In my humble opinion homemade cinnamon buns and snail style rolls are simply fantastic, theres nothing better made from scratch. Snails or schnecken are what I’ve found my German and Austrian cookbooks refer to when speaking of pretty much any swirly buns. More specifically its swirled rolls that are not covered in gobs of frostings or fixins. In Pennsylvania and areas with a high European and Amish population these rolls can be found in the grocery marts. My secret to the best breakfast rolls is easy, I add potatoes, usually the potato flakes. Its actually the only reason I buy them. These aren’t the goopy mall buns, its not pop-tins, its distinctly you and nothing else. Although slightly imperfect, maybe a bit different each time they are out of this world. I’ve made cinnamon rolls a million ways before, cream cheese frosting, pumpkin buns, honey/sticky buns, I flip flop between this “super dough” and a buttery dough similar to brioche, the one thing I haven’t really tried before is the savory side of schnecken. Being the food network junkie that I am I recalled one episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives there was a breakfast/brunch spot they visited in Baltimore (blue moon cafe) that had these jumbo-fied sausage snails and well, they looked wicked hard core yummy. The version they made were pesto, sausage and cheese so it was kind of …stromboli-esque?
I had to try something like it! I wanted to do them with farmers cheese, goat cheese or cream cheese however the plan was to make them ahead and freeze them. Cream cheese + the freezer doesn’t mix. It comes out closer to the texture of goat cheese which is ok but not ideal. SO I kept it simple. The filling is a mixture of spicy sausage, peppers, onion, and cheese….lots of sharp Vermont cheddar. Although they’re not volkswagen sized like the ones at the blue moon, these were hefty, hearty and delicious. The fat from the sausage really worked to benefit the final result. I was so surprised at how flaky the rolls became. I’ve made cinnamon buns a million times and never did the crust turn out so flaky and buttery. Filling bread with pork and cheese, for breakfast? In one word…. AMAZING. Wish I’d have tried it sooner!
In addition to making a less traditional sausage schnecken I also made the typical German Snail recipe. This one contains the regular brown sugar, cinnamon and butter filling. Although a lot of old-school recipes utilize raisins and nuts in my home thats grounds for …an ear full. Riley’s allergic to most nuts and Stephen acts like raisins are going to kill him…seriously he really hates them for some reason. To add flavor but keep them somewhat basic I made a sticky bottom under the rolls its simply a squish of honey and a gob of brown sugar. I made these in advance to freeze as well but simply lined the pan with foil. In the past I’ve made sticky buns in my cast iron and …well I won’t be doing that again they tasted delish but scrubbing that pan SUCKED. I’m not really the type to buy the toss away tin bakers, I tried the papery wax ones once…really not ideal. The foil just saved some elbow grease and my thought was that if I absolutely needed the pans back I could remove them once frozen if necessary. All the years, all the buns I still mess up now and again, I learn along the way but at the end of the day there is no satisfaction like feeding my family something that it took me two days to make, something thats from scratch and made the same way (err or close?) as what people have been making for many years. The way I see it, I’m not reinventing the wheel here, I’m simply sticking with the way it was made in the first place. Warm, soft, fluffy and chewy. Absolutely the best ever comforting breakfast…well besides pancakes maybe? My family LOVES their pancakes.
The Best Bun Dough:
This is a recipe that I started using a few years ago, when eating Pennsylvania Dutch cinnamon buns in particular you can notice a chewy texture thats really not like any other rolls. The secret ingredient is potato flakes, or mashed potato. Potato bread here in Pennsylvania is really popular, this is not quite potato bread or potato rolls. The potato is there but I assure you that its not noticeable in taste, its there for texture. For the best breakfast rolls I suggest always using milk, one or two eggs and potato if available if not just use more flour as needed. The only other modification I’ve made to the Gramma style recipe…I don’t use margarine. If your a fan by all means have at it.
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon (or 1 package) yeast
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour or Unbleached All purpose flour
1 cup instant potato flakes
2 teaspoons salt
To prepare the dough combine warm milk, sugar, melted (and cooled) butter and yeast. Stir to combine and allow to rest 5 minutes or so until it starts foaming. To this mixture combine the eggs and salt, potato flakes and about 2 cups of flour. Stir until mostly smooth. Combine remaining flour slowly, you want a softer dough so try to avoid adding too much flour because you’ll incorporate more as you knead it. In the bowl or on a liberally floured surface knead the dough by hand until its become springy and smooth. You really want to avoid adding too much flour, use a bench scraper to scrape the dough off of the surface and flour your hands instead if possible. (If your using a stand mixer you will slowly add the flour and then using the dough hook knead just until the flour is combined and it forms a ball about 5 minutes). Place the dough into a lightly greased container and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to double in size on the counter and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to four days. If you go beyond that, the dough will taste boozie. You want it to rest at least overnight otherwise it will be difficult to handle.
This dough will make 2 portions worth of schnecken 6-8 rolls each batch. Or about 18-24 dinner rolls,
Sausage Schnecken filling:
1 pound of sausage I used spicy
About 1 cup of peppers and onions
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (About 1, 8 ounce block)
In a skillet saute sausage until browned, you can under cook it slightly since it will be baked. Remove from the pan and saute peppers and onions. When I go to the grocery mart I often pre-cut peppers and onions to use, produce spoils extremely quick in my home (very high humidity) so I need to ensure it wont spoil by tossing it in the freezer. For these buns I tossed in a generous hand full to saute. Place the sausage, peppers and onions in a food processor and blitz 10-15 pulses until its fairly fine in texture but not pasty. (It should still be somewhat coarse and resemble sausage) Make sure the filling is cooled fully before rolling.
Preheat Oven to 400 Degrees.
Take half the portion of dough , (about 1 pound) and roll out into a rectangle. For the sausage schnecken you will roll it a bit larger than you would cinnamon rolls. You have a lot of filling to gob in there. About 22- inches long, 15 inches wide. The down side is its more difficult to roll but you’ll have lots of sausage and cheese. If you want to make them less full you could use less filling. Sprinkle the sausage mixture all over the rectangle of dough, sprinkle with the cheese. Roll dough lengthwise towards yourself, similar to as if you were making a jelly roll, tucking gently to remove air pockets. Divide into 6 JUMBO or 8 large portions. Place in a rectangular baking dish thats been liberally buttered or sprayed. Allow to puff back up until about doubled in size. 20-30 minutes. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2- 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
suggested add ins* , raisins, walnuts, pecans, cranberries
Prepare exactly as directed with the sausage schnecken exept roll the dough out smaller about 15 x 20″. Spread with softened butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll and cut into 6-8 portions. Allow to double in size (30 minutes) Bake in a large square baker or rectangular baking dish thats been sprayed. 20-30 minutes. For the sticky honey bottom I simply sprinkled brown sugar and honey in the bottom of my baking dish about 1/2 cup brown sugar 3-4 tablespoons of honey.
Dinner rolls- about 2 1/2 ounce portions
Sandwich Buns- 3-4 ounce portions
Shape into balls or desired shape and allow to proof 20-25 minutes or until they puff back up brush with melted butter and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, can be topped with egg wash, seeds, or herbs. I like italian herb seasoning on dinner rolls. For sub rolls with a crisper crust bake in a 400 degree oven.