kaisersemmel (kaiser roll)
KAISERSEMMEL (KAISER ROLL)
RECORD NUMBER: 164
According to narratives the Viennese baker Kayser allegedly invented the Kaisersemmel around 1750. A
painting of Martin van Meytens shows a Kaiser roll with 5 cuts at a court banquet of Empress Maria
Kaisersemmel (Kaiser roll, Imperial roll)
ABSTRACT OR CLAIM
The Kaiser roll (Kaisersemmel) is a traditional Viennese white bread of high quality. It is round and has five,
star-shaped cuts in the crusty rind. A Kaisersemmel has to weigh 46 g at least. It is intended for fresh
The “Viennese Kaisersemmel” is exclusively made by hand.
NAME OF PRODUCT, PRODUCT CLASS
Semmel, white bread roll
NAME OF REGION
FIELD OF SEARCH
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The designation “Semmel” is derived from the Latin word “simila” for wheat flour, the main ingredient of a
The word Semel(e) for white rolls appears in written form in the Middle High German gest “Meier
Helmbrecht von Wernher dem Gärntner” (13th century).
A story from 1806 has it that the name “Kaiser roll” comes from the daily delivering of two breakfast rolls to
Emperor Franz I (1768-1835).
However, the word component “Kaiser” (Emperor) was often used to highlighten exquisite products and
dishes in the 19th century. “Kaiser” may also have its origin from “a la casa” (house style).
As early as in the 13th century, a distinction was made between dark bread, white bread und luxury bread.
Since the 15th century, bakers of dark and white bread have been organized in guilds.
For a long time, Viennese bakers were not allowed to bake every kind of bread. A gild lottery decided who
was entitled to bake for a defined period the profitable luxury bread (Bretzen, Wecken, Kipfel, Beugel).
It was only in 1772 that all citizen bakers were allowed to produce “Mundgebäck” (mouth rolls) in different
One can assume that rolls were just round until the 18th century. Whoever developed the first Kaisersemmel
is unknown. According to narratives, the Viennese baker Kayser invented the Kaisersemmel around 1750.
Allegedly, he detected that cuts in the roll increase the crusty surface and, as a result, the specific taste.
A painting of Martin van Meytens in the Castle of Schönbrunn shows a Kaiser roll at a court banquet on the
occasion of the marriage of later Emperor Joseph II and Isabella of Parma in 1760.
In the 18th century, the weight and price of Semmel was regulated in a statute. As flour was extremely
expensive in relation to the fixed price of rolls, Viennese bakers wanted to set their own prices. According to
narratives, a deputation of the bakers’ guild tried to persuade Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790) to revoke the
statute. Allegedly, the Emperor was so impressed by the great craftsmanship of the bakers that he met their
The laborious preparation of Kaisersemmel made it a luxury until the mid-20th century. The designation
“Handkaisersemmel” refers to the laborious making by hand.
Kaisersemmel are traditional of Austria. However, they also became became popular in other countries of
the former Austrian Habsburg Empire – for example in Poland (kajzerka), Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia
(kajzerica), Hungary (császárzsemle,), and the Czech Republic (kaiserka).
The Austrian Codex Alimentarius Chapter B18 Backerzeugnisse defines “white bread”, which includes
Semmeln (Kaisersemmeln, Langsemmeln, Kärntner Semmeln etc.), Laibchen (Laberl), Weckerl, Stangerl,
Kipferl. “Wiener Kaisersemmel“ or “Kaisersemmel with highlighting indication” are a hand-made white
bread with a five-section star.
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Kaisersemmel are characterized by slow handling and long resting (at least 2 hours) of the dough. A handmade Kaisersemmel can easily be distinguished from a machine-made one by the imperfect geometry of the
The Austrian wheat flour Type 700 is best suited for Semmel and is therefore called Semmelmehl (roll flour).
Rye flour Type 500 can be added (up to 10%) to make the star-shaped cuts more distinct. In classic recipes
barley malt extracts are added for a crustier rind. Small amounts of butter or margarine contribute to the
quality of the dough and the freshness of rolls. Depending on the quality of the flour, various baking agents
can be used. The dough is either made by mixing all ingredients at once (one-step dough preparation) or by
using a pre-dough (stepwise dough preparation).
The Kaiser roll is a main part of a typical Austrian breakfast, usually served with butter and jam. However, it
is also traditionally enjoyed with goulash and a glass of beer or with Frankfurter Würstchen. A basket with
Kaiser rolls or Salzstangerl on a restaurant table is self-evident service in a traditional Austrian restaurant.
The Kaiser roll is also used as a bun for sandwiches with a slice of Leberkäse (Leberkässemmel), with sliced
Extrawurst (sausage) and pickled gherkins (Wurstsemmel), or with Wiener Schnitzel (Schnitzelsemmel).
Old and dry Kaiser rolls are processed to Knödelbrot (dumpling bread) and Semmelbrösel (white bread
crumbs) and thus become essential ingredients of many classic Austrian dishes, among them Wiener
Schnitzel, dumplings, fruit dumplings etc.
VARIATIONS OF SEMMEL
Kaiser rolls are traditionally plain. Today Kaiser-style rolls are sold topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds,
pumpkin seeds, linseed or sunflower seeds.
KÄRNTNER SEMMEL (CARINTHIAN ROLL)
The machine-made Kärtner Semmel looks similar to Kaisersemmel. However, there is a stamped knob in the
centre with emanating radial cuts resembling a sun.
STEIRISCHE LANGSEMMEL (STYRIAN LONG ROLLS)
It is a Styrian speciality, but also available in other parts of Austria. The ovoid roll is longitudinally split into
PÄRLE (PAARSEMMEL) is a pair of connected rolls. Spiced with caraway, it is popular in Vorarlberg,
KONDUKTSEMMEL, TOTENSEMMEL (FUNERAL PROCESSION OR DEAD PEOPLE ROLL)
Konduktsemmel are bigger than normal ones and often sprinkled with anise. They are offered after funerals
in Upper Austria.
SEMMEL AS JOURGEBÄCK
The collective term “Jourgebäck” is used in Austria for mini Kaiser rolls and other mini white breads. The
name is derived from rolls enjoyed on special days in old Vienna (day = jour in French).
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Food and dishes, Traditional Knowledge, Austria, Vienna, white bread, Semmel, Kaisersemmel, roll, Kaiser
roll, Imperial roll.
BURGSTALLER E. Österreichisches Festtagsgebäck, Rudolf Trauner Verlag, Linz, 1983, p. 188.
HAVEL/STÖGER. Spezielle Fachkunde für Bäcker, Österreichischer Gewerbeverlag, Vienna, 1984, p. 104,
JACOB H.E. Sechstausend Jahre Brot, Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, Hamburg, 1954, p. 381.
MAR et al. Lehrbuch der Bäckerei, Trauner Verlag, Linz, 2007, pp. 261-266; p. 276; p. 282; pp. 893-894.
MAIER-BRUCK, F. Die klassische Österreichische Küche, Seehammer Verlag GmbH, Weyarn, 2003, pp.
MAIER-BRUCK, F. Vom Essen auf dem Lande. Das große Buch der österreichischen Bauernküche und
Hausmannskost,Verlag Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna, 2003, 2nd edition, p. 611.
POHL, H-D. Von Apfelstrudel bis Zwetschkenröster. Kleines Handbuch der österreichischen
Küchensprache, Verlag Carl Ueberreuter, Vienna, 2008, p. 58.
SANDGRUBER, R. Semmel, Oberösterreichische Nachrichten, 4 November 2006
SCHÜNEMANN/TREU: Technologie der Backwarenherstellung. Fachkundliches Lehrbuch für Bäcker und
Bäckerinnen, Gildefachverlag GmbH, Allfeld/Leine, 2005, 9th edition, p. 67; p. 89; pp. 100-102.
SIEVERS, G.W. Genussland Österreich. Was Küche und Keller zu bieten haben, Leopold Stocker Verlag,
Graz, 2007, p. 292.
ÖSTERR. LEBENSMITTELBUCH, Chapter B 18 “Backerzeugnisse“, Sub-chapter “Gebäck
Brotwoche 2009: Als die Semmel noch eine Belohnung war
Überblick über die Geschichte der Wiener Bäckerinnung
Überblick über die Geschichte der Wiener Bäckerinnung
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Die Hand – Kaisersemmel
Last internet access: November 13, 2009
Kunz F. Die adlige Kaisersemmel und ihre weitschichtige gutbürgerliche Verwandtschaft. Backwaren
aktuell. 3, 2020
Wiener Brot und Weißgebäck
Last internet access: April 27, 2016
ORIGINAL LANGUAGE CODE
AUTHORS OF GERMAN VERSION
Edmund Fröhlich, Daniela Trenker, Doris Reinthaler, Eva Sommer
ABRIDGED ENGLISH VERSION
Erhard Höbaus, proofread by Mirjam Freund
Note: The abridged English version does not claim to be a literal translation of the original German record
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