I am currently a Masters of Education student, studying to teach German. As such, I have to do teaching demonstrations for my classes a few times a semester.
This semester, one of my demonstrations involved reading a very short children’s tale with a class full of my non-German-speaking colleagues. Originally by Tolstoy (ironic, eh?), this story describes a man who is very hungry and keeps buying rolls (Kolatschen) to try to get full. He buys three and then finally switches to a pretzel, which fills him up immediately. And the moral of the story is that a good German man would start with the pretzel and not waste his money on biscuits.
The children’s book that the story came from also contains a recipe for the Kolatschen. Being the little baker that I am, I naturally decided to make the Kolatschen for my students.
A German recipe is a bit difficult to navigate when you are an American cook. I had to measure water in liters (yes, I did have to look up the conversion to cups), and my tiny tiny cooking scale proved much too small for 400 grams of flour. Alas.
But these little buns turned out well in the end, dense and chewy, a bit like bagels! I am posting the recipe here in both German and English.
In case you don’t speak German…look below for the recipe auf Englisch. Unfortunately for those of you without a kitchen scale, I am leaving the measures in weights by gram. If I get a chance, I will come back later and add ounces and volume measurements.
And yes, I am editorializing a bit in the translation. For anyone who does speak German, you will notice that the recipe is a bit lacking in detail, so I added some notes as necessary.
makes 20 (originally 9-13)
scant 1¾ cups warm water
8 grams active dry yeast
800 grams flour, divided
25 grams butter, melted
50 grams sugar
1 pinch salt
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. water
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Make sure the water is not too hot, or the yeast will die.
In a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook, mix half of the flour in with the yeast water. Let stand in a warm, dry place for 30 minutes, or until doubled.
After the yeast mixture has risen, mix in the remaining flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Continue mixing in the stand mixer until the dough climbs up the bread hook.
Remove and knead until the dough comes together and appears smooth. If the dough is dry, add 1 tsp. water; if too sticky, add 1 tsp. flour.
Let the kneaded dough stand for another 30 minutes in a warm dry place.
Knead again a few times, then divide into 20 balls. (I weighed mine to make sure they all came out about the same.) Let stand for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, butter 2 baking sheets. After the rolls have rested, arrange them on the sheets and let stand for another 15 minutes.
Heat the oven to 475°.
While the oven is heating and the rolls rising for the last time, mix together the egg yolks and 1 tsp. water. Brush the tops of the rolls with the yolk mixture.
Bake for 9–10 minutes. Be a bit wary, because the egg yolk topper is prone to burning if left in the oven too long.
Enjoy hot (but be careful not to burn your tongue)!