Thanksgiving is over. Man, that was great! Time to buckle down now and have fun with my favorite holiday tradition, the “making of the Schnecken!” That almost sounds like a “Festivus” kind of tradition, doesn’t it?
Schnecken is a buttery, gooey German pastry. My recipe is the famous Virginia Bakery Schnecken, from a book they published. I remember waiting in long lines up to an hour to get their Schnecken after Thanksgiving!
Today, I am going to bake, and indulge, in this glorious holiday tradition. I particularly enjoy making it for family and friends. What better way to say “Hey, I really appreciate you” than handing them a heavy loaf of the best thing they may ever eat.
There are two parts to the Schnecken: making the yellow dough and then making the Schnecken.
The yellow dough: First, “the sponge.” Combine 3 packs instant dry yeast with 2 cups warm water, let sit for 5 minutes. Once it has “bloomed,” add 3 cups all-purpose flour and mix well. Cover bowl with a cloth and let rise until it doubles or until the sponge "falls.” This could take 1 or 2 hours. Then, add 1 ¼ cups sugar, 4 tsp. Salt, 1 cup vegetable shortening, 4 oz. salted butter (room temperature), ½ cup egg yolks (8-9), 1 cup cool milk, 1 cup cool water, 3 cups winter pastry flour and 6 cups all-purpose flour. Mix all ingredients to form a soft dough that is quite sticky (soft, pliable, moist) but not batter like. If it forms a tight ball, you added too much flour. Correct by adding a little more water. This should yield a little over 6 ½ pounds. It is best to do this the night before and then refrigerate the dough, making it easier to work with.
Now, to make the Schnecken! The dough you just made will make nine Schnecken loaves, as each Schnecken (which is a “loaf” of three pieces baked in a bread pan) requires a 12-oz. piece of yellow dough. You can freeze 12-oz. dough pieces, too, so you don’t have to make all nine loaves at once.
This recipe is for one loaf of Schnecken:
Prepare an 8-by-4-by-4-inch bread pan by greasing the sides or spraying with vegetable shortening before you put the “Schnecken Butter” into the baking pan. The Schnecken Butter is 3 oz. unsalted butter mixed with 3 oz. margarine (I know what you are thinking, but trust me on this). Mix this together and spread it over the bottom of the bread pan. Now, flour your rolling surface and roll out with a rolling pin the 12-oz. piece of yellow dough into a rectangle about 4-by-18 inches. Try to keep edges square. Wash the bottom edge, 4 inches wide, 1 inch deep, with an egg wash and cover the rest of the dough with 3 tbs. melted butter. Mix a ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar and ¼ tsp. cinnamon and spread evenly over buttered portion of dough only. Scatter 1 tbsp. raisins over same.
Roll up Schnecken from top towards you, keeping roll tight and 4 inches wide. End at the egg wash side and seal end with egg wash. Cut the roll into three equal pieces and place in buttered mold/pan, spiral cut side up. Let proof (covered with cloth) in a warm place until they double in size and fill out the pan (this is critical). Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 45 minutes. It’s a good idea to have a cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch excess butter.
Let the Schnecken rest in the pan for 5 minutes so the buttery goo can absorb into the dough. Turn them out of the pan and let them cool before you eat them. This is really the key part. Turn them over onto wax paper too soon and the gooey goodness runs off. Wait too long and you will need a chisel to get them out of the pan. The real art of Schnecken is getting the timing of this right so they come out perfect. After they completely cool for a few hours, wrap in wax paper. A well-seasoned pan or a great nonstick pan really makes a difference here.
So, my gift to you is the Schnecken recipe with plenty of time to make a bunch of loaves for the holidays. Try it out and send me some photos of the finished product and your thoughts! Have a wonderful holiday season and a Merry Christmas!