Schnecken Rolls (German Sticky Buns or Sweet Rolls)

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These sweet rolls have been a favorite of my family since the ā€™80s. When I worked for several years as a pastry chef at a German bakery/restaurant in Portland, I made 60 of these delectable pastries every morning, positively dripping with nuts and caramel. At the end of the day, there were never any left!  All the employees ever managed to scrounge were the drips of caramel that were left on the parchment paper.  šŸ™‚

I now usually omit the caramel, because it seems too sweet to us now. But we loved it, back in the day. It would almost be a sacrilege to put regular frosting on these rolls. They are super buttery and egg yolk rich and tender, even plain, with or without added butter. I have to have butter on them, but my husband likes them plain. I do usually make an orange syrup to brush over the cooled rolls and top with more chopped pecans before I serve them. Feel free to omit the pecans altogether though, if you wish. They will still be great.

These rolls are traditionally baked in giant muffin cups, with the caramel and nuts in the cup below. When they come out of the oven, (and are quickly inverted), the caramel drizzles down, covering the entire rolls. If Iā€™m not using caramel, I just bake them in a roasting pan pre-sprayed with vegetable spray. They turn out great, either way. I am including the caramel recipe too, in case you want to try it.  These are the best Pennsylvania Dutch type sticky buns ever! This recipe is easily doubled if you have a huge mixer that will hold 14 cups of flour.

I made these to keep my guys busy and out of my way while I prepare stuffing early Thanksgiving morning.  It works like a charm!

12 Large Schnecken Rolls

I bake these in a 325 convection oven, but a regular oven at 350 will work just fine. The only thing that might go wrong is that you under bake them. Let them bake about 35 minutes till golden brown, as they will still be buttery and tender.

STEP ONE:

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. Active dry yeast (a shy 3/4 oz or 3 packets)
1 cup sugar, split
6-7 cups unbleached, organic A/P flour
1 tsp. Salt
2 cubes unsalted butter, room temp
6 egg yolks (no whites!) SEPARATE THE EGG YOLKS!!

Scald the milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until a skin forms. Remove the skin. Cool to lukewarm. Add to the lukewarm (95-100 degree) milk:

YEAST SPONGE MIXTURE:
2 Tablespoons of active, dry yeast
A pinch of powdered ginger
1/4 cup sugar (SEPARATE 1/4 cup sugar out of the 1c total sugar)
1 cup of flour

Whisk together in a 4 cup liquid glass measuring cup and allow it to get foamy and rise for 30 minutes. It will almost (but not quite) spill over the sides when it is ready.

In the mixing bowl of a Kitchen Aid or other mixer, place:

3 cups of flour (to start)
1 tsp. Salt
3/4 cup sugar

With a paddle attachment, muddle it all together. On speed #1 add the pieces of the soft unsalted butter to the dry flour, salt and sugar mixture. It will get kind of crumbly, which is perfect.

Now add the yeast sponge and the 6 egg yolks. Change to a dough hook and knead about 5 minutes. You can slowly add just a little more flour, but this dough should be soft and shiny.  The dough will seem sticky and stringy, compared to some, and strings will whip around trying to cling to the side of the bowl. That is a perfect consistency for this dough!

(If you forgot to separate out the egg yolks, don’t throw out the dough. It will still be better than most sweet roll recipes, just more airy than normal But it turns out best when whites aren’t added)

If the dough still leaves a gunky coating on the sides of the bowl, add a little more flour (as much as 2 more cups, 1/2 cup at a time) while the mixer is kneading.  You can’t over knead this dough.  When the moving dough cleans the sides of the bowl, that’s your cue the dough is ready. You will have kneaded it in the mixer with a dough hook attachment for at least 10 minutes.

Place in a large, oiled (ideally SQUARE) Tupperware type container with a lid that seals. Large means gallon to gallon and a half. I got mine at a restaurant supply store. See the photo below. The reason I prefer a square container is that it makes it easier to roll out the chilled dough in a rectangular shape. Oil the top of the dough with your hands. Let the dough rise one hour, then place it, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

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The next morning, remove the lid and upend the container of dough onto a WELL floured surface. Allow the dough to sit, covered with the upside-down container, for about 40 minutes to warm it up a bit.

Roll into a rectangle about 20 inches by 14 inches. The dough will be about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick when it has been rolled out.

FILLING:

1/2 cube melted butter, slightly cooled
1 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/8 cup cinnamon
3/4 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans

Drizzle the melted butter over the surface of the rolled dough while spreading it around with your hands. Be sure to leave a one-inch area on edges unbuttered in every direction so the dough will stick to itself when it is tightly rolled up!

Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over all, distributing with your hand, and evenly sprinkle the diced pecan pieces on top of that.

ROLL IT UP!

Begin to roll the long edge nearest you. Pinch it tightly the first 2-3 inches with your fingertips, working your way first left, then back to the right. No, it won’t look pretty yet, but the rest will roll up nicely! The reason you roll it so tightly at the beginning is to get the tight snail-spiral started.

Continue rolling snugly, away from you, smoothing roll first all the way to the left, then to the right, trying not to squeeze the sides so hard the pecans rip their way through the dough. Once it is all rolled up, pinch the loose end tightly against the far side of the roll all the way down the length of the roll. If you pinch it firmly it will stick to itself. (Pretend it is someone you don’t like!) Then use your index finger to jab the pinched part into the roll, all the way down the roll.  Fold the ends under and pinch tightly closed.

Either use a bench scraper or a long knife and lightly mark the dough into 4 sections. Cut 3 fat slices out of each section. Cut straight down in one motion. Don’t try to saw it! Each slice will be about 1 and 3/4 inch thick. Compress the slices as you lay them in a roasting pan or caramel-filled muffin tin. Try to position the sealed edges against other rolls or the edge of the pan, in case they try to pop open while they are baking.

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Once you have placed each slice in the pan, fan out and separate the top edges in each roll to resemble an open flower. They sometimes stick together when you are rolling the dough.

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IF YOU WANT TO USE CARAMEL:

This recipe makes a perfect caramel Glaze. If you boil it in a chef’s pot like we did at the bakery though, be aware the caramel can get almost brittle by the time the rolls are done in the oven! It can pull a filling out of a tooth. So, when I make this, I don’t pre-cook it. I prefer a softer caramel. It will be delicious whichever you choose.

Caramel Glaze:

1/4 lb. unsalted butter
3/4 cup Karo syrup (most people use the dark karo)
1/2 lb. brown sugar PLUS 1/4 cup
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla (add when done boiling and right before placing in the baking pan or muffin cups.

If you want the traditional caramel glaze, bring all but the vanilla to a boil in a candy pot and boil it till it reaches 236 degrees on a candy thermometer. Allow the mixture to cool for a couple minutes before stirring in the vanilla. Immediately pour in equal amounts into muffin tins or the flat interior of a roasting pan. Top with pecans, if using, and then place unbaked dough slices on top.

I put the caramel ingredients in my kitchen aid mixer and cream them well. Then I spread it over the bottom of a vegetable oil sprayed roaster or glop it into unlined, sprayed muffin cups. Top with pecans, placed upside down so they look pretty when you flip the rolls over. Arrange the rolls on top of the caramel and let rise until doubled, covered with Saran Wrap. It will usually take about an hour and a half. Baking time is about 30-35 minutes with 325 convection or 350 regular bake setting, depending on your oven.

NOTE!  If you use the caramel, there is a technique to use when you dump or invert the pans, so you don’t get burned!

Prepare a pan larger than the one you are baking in, and line it with parchment paper.  When you are ready to take the rolls out of the oven, use oven mitts if you have them.  If not, you can use potholders.  The trick is to position your hands with your THUMBS DOWN and underneath the pan when you pull the hot pan out of the oven.   It might initially feel awkward, but that way you are ready to flip the pan over, away from you and straight down onto the pan lined with parchment quickly.

Leave the pan alone for about 2 minutes, then you can carefully lift a corner of it with a fork and raise the pan off of the rolls.  At that point, you can scrape any excess caramel in the pan onto the rolls with a heat-proof spatula.

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I freeze the rolls in one-gallon freezer bags as soon as they are cooled all the way. They freeze wonderfully, even when covered with the caramel.

Hope you enjoy these!

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