The Art of the Dessert by Ann Amernick presents elegant dessert recipes, including Chocolate Babka, Turkish Rice and Rose-Water Pudding, and Schnecken with Vanilla Ice Cream and Ginger Caramel Sauce.
Growing up in Baltimore, I ate schnecken at every kind of early-morning get-together. As I recall, the schnecken were small, rather dry yeast rolls studded with raisins, bearing little resemblance to the snail-shaped, buttery, brown sugar-glazed rolls made by the best bakeries. This recipe is an adaptation of an adaptation. It first appeared in Joan Nathan's book Jewish Holiday Baking, as William Greenberg Jr.'s Schnecken, written with the help of Michael London, from Greenberg's Bakery in New York City. I love this version of those warm-from-the-oven schnecken almost more than anything else. It's one of those sweets that really tests my willpower. Serving it hot with ice cream almost gilds the lily, but do it anyway!
Schnecken DoughYield: enough for 12 Schnecken
Make the Schnecken Dough
Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 cup tepid water to the yeast and stir into a smooth paste. Set aside until doubled and foamy.
Place the flour, salt, and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture, then all at once add the egg yolks, sour cream, vinegar, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed until thoroughly combined, using a spatula to scrape the bowl. If the dough is dry, add enough of the 2 tablespoons water to bring it together. Beat in the butter several tablespoons at a time, until all of it is incorporated into the dough. The dough will be loose and sticky at this point. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to bring the dough together and ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Transfer the dough to a clean large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and remove from the bowl. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. The longer the dough is chilled, the less sticky and easier it will be to work with.
I like to make the dough, then refrigerate it immediately for about 5 hours. I then roll it out, fill it, cut it, place it in the muffin cups with the filling, and refrigerate overnight. I bake it the next morning, and it's ready to serve as a tempting treat for breakfast or brunch.
Yield: enough to fill 12 Schnecken
Make the Filling
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until all the ingredients are incorporated and it forms a smooth paste. Set aside. If not using the filling the same day, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
I make a large quantity of this filling to have on hand to make schnecken and cinnamon rolls with ease. To bring the filling back to a spreadable consistency after refrigeration, place in the microwave and heat at medium power for 20-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth and spreadable.
Several Hours Later or the Following Day
Yield: 12 Schnecken
Generously butter twelve 2-3/4-inch muffin cups.
Assemble the Schnecken
If the filling has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature by gently warming it in the microwave. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (Ateco #26) two-thirds full with filling. Pipe a teaspoon of filling in the bottom of each prepared muffin cup.
Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle that measures 18 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick, with a long side near you.
Spread a thin layer of filling on top of the dough using an offset metal spatula. Sprinkle with the raisins and pecans. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll up the dough jelly-roll fashion into a tight log. When finished, use your hands to shape the dough at each end into a smooth end. Use a knife to score the dough into 1-1/2-inch portions. Slice the dough into individual pieces using a thin-bladed knife and place 1 piece in each muffin cup cut side down. Push the dough down firmly into the tins, if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough feels light (but not until it has spread and feels spongy, which means it has overproofed), about 45 minutes to 1 hour, no longer.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven so that the brown sugar at the bottom of the tin is closest to the heat, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 halfsheet or jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and place 1 half-sheet or jelly-roll pan on the oven floor to catch any drippings from the schnecken. (If the oven has a heating element on the oven floor, this can't be done, so place the half-sheet or jelly-roll pan directly under the muffin pan to collect any drippings.)
Bake the Schnecken
Place the muffin pan on the rack. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pan from front to back, turn oven to 325 degrees F, then bake for 15 minutes longer, or until the tops are very deep golden brown and firm. (The pan will catch any drippings.) When the schnecken are done, immediately remove from the oven and invert onto the other prepared half-sheet or jelly-roll pan, leaving the muffin pan on the schnecken for about 40 seconds before lifting it off so the caramel filling has a chance to release from the pan. Any filling that remains in the pan can be spooned out and deposited on the schnecken.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Yield: 1 quart
Make the Vanilla Ice Cream
Place the milk and cream in a heavy nonreactive medium saucepan. With the back of a knife, scrape the seeds from the bean and place the seeds and pod in the saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Let the mixture rise up the side of the pan, then immediately remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until very thick and pale. The mixture will triple in volume and hold its shape when dropped from the whisk, about 5 minutes. It should be very stiff.
Bring the bowl over to the saucepan. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture to temper it, then return the tempered mixture to the saucepan and whisk until combined. You want the mixture to be thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. (Run your finger through the custard on the back of the spoon. The custard is thick enough if the line remains.) Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or China cap into a large bowl. Place in an ice bath or refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled, stirring occasionally. Add the vanilla extract, then transfer the mixture to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.
Ginger Caramel Sauce*Yield: about 2 cups
*This recipe can be made a few days ahead.
Make the Ginger Caramel Sauce
Puree the ginger in a mini food processor until smooth. Set aside. Place the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a heavy-bottomed small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves and the butter has melted. Bring to a boil over high heat. When a candy thermometer reaches 230 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and add the pureed ginger, the cream, and vanilla, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Pour into an airtight container, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve the Dessert
Serve the schnecken by sitting it next to a quenelle (scoop) of vanilla ice cream that has a spoonful of ginger caramel sauce on top.
This page created September 2007
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