My family has made these schnecken for most every holiday for as long as I can remember. Schnecken, which means “snails” in German, are basically pecan cinnamon buns. Once the schnecken were turned out hot from the pan and the top of the buns covered with gooey pecan caramel, the real struggle began—fighting my seven siblings for first crack at our favorite piece. It might have been the first time I realized that my rotundness and arm length gave me a distinct advantage over my sisters as I groped for the warm center of this classic pull-apart bun with cinnamon. After the center pieces were gone, I went for the ultra-caramelized golden brown corners.
It’s convenient to prepare the schnecken to the point of forming the rolls and setting them into the prepared pan a day ahead. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and store them, unbaked, in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re ready to bake the schnecken, remove the pan from the refrigerator and set it in a warm place for about an hour. Then bake as directed in the recipe.–Tom Douglas
LC When The Schnecken Beckons... Note
If you’ve yet to see the comedy flick The Birdcage, the phrase “When the schnecken beckons” will mean nothing to you. If, on the other hand, you’re quite well versed in the cult classic, the following video clip will require no introduction or explanation.
Pecan Cinnamon Buns Recipe
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 4 hours | Makes 12 to 14 schnecken
- For the dough
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl and pan
- 1 cup (8 1/2 ounces) whole milk
- 5 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or substitute 3/4 teaspoon table salt)
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups (13 1/2 to 15 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- For the pecan topping
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup (4 1/2 ounces) packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- 1/4 cup (3 ounces) light corn syrup
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) chopped pecans
- For the cinnamon sugar filling
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Make the dough
- 1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the milk and sugar and heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, just until the mixture is lukewarm [about 110°F (43°C)]. Pour the warm milk mixture into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
- 2. Stir the salt into the yeast mixture. Beat the whole egg and egg yolk together and add it to the yeast mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a sticky dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until you have a nice, smooth dough. Butter a large bowl and gently plop the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, until tripled in volume.
- 3. Meanwhile, brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with some melted butter.
- Make the pecan topping
- 4. Melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture in the bottom of the pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
- Make the cinnamon sugar filling and assemble the rolls
- 5. Gently punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for 1 minute. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 15 by 12 inches and an 1/8 inch thick.
- 6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Let it cool slightly and then brush the butter over the surface of the dough. In a bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture evenly over the melted butter. Roll the rectangle up like a jelly roll, beginning at one long edge.
- 7. Slice the rolled dough into 1-inch-thick slices and arrange them in the prepared pan, laying the slices flat on a cut side. Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for about 40 minutes.
- 8. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
- 9. Bake the schnecken until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check the rolls occasionally during the baking time, and if they seem to be browning too quickly, loosely cover them with aluminum foil.
- 10. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, invert the pan onto a large platter or baking sheet. If any of the ooey gooey pecan caramel topping sticks to the pan, simply scrape it onto the tops of the rolls. Serve warm.
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Pecan Cinnamon Buns Recipe © 2012 Tom Douglas. Photo © 2012 Ed Anderson. All rights reserved.