Zwiebach

Yes, for the blog post that points to this page, I used the spelling in Norma Jost Voth’s Mennonite Foods and Folkways but I have always preferred the h at the end of the world and so am going with the less canonical spelling here.

My recipe that comes to me from my Oma who learnt to make her zwiebach as a child in the Chortitza colony in Russia (Ukraine now). She always scalded her milk and taught me to form the buns by pinching – but was respectably impressed when she saw other Mennonite women whip their hands together and produce perfectly round balls of dough by rolling.

  • 1 heaping tblsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • pinch of sugar

Mix together in a small bowl or glass and let sit until the yeast is frothy.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups scalded milk (cooled to slightly warm)
  • more flour (up to 7 cups total)

Mix 3 cups flour with butter, milk, salt and dissolved yeast. Add more flour until the dough comes together and is just a bit sticky. Grease hands to knead the dough. Keep adding flour but don’t let it get hard. It should be shiny and smooth but still slightly sticky.

Cover and let rise once for about an hour in a warm place until it is double in size. Punch it down and let it rise again. Or not. One time is totally necessary. Twice is optional. It’s up to you.

Form the zwiebach by pinching as in this video. or by rolling as in this one (but with smaller pieces of dough). The bottom balls should be about an inch in diameter at this point and the top ones a bit smaller. Plop the smaller ball on top of the larger one and poke through with your thumb or forefinger. The end of a wooden spoon might also work if your hands are old and arthritic. This makes the dimple and sticks them together. If the dough wasn’t too tough, the dimple will sink into itself a bit as the bun rises.

Set on greased or parchment-lined pans, cover and let rise for another 1/2 hr.

Heat oven to 410 and bake for 20-25 minutes, depending upon whether you are the kind of Mennonite who likes their zwiebach soft and barely baked or overcooked and crusty. Yes, we’re also split on that.

Makes about 2 dozen zwiebach.

 

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