Friday, May 8, 2009

The Authentic Schnetki

The recipe for the orginal Schnetki has been altered and modified over the years until it finally retains only its original ‘name’. Today, in most Mennonite kitchens it is now indistinguishable from a ‘biscuit’.

I still make them the way they were made in the Ukraine by the Mennonites – the recipe passed on to me by my Mother in law.
They have always held a place of honor in my kitchen – maybe more so than any other food - because of what Schnetki mean to my husband.

Let me give you the background story.

In the month of September of 1941 my husband’s life was forever altered.
He was a 4 year old boy living with his parents and younger brother in a Mennonite village in the Ukraine.
It was WWII, and the order had come down from the Ukrainian officials -- all men 16 and over were to be gathered out of the Mennonite villages and marched to Siberia. Because they were of German descent, they were now enemies of the state.
My husband’s father was one of those men who were marched away under guard that September morning – many never to see their families again.
The tearful wives and mothers tried to do what they could to send some items of comfort with their men, knowing that they would be encountering harsh treatment and impossible living conditions.
My husband very clearly remembers watching his mother bake Schnetki on the outside hearth and pack them up for her husband. That was the last time he saw his father . The image of his father walking out of his life, carrying the Schnetki is forever imprinted on his mind!

And for the 68 years since that day, Schnetki have been his ‘comfort’ food… perhaps subconsciously connecting them with the father he was robbed of.
I could not count how many Schnetki I have made for him ….. and still do. When I ask him what he is hungry for I know the answer before I ask.

Unless you are like my husband, with no need to watch cholesterol or high blood pressure or weight… you will not be rushing into your kitchen to make these Schnetki. I am posting the recipe to preserve the original recipes of our Mennonites in the Ukraine.
Mennonites, historically being a hard-working people on the land , did not worry about calories or fat-content in food ! Even so – they have for the most part been a hardy, healthy people , enjoying longevity.

There is a reason this ‘biscuit’ was named Schnetki . Schnetki is not a German word - it has obviously 'phonetically evolved' over the years from the word Schnecke meaning 'snail' and that will become self-explanatory as you see that the pastry is rolled up like a 'snail'.


3 cups flour

2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter

1 egg + enough milk to make one cup


Mix flour and salt together , then cut in the shortening and butter

Put egg into a measuring cut and fill to make 1 cup

Mix and turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth, form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap

chill in fridge overnight! VERY IMPORTANT!


Roll out thin and spread with butter

Starting at one edge roll dough to about the size of your middle finger , then cut along edge of roll

and roll dough again ... repeating until all the dough is rolled and cut into desired lengths... approx. 4"

Bake in very hot oven 425' until browned ... about 15-20 minutes.

When broken open they are very flakey.

I also use the same dough to make perschki .... (fruit pockets)

For plums or other fruit I will do the traditional four corners to the center style but for apples I always fold two sides up and over the apples. Cut the buttered pastery in squares and put 1/2 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar on each square, lay apple on top and fold the two sides over.

Schnetki are traditionally eaten with soup ....but I doubt there is a wrong time or meal to eat them .. according to my husband !


  1. I am touched by the story you told of your husband's childhood. Your 'snails' look wonderful.

  2. What a wonderful post Julie! I am glad that you shared that history. You are right....I think the Schnetki in each Mennonite home evolved, or changed whereby it lost it's originality. Certainly everyone I know remembers it differently. Thanks for this great original recipe and the tender story you shared.

  3. These schnetki look so delicious, and I love the shape of them..the apple rolls look wonderful too. Thank you for the story and the recipe Julie!

  4. Looks de-li-cious! Oooooh and so flaky! I bet you could put a dollop of any fruit filling in there if you are not partial to baked apples. Thank you so much for sharing your hubby's story.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. My parents were also from the Ukraine and immigrated to Germany. My dad was in the war and I'm sure could have related to your story. Your schnetki look great..I've never had them this mom made them more like a biscuit..

  6. After this touching story, I don't think I'll ever think of schnetki in the smae way again. This is also my heritage, but I don't have the privilege of the stories...pass them along to your family!

  7. Thank you for that story, I feel sad thinking of that 4 year old but am smiling at the thoughtfulness of you making this special food for him! I found your blog through Niki (rural writitngs) and I am glad that I did! Libby

  8. Julie. . .this is such a great post .. I appreciate the history and the significance associated with this family recipe. I will compare to see how much different this is from my moms. . .My mom always rolled hers up like this. .but yours are thinner and flakier. .

  9. I'm so glad you shared the story...and the recipe for Schnetki. They were never made in my home...but I heard them talked about all the now I know. I always thought they were more like a baking powder biscuit...but these are like a pastry. They look yummy...although I think I'll try them with fruit.

  10. Your recipes are simply wonderful. Thank you for sharing another winner...and also your husband's story.

  11. julie...what a touching story, it made me want to cry....i could just picture it in my mind so clearly......i had the privelage of going to the ukraine 8 years ago with my aunt on a heritage the beauty surrounding such horror. my mom makes schnetki this way, but not so i want some too.
    i totally get that comfort thing.

  12. Julie, thank you for sharing this story. It is so similar to my history as my dad also never saw his father again after the age of five. I almost cried reading your story and the memory associated with the schnetki. My mother-in-law, born in Russia, makes them this way and calls them by the same name. I never could understand the "no jam" in there, because my mom made them with jam. Your goodies looks like a lot of love went into them.

  13. tI didn't know "SCHNETKI' were actually like that.Very neat and moving story,thank you!

  14. I was so touched by your story this morning. There are so many interesting stories from those years in history. I have some that my grandpa put onto tape for us and it is something what they all endured. I must try this recipe. A yummy coffee treat. Kathy

  15. What a moving post....sitting here with tears in my eyes. They look yummy too! I love this site....I'm not Mennonite and it is wonderful to hear of new (to me) recipes with such rich history.

  16. Wow, what a wonderful story. My grandparents both lived in the Ukraine during the war too, which lead to years of turmoil & strife before they finally made their way to Canada. What a wonderful way to remember your husband's father & keep the legacy alive. Thank you!

  17. Thank you for sharing your husband's story here. Those Scnetki look delishous.

  18. I'm so glad you shared that story. It is important to keep those memories alive. And to have memories tied to food... isn't that how so many memories are formed?

    Thanks ladies for sharing your recipes and lives through this site. I'm a relatively new follower, but will be loyal! This site carries the traditions to the next generation.
    Jennifer S

  19. Oh thank you for sharing this sweet story about your husband and the comfort you give him by making this for him. This is just so moving about seeing his father leave as a four year old -- I almost can't even imagine. Bless you both.

  20. From one menno cook to another, thanks to you all for sharing so many amazing recipes! I enjoy going through them and trying them out.

  21. Your story about Schnetki was incredibly moving. Isn't it something to see the last act of love your husband's mother could do for her husband was to cook something for him? You wonder, how long did he keep those pastries; or perhaps he shared them with someone else... eternity will tell.

  22. What a very sad story, but so important to share your heritage. The Mennonite faith is a beautiful one; so sorry that sometimes loved ones suffer for serving our Lord. Blessings to you.

  23. Thank you for the story Julie sometimes we forget to pass on the stories about the food we make. Schnetki are one of my husband's favourite memories of his mom who would make them while he was eating breakfast and send them hot along to school for lunch. I don't believe very many of them ever made it to lunchtime. His mom always put jam in them. Although I suspect the ones she made had baking powder in them, I will try these. They look amazing.

  24. Hi. I am not Mennonite, a Baptist actually but love this blog. My husband was Russian, first generation in America, and I always wondered why so many of the Mennonite dishes were the sames as the Russian,:Peroshki, Pelemeni, Borscht, Gullipsie, on and on. Now I understand! My husband passed away 2 years ago at age 54 from cancer. His Russian Baptist parents escaped as babies with their families to China and grew up in a community of belivers in Shanghai until China fell to communism. They finally made it to the US and freedom. His grandmother has similar stories of fathers being pulled from their beds in the night to never be seen again because of their preaching the gospel. A sad heritage that has born rich fruit for the Kingdom!

  25. Family stories always seem to make the recipes homier! Can't wait to try these Schnetki; look more crisp than brioche or Challah doughs - the whole site is a great combination of dedicated busy people!

  26. wow. My mother also grew up in the Ukraine, and her father was taken away as well. My Oma and my Mom and her Brother eventually made it to Germany, then to Canada. She never saw her father again either. I might be related to your husband---who knows! Angela

  27. Not a recipe question: From what part of Ukraine did the Ukrainian Mennonites originate?

    I think I'm beginning to see how it is I am 1.) not Mennonite, but
    2.) know and cook many of these foods in a similar way that you do. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Ukraine.

  28. dear Anonymous... I just asked my husband and he said the Mennonites lived in southern Ukraine, around the lower part of the Dneiper River ... does that help?

  29. Yes. The one document I have is a poem my grandmother wrote, as she was bringing the cows in at evening, and walking along that river singing. That's what her poem was about.

    Do you know a dish with noodles, and baked with ham? Then cooled and sliced?

    How about, buns baked with beet leaves and creme?

    Those are two I have never made, but remember. They may not be Mennonite.

    Thanks for answering me. That's so nice.

    My grandparents came to the central Manitoba area around 1897.

  30. Thank you for sharing such a touching story. Our church recently planned a surprise party for a man, including faspa, and seeing pictures from a trip to the Ukraine. But a snow storm put that off, so this next Sunday we will have a carry-in dinner plus the foods that were prepared for faspa, plus finally seeing the Ukraine pictures. Now when I see these pictures, I will have your hearfelt story in mind.

    The schnetki look delicious! "Schnetke" was on a local cafe menu, and when we asked, they said it was a little sweet snack, I suppose like a sweet roll or something. This looks totally different, and I appreciate knowing about the real thing now!

  31. Your recipe more closely resembles the Schnetki of my childhood than do many others, which are in fact quite ordinary biscuits. I venture that our ancestors almost certainly used lard rather than shortening. My mother also made Schnetki from her pie crust trimmings, which yielded a very flaky result. These were rolled out and formed into rectangular Schnetki about 1" by 5-6".
    Either served hot with butter was a treat indeed!

  32. Because of this site which a cousin told me about we are having a family reunion tomorrow with Mennonite dishes. One cousin is making zwiebach, another made new years cookies, I made rollkuchen, and my sister is making schnetki. We will have a lunch then have fastpa later in the afternoon with watermelon and sliced cheeses and summer saugages. Thanks for all the recipes and memories.

  33. These look delicious but nothing like the schnetki I remember from home. My Mennonites emigrated to Canada in 1874 and our schnetki were like biscuits.

  34. These look wonderful! I am planning on making them this week. I have almost the same story from my grandfather, except he lived in Hungary. He was also sent to Siberia, but we had a happy ending as sympathetic guard "forgot" to lock the gates and walked away. They talked of their plan within earshot of some of the prisoners, who all escaped. A group of them travelled together at first, but later ended up splitting up. My grandfather made it home 2 years after he escaped and there were several fascinating stories of his travel home. He did meet up with some of the other prisoners just before he made it home and knew they were o.k. too, but that was only a few of them, so we don't know what happened to the rest. If they didn't make it home we hope they at least found safety.

  35. Just found this in my grandmother's recipe box. Her parents were from South Russia and left for Minnesota (Mountain Lake) and North Dakota(Munich) in the 1880s. I wish I could post this picture of the recipe!

    1. Hi Annie ... why don't you post the picture on our Facebook? We would love to see the photo...

  36. My grandmother made these but put the dough in a pan and cut them up in squares.