Monday, December 1, 2008

Zwieback...Grandma Buns

Zwieback (the Mennonite bun) are double-decker buns, that were tradionally served at every festive occasion...from Sunday afternoon faspa to weddings and funerals. My mother-in-law made the best zwieback...they were tiny, perfectly formed, melt-in-your-mouth morsels. According to her, the secret was using REAL butter.

Over the weekend, I hosted a faspa...traditional Sunday afternoon meal. Since we can't have faspa without zwiebacks, I made my mom-in-laws buns (just not quite as well as she used to make them).


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspooons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups warm potato water
  • (I add 1/2 cup instant potato flakes to water)
  • 4 cups scalded milk
  • 14 cups flour (about)

Pour hot milk and potato water over butter, salt and sugar in large bowl. Let cool 5-10 minutes.

Prepare yeast by dissolving 2 tsp. sugar in 1 cup water and adding yeast.

Add 6 cups flour to the milk/butter mixture and beat well.

Continue adding flour and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough will be very soft.

Knead about five minutes more.

Cover and let rise until double in bulk.

Form the buns. Bottom bun is about the size of a large bun is smaller. Place smaller ball on top of larger one...and push down through centre of both balls with knuckle of index finger to prevent buns from falling over during baking.

Let rise until light.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
    Note: Now that's the recipe, but since I mix all my breads in the Bosch is much simpler for me than it was in ages past!

    I let the machine do all the kneading...and add the Fermipan yeast directly to the mixer with the flour. When the kneading is done...

    I just leave it right in the machine to rise. About 15 minutes later, the dough is ready to be formed into buns....

    ...lots of them!

    Baking in a double convection oven made quick work of the process! I started mixing buns at 9 am...and by 11:30 I had 8 dozen zwieback on the counter.


    1. ach du schreck...that are alot of bunns....and that fast! i am impressed!

    2. Oh your zweiback smell fantastic. . .and they look picture perfect too.

    3. ohh .. your zwiebach look great! I used to make them all the time...and they are what I miss the most being Celiac! Sigh!
      I checked your recipe immediately for the 'secret' ingredient and found that you have it!
      The salt! most people don't put enough in .. and what a difference in makes in both aroma when baking and flavour in your mouth ... my mouth is watering.. literally !!

    4. Ohhhh....those look just like my mom's buns...right down to the Royal Albert!!! But I don't think she would have ever dreamed of making them someday by machine. I wish I had one myself! Wow...Judy...I can say...your recipes always turn out so this is one to try for sure...can I do it without a machine and...are they similar to your other bun recipe I make all the time, for the meat filled buns?

    5. Those look amazing! I am going to point my son in this direction as he made wonderful homemade rolls for Thanksgiving. I'm certain that he'd be intrigued with this recipe.

    6. Mmmm zweiback, they sure are a treat! My Mom always used butter for her zweiback dough.
      These look wonderful Judy!

    7. Oh boy, I was thinking that's alot of butter, but it's a lot of Zwieback too! The butter, the potato water and scalded milk . . . these are truly Oma's buns. I'm amazed that you can fit that whole recipe in your machine.
      Oh, and I'm sure they were good!

    8. I love bread even more than dessert! This rolls look delicious! I love to make a lot and freeze some for a rainy day...or snowy day!

    9. These look amazing...I will be giving them a "try!"

    10. YUM YUM! Can this recipie be "halfed"? I am sure my children would love these!

    11. Judy it's good to see your lovely zwiebach - I bake them regularly but mine do not look as nice as yours. My MIL's recipe is identical to yours except she substitued shortening for half of the butter and they always turn out great. I prefer making zwiebach to regular buns because the eggless dough takes much less time to rise. I'll be baking some as soon as I get home again! (and yes, you can 1/2 the recipe.)

    12. Ohhhhh, delicious! I keep trying to make mine as good as Aunt Leona's, but they just aren't quite right. I'll try your recipe......

    13. Your zweibach look delicious! I can hardly keep them around my house... my 19-month-old son recognizes them and begs for them when he knows I have made them... even when they are hidden in the pantry!

      I just found your website and LOVE it... I can't wait until I'm off from teaching for the summer so I can do more in the kitchen than just bake my bread and make my jam... there isn't much time for anything else during the busy school year!!

    14. Yours look so perfect! My tops always want to blend in with the bottoms....any tips? Thanks so much for sharing.paper

    15. What a treasure. I grew up in Steinbach Bakery, watching my Dad and my Grandma Toews "pinching zweibach." They both had hands and fingers like spring-steel from squeezing all that dough. Thanks for posting this connection to early (!) mornings with them at the bakery, a connection my daughters will now be able to schmeck!

    16. My mother in law added vinegar to the recipe. Have you ever heard of that?

    17. Yes I have heard of vinegar in buns. My recipe of "Air Buns" have vinegar in them, they are posted on the blog as well. They always turn out good.

    18. Tell me about potato water...I have been trying to duplicate my grandmothers recipe...she passed with out giving us her secrets!

    19. Tell me about potato water... my Mennonite grandmother passed with out sharing her secrets!

    20. Potato water is simply the water left over after having boiled potatoes. Just put in enough water to barely cover the potatoes and when they are ready, drain them through the colander into a big bowl to catch the starchy water. You can use the water to make chewy bread as well as tasty gravy. Hope that this helps.

    21. Went to the West Coast Mennonite Relief Sale & Auction this last weekend, and brought my husband, who had NEVER had zwieback bread, and couldn't understand why I was willing to stand in line...until his first taste. Then, he went back in line to buy more. He'll be happy that I found a recipe to make them at home.

    22. Is the yeast that you use regular granulated yeast or some other type of yeast? I have not heard of the brand that you used, so want to make sure that I get it right.

    23. Active dry yeast is the traditional yeast called for in this recipe...the kind that needs to be dissolved in water. I always use instant yeast (Fermipan or Instaferm are a few of the brand names) which can be added directly to the dough along with the flour. Either method works fine!

    24. i have been looking for a gluten-free zwieback recipe which seems to be impossible! have you been able to develop one? i miss zwieback so much :(

    25. Hallo!! Es ist fantastic euch hier zu finden. Ich bin Menonite aus Brasilien. Meine Oma und Opa sind aus Rusland gekommen. Wir sprechen Plattdeusch und viele Rezepte das hier sind, kochen wir heute noch hier in Brasilien: Zwieback, Pluma Moos, Honig Kuchen, Bienenstich, Nudel Suppe, Borscht, Bobbat, Schnetjie, Warenicke, Katlette, Cabbage rolls, Warenike, Rollkuchen...Wir wonnen soweit entfernent und die Rezepte sind noch dieselbe. Das ist fantastic. Liebe Grusse an euch. Joane Margaret Barg Spenst Hubert aus Brasilien.

      1. Vielen Dank und liebe Gruesse!

      2. I know it's been a year since you posted but I grew up with so many of the dishes you mentioned: Zwieback, Pluma Moos, Bobbat, Warenicke ( a New Year tradition). My father's family immigrated from Russia in the 1800s to Mt. Lake, Minnesota.

      3. So did I! I grew up in Mountain Lake and grew up with these foods - I'm still baking Zwieback... my family won't let me stop!
        My Dad came to Mountain Lake from Russia at age 5, arriving around 1885. So fun to see and recall these foods!

    26. Hello dear Anneliese!
      I really enjoyed the freedom of expression in languages.
      I speak plotdietsch and german too; but now I am learning english and this one is one of my homeworks: write a blog;
      A friend gave me your Adress and I love it!
      I made many of these recipes in my lifetime!
      I have a recipe for donuts; and if you want I can send it.
      God bless you and your Family. Dora

    27. I googled New Year's Cookies to see how common they were and that's how I found your blog. I lived in central Kansas as a child moving to Alabama at age 13. My Dad was "Molotsch" and my Mom "Polsh". So I grew up eating many of the foods you have here. Some of them are slightly different, but so recognisable!
      Mom passed away Jan 31. While all the family was here for the funeral, we cleaned out her house and dispersed her things among her 90+ decendants. Several of my nephews had spoke longingly of Grandma's zwiebach, so I got up early and made a huge batch and took them to her house for a morning snack. You should have seen the rush!
      My husband was diagnosed a celiac 4 years ago and he misses zwiebach, even tho' they were new to him when we married. I would love to surprise him with some! Please figure out a recipe---pleasey please?
      By the way- we always teased dad and mom that the 1 thing we'd never forgive them for was not teaching us 'dutch'. That's what they talked when they didn't want us to understand!
      I will be checking your blog regularly and trying recipes, especially the gluten-free ones!

    28. I lost my recipe for Zwieback and this one looks pretty close. Only difference is when I learned to make them (from an older lady at the mennonite brethren church I went to when I got marries)instead of butter she used oil and a scoop of the fat skimmed from the making chicken soup! The flavour was out of this WORLD! I'm going to try this recipe using the oil and chicken grease in place of the butter, I think it will be pretty darn close to my lost recipe!

    29. Amanda, my great grandmother's recipe calls for goose or hen's fat, lard if you don't have either of those. I used this recipe as I DID have butter, but neither of the other 3 :) I wasn't even sure how one might collect goose or hen's fat :P

    30. I made these, and they are wonderful

    31. Just wanted to let you know, I married into a family that is Menonite but my mother-in-law is disabled and can't teach me her recipes. This led me to your site a about 5 years ago. I've tried a few Zweiback recipes but always come back to yours, it's the best! Thank you, your recipe is now our family tradition :)