (onion rolls, whole wheat, etc.) are far too soft & smushy to stand up to an onslaught of juice, grease, and condiments. Phil’s whole concept would be elevated by better bread choices, I think.
Are you now inspired to bake? Check out Wild Yeast’s Yeastspotting for additional yeast baking inspiration…