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The German Pastry That's Half Croissant, Half Cinnamon Bun (& Better Than Both?)

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Imagine working very hard to make yeasted puff pastry, fill it with cinnamon-sugar, and roll it into a perfect spiral log only to take your beautiful creations and smash them straight down the center with a wooden spoon, smushing them into warped buns that look like they've been accidentally sat on.

Luisa Weiss's Franzbrötchen (Cinnamon-Sugar Buns)
Luisa Weiss's Franzbrötchen (Cinnamon-Sugar Buns)

That is the process of forming Franzbrötchen, a German cinnamon-sugar pastry from Hamburg (and for years found only there) that Luisa Weiss describes as "Princess Leia-ish buns" (R.I.P. Carrie Fisher) in her book Classic German Baking. (I think they look like the eyes of a very friendly cartoon fly.)

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To make Hamburg's beloved bun, you laminate dough as you would for croissants, sprinkle it with a filling and jelly-roll it up, as you would for cinnamon rolls, but then you squash each one, thereby accomplishing neither croissants nor cinnamon rolls.

Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, Signed Copy
Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, Signed Copy

So then what's the point? Where croissants are feathery-light and more buttery than sweet, and cinnamon rolls are squishy-soft and more sweet than buttery, Franzbrötchen have the best of both. As Luissa explains, each pastry has three different textures: "the sort of squashed and chewy middle section; the lighter, flakier outer sections; and the crisp and caramelized bottom. Alternating among the three [...] is a big part of its appeal."

If you're intimidated by laminating dough, now's the season to do it (that is, if live somewhere where it's cool outside). Refrigerate between folds (and follow Luisa's instructions) and you'll see that you can laminate: You can! And once you do, you'll want to make more dough and put it to other uses. Luisa suggests using the yeasted puff pastry to make turnovers filled with sautéed apples or sweetened cheese, spiral buns filled with raisins, or—now we're circling back to the beginning—croissants (just cut the dough into triangles, then roll them into crescent shapes before baking).

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Luisa Weiss's Franzbrötchen (Cinnamon-Sugar Buns)

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Makes 12 buns

For the dough:

  • 4 2/3 cups scooped and leveled (580 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200 milliliters) whole milk, lukewarm
  • 3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast, or 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (65 grams) unsalted high-fat, European-style butter, at room temperature
  • 18 tablespoons (250 grams) unsalted high-fat, European-style butter, cold (see headnote)

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
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Tell us: Could you decide between a cinnamon roll and a croissant? (We can't.)