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Holiday Breads: Schnecken

Ok, so what’s a ‘schnecken’? Technically, ‘schnecken’ in German, just means ‘snails’ and usually refers to various types of what we refer to here in the US as ‘cinnamon buns’ (or cinnamon ‘bums’ depending on where you live, I think). Now, given what most people imagine when we say ‘cinnamon buns’, I’m going to have to explain that this ain’t them. What we have gotten used to here in the US consists of light puffy sweet dough, drenched in cinnamon and caramelized sugar, with gobs of vanilla frosting.

Check the picture at the top. Doesn’t look like what you are imagining, right?

We came to have schnecken through the good offices of a lovely elderly lady in our synagogue when I was small. Her name was Mamie Kaplan (you can just imagine her, can’t you and as long as you include the bodacious apron and the fluffy white hair, you’ve got her covered) and she was an old-country baker par excellence. She could whip up an apple strudel by hand, complete with the flour covered table cloth and stretching the dough over her knuckles with her arms underneath the dough. But… I digress. This is Mamie Kaplan’s schnecken by way of my Mom and through my kitchen (talk about digressions).

Dried yeast 2 tsps.
Milk – 2 cups
honey – 1/2 cup
Hot water – 1 cup
1/2 tsp. of sugar
Whole wheat flour – 1/2 cup
Regular flour – 5-6 cups – you’ll need plenty,trust me.
2 T. of ground cinnamon

Rolling pin
two large bowls

Additions to the dough if you’d like for better nutritional content and so you can rationalize the whole thing later
1/4 cup of ground flax seeds
2 Tbs. of garbanzo bean flour

Insides of the schnecken
Chopped nuts – you’ll need several cups of chopped nuts. Traditional is walnuts, but almonds would work well also.
Dried fruit – Traditional is to use raisins, I’m using a combination of raisins, dried cranberries, dried dates in pieces, and a bit of old fruit cake mix that I liberated out of the cupboard. You’ll need several cups of this also.
Ground cinnamon – enough to sprinkle on the dough so that you can see it
Brown sugar – enough to cover the dough thinly

How to:
Combine the yeast, the hot water and the 1/2 tsp. of sugar and leave in a warm place until bubbly – about 15 min.
In the meantime, take a large ceramic or glass bowl and put the milk, butter and honey into it. Nuke it in the microwave until the butter is melted. Make sure it is not too hot (do the finger and count to three test – if you can count to three before it feeling too hot, it’s not too hot for the yeast) and put in the proofed yeast and water.

Mix in the whole wheat flour (and any other additions like the flax seed if you are going to do it) and stir well.
Mix in enough regular flour to make a soft sticky dough. Cover with a sheet of plastic or a towel and put into a warm spot to raise and leave for an hour.
Take out, put on the kitchen counter with some flour and knead until it stops being sticky.
Grease a big bowl and put the dough into it. Put back into where you will raise it and raise it for another hour.

Get your ingredients together for the insides. Chop the nuts if need be – and they need to be chopped finely.

Take out your dough and cut into two pieces. Using your rolling pin (and a rolling mat if you have one; if not, just put some flour on the counter) and roll the piece of dough out so that it’s about as wide as a baking sheet is long and wide. It should be pretty thin. Take the cinnamon and sprinkle it on the dough. Take a handful of the brown sugar and do the same. You can put more sugar on if you’d like but this will be plenty sweet. Take a large handful of the nuts and sprinkle those on the dough; do the same for the dried fruits. You should have a pretty well covered piece of dough. If not – put on more nuts and fruit. Make sure there are ingredients at the outer edges.

Then, taking the long side facing you at the bottom, tightly roll up the dough with the fruits and nuts in it, pulling the rolled dough toward you as you do so to stretch it a little bit. The edge at the top is not going to necessarily stick and that is ok.

Grease two baking sheets. Using a knife, cut 1″ thick pieces of the rolled dough and place them cut side down on the backing sheets. Cover with plastic or a towel and leave in a warm spot to raise for 30 min. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. After you’ve raised the rolls for 30 min., bake the rolls for 15 min.

Repeat this process with the other piece of dough. These rolls are great just warm out of the oven, cold, reheated. Yum.

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