On a recent visit to the Niagara region I was surprised to find some wonderful comfort foods that seem to be hidden NY treasures. Sure, everyone has heard about Buffalo wings but other regional specialties have caused visitors to fall in love at first bite. What a local described as “The Buffalo Trinity”, consisting of sponge candy, Sahlen’s hot dogs and beef on weck are specialties to not only seek out but to sink your teeth into! Why these delicious but simple treats haven’t caught on anywhere else is a mystery!
Long before that fateful night in 1964 when Theresa at the Anchor Bar decided to fry up a batch of chicken wings to placate her hungry patrons, folks in these parts had been enjoying tasty beef on wecks for decades. The key ingredient for this sandwich is the weck, a type of Kaiser roll encrusted with chunks of crunchy salt and caraway seeds. The freshest, hottest horseradish you can find tops warm layers of roast beef piled high with au jus served on the side. Although the precise history of the beef on weck is unknown, it is most commonly believed that German baker William Wahr brought the kummelweck roll from the Black Forest in Germany to the shores of Lake Erie in 1908. Folks here have been enjoying a beef on weck with a side of french fries and a kosher dill ever since! With all of the international bakeries in NYC it’s beyond me why the popularity of the Weck never strayed far from its regional home! Try the recipe below to bake your own rolls and create a mouthwatering sandwich!
Sponge Candy is one of those things that are really hard to describe without actually experiencing it. Natives of Buffalo and the surrounding area seem to be addicted its unique texture and flavor. The Sponge Candy center has poufy, airy yet crunchy texture with an almost caramelized molasses flavor. It’s weird taste, crisp at first following with a melt-away texture. A thick coating of either dark or milk chocolate is added to coat the airy center. When you bite into a piece of Sponge Candy, you experience not only the chocolate’s opposing properties of solid firmness giving away to melty smoothness, but you get the center’s crispness immediately dissolving with a very complimentary mixing of
chocolate and burnt caramel like flavors. I’ve never read a description of Sponge Candy that’s come close to the experience of actually eating it and I’m sure this description is no better. Try it, you’ll like it! Order online from http://spongecandy.com/, due to its delicate center it only ships from October till March.
Sahlen’s Smokehouse Hot Dogs- Charbroiled, topped with the works and served with a cool glass of local Loganberry juice ! Think Chicago is home to the best hot dogs? Guess again, as more than one spot in the region has a claim to fame as a top 10 dog in America! If your in the area check out the foot long at The Silo in Lewiston, NY (a restaurant housed inside a repurposed coal storage facility) or visit Ted’s Hot Dog’s that have several locations in the area. I don’t know quite what it is that sets them apart but these dogs rock! Order online http://www.sahlen.com/products/hot-dogs-sausage/, grill up some toasted rolls to serve and bite into a tubular delight!
1/4 cup caraway seeds
1/4 cup coarse salt
2 envelopes active dry yeast
5 cups (approximately) flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/3 cup oil
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup warm water
Combine the caraway seeds and the coarse salt in a small bowl and set aside. If you like extra salt or seeds add more to taste!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, 2 cups of flour, the salt, oil, milk, and water. Mix well at medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs and beat the mixture another minute, adding as much flour as the mixer will take. By hand, stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead, adding flour if necessary, until it is smooth and elastic. Place it in a large greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch the dough down and knead it for two minutes on a floured board.
To shape the rolls, cut the dough into 24 pieces. Tuck the edges of each piece under and shape it into a flat, round roll. With a sharp kitchen knife, cut four evenly spaced, shallow arcs into the top of each roll from the center to the edges, pressing at the center with your thumb to make an indentation. The pinwheel pattern should resemble that on a Kaiser roll. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with the caraway-salt mixture, then transfer them to baking sheets and cover them. Let them rise until they have doubled in bulk.
To bake, place a heat-proof pan of water on the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is hot, put in the rolls and bake them for about 30 minutes, until they are brown.
For the best Beef on Weck–
4 Weck Rolls
1 lb. Rare roast beef, sliced thin
2 cups au jus or beef broth warmed
the hottest prepared horseradish you can find
Slice rolls and spread horseradish (to your taste) on bottom part of roll. Divide meat between rolls evenly. Spoon a bit of au jus onto underside of top roll and assemble sandwich. Slice in half and serve remaining au jus on side.
Serve with fries and a kosher dill! Enjoy!