When I was in culinary school, I disagreed with one of my instructors about whether one country’s cuisine could influence others.
Nature or Nurture?
Her argument was that every country has a distinct cuisine resulting from hundreds of years of its own history, terroir, and the character of its people. My argument was that no country exists in a vacuum, and that outside influences like bordering countries and people moving from place to place play a large part.
Our discussion was the culinary equivalent of the philosophical question of nature versus nurture. On my instructor’s side — nature — are the uniquely independent cuisines of India, China, and Japan. On my side — nurture — is Catherine de Medici, who brought Italian cooking to the French court in the 16th century; the cuisine of the Americas; and now, Franzbrötchen.
Best of both worlds
Pronounced “frahns-b’doe-chin,” it roughly translates from German into “French roll.”
Indigenous to Hamburg, the Franzbrötchen is very similar to the French croissant. The main difference is in the final shaping of the dough: Where a croissant is simply rolled into its iconic shape, a Franzbrötchen is sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon before being rolled and slightly flattened into its characteristic crescent.
Which came first — the croissant or the Franzbrötchen — certainly would’ve settled my dispute with the culinary professor. Instead, it satisfied my need quite nicely for something to do with the leftover puff pastry in my freezer.
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1½ cups milk
- ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 16 tablespoons butter, cold
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spice
- Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, milk, and melted butter. Knead on a well-floured surface for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm spot until it’s doubled in size, about one hour.
- Meanwhile, place the 16 tablespoons of butter between two large pieces of waxed paper and pound with a rolling pin until malleable. Roll into a long thin rectangle approximately 10 by 15 inches. Refrigerate.
- Punch down the dough. Place on a floured surface and roll out to a large rectangle, about 12 by 20 inches, with the short side of the rectangle closest to you. Starting at your closest edge, cover two-thirds of the length of the dough with the pounded butter. Fold the uncovered third of the dough over. Pinch the sides and fold the doubled piece of dough over the remaining third of dough so that the butter is completely enclosed in dough. Pinch the edges together.
- Roll out the dough again to the same size rectangle, pulling gently at the corners to maintain the shape. Fold into thirds again and pinch together the seams. Roll out for a third time to a 12- by 20-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds and pinch together the seams. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Combine the sugar, light brown sugar, and spice. Roll the dough out to a large rectangle, at least 16 by 30 inches, with the long side of the rectangle closest to you. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch wide border on the long side farthest from you. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough up tightly so that you end up with a long cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal it, then roll the cylinder so that the seam is on the bottom.
- Cut the cylinder into 1- to 1½-inch rounds. When all of the pieces have been cut, use the floured handle of a wooden spoon to press the uncut center of each round down to the counter, causing the cut sides of the round to flare toward the handle of the wooden spoon.
- Place on two baking sheets and cover loosely with plastic. Let rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes, or until the pastries double. While the pastries are rising, preheat a convection oven to 375°F (190°C), or a conventional oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Bake the pastries for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If using a conventional oven, bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.