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Author Notes: From Classic German Baking.
Fresh yeast gives these rolls a bit of added moisture, oven spring, and flavor, so I prefer to use it here, but instant yeast can also be substituted. One more thing to note: The larger amount of butter, folded and rolled together with the yeasted dough to create all those flaky layers, must be in one block before using. If you can find that amount of butter in one block, you're good to go. If your butter consists of several pieces, let them soften, knead them together until cohesive, and chill until cold and firm. —wednesdaychef
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
- First, make the dough: IF USING FRESH YEAST, place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Place the milk in a separate, small bowl and crumble the yeast into the milk; add a pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Add 1/4 cup (30 grams) of the flour and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes.
- Whisk the remaining sugar and the salt into the bowl of flour. Make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well. Add the 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (65 grams) room temperature butter to the bowl. Scrape the yeast mixture, which should be thick and creamy, into the bowl. Stir together briefly, then begin kneading with your hands. Knead in the bowl until a relatively cohesive dough forms, and then dump onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously until you have a smooth ball that is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Proceed to step 4.
- IF USING INSTANT YEAST, place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle. in a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour the milk mixture into the well, stirring as you pour, and then cut the 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (65 grams) room temperature butter into rough chunks and add to the bowl. Stir until a shaggy dough comes together, then knead by hand in the bowl. Dump out onto a work surface (you probably won't need to flour it) and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Resist adding any flour unless absolutely necessary.
- Place the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with the dishcloth. Set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 2 hours. Meanwhile, making the filling by mixing the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
- When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down and scrape it out of the bowl and onto the work surface. Knead it a few times, and then roll it out in a 13-inch (33-centimeter) square. Take the cold butter out of the refrigerator and dust it liberally with flour. On a clean surface, roll out the butter to a 9-inch (23-centimeter) square, adding flour as needed to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
- Place the butter diagonally on top of the square of dough and fold the corners of the dough over the butter to encase it completely. Roll out the dough to an 8- by 12-inch (20- by 30-centimeter) rectangle. Fold it up in thirds, like a business letter, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it back out into an 8- by 12-inch (20- by 30-centimeter) rectangle. Fold up the rectangle into thirds, like a business letter, and place in the refrigerator to cool for another 20 minutes. Repeat this step once more, so that you've folded a total of three times.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After the third chilling, remove the dough from the fridge and cut in half. Place one half back in the fridge and the other on a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 13-inch (33-centimeter) square. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving no border. (It will seem like a lot—go for it!) Roll up the dough and slice crosswise into 6 equal pieces.
- Take one piece and place on the counter with one of the cut ends facing you. Place the handle of a wooden spoon parallel to the cut ends in the middle of the roll and press down firmly so that the spoon squishes the roll in half and makes the cut ends furl out and up. Stop before the spoon severs the roll complete, though! Press the palms of your hands down on both of the fanned-out sides to flatten the roll. You should see the two swirls looking up at you. Transfer the squashed roll to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, spacing them evenly on the baking sheet. When all the rolls have been shaped, cover with a dishcloth and let rise for 20 minutes.
- Place the baking sheet of risen rolls in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, puffed, and flakey, with caramelizing bottoms. Transfer the hot rolls to a rack to cool and repeat the whole process with the second batch of chilled dough.
- The franzbrötchen are best eaten the day they are made, but they will keep for a day or two. To refresh, reheat them in a 350° F oven for 5 minutes. Freshly-baked franzbrötchen, once fully cooled and placed in a resealable bag, can be frozen for up to 2 months.
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