Franzbrötchen are a beloved traditional specialty from Hamburg and the original is only available in Hamburg. You will not find this in bakeries in other parts of Germany though a few cities are recently trying to copy them – never as good as the original!
This delicious cinnamon pastry is probably a relative of Americas Cinnamon Rolls but the Franzbrötchen is softer and moister. The dough makes all the difference: Cinnamon Rolls are made with a simple yeast dough while Franzbrötchen requires a sweet puff pastry dough with vanilla in it. Or in short: If you make a Franzbrötchen, you reach a whole new level of artisan baked pastry! Congratulations!!!
How to Make Franzbrötchen Video
The video shows all the steps to make this wonderful Cinnamon Pastry from Hamburg.
The History behind Franzbrötchen
While the assumption that someone with the name “Franz” has invented these delicious, sweet rolls seems obvious, it’s incorrect. Franzbrötchen are a result of the occupation of Hamburg by the French army back in the days when Napoleon invaded and conquered most of Europe. A baker in Hamburg-Altona (that’s actually where my husband and our son were born) invented these rolls for the French soldiers, who wanted to have food similar to what they had in France. Another fun fact here: One of my ancestors was such French soldier, fell in love with a girl from Hamburg, married her, and stayed for good.
The word “Franz” is short for “Franzosen”, which means “French”.
The word “brötchen” is German for “rolls”.
So they are basically “French Rolls” but I can’t call them that because french rolls are something else in America.
The 3 Ts: Taste Takes Time
I tried several recipes and most of them failed to be as soft and tasty as the original Franzbrötchen. Some were brittle, others even a little hard or dry and eventually the key to the right taste and consistency was time. You can’t bake these rolls in a day or two hours. They are a piece of art and need a lot of resting time and two pre-doughs. Plan two days to make this recipe and you will be rewarded with the best-tasting cinnamon pastry you’ve ever had!
One of the recipes I tried was from a book that I own. It’s about rolls and breads from Germany and also the source of my biggest baking disappointments. But I still wanted to try the Franzbrötchen recipe in it and though it came somewhat close to the right taste, the consistency was to dry and crisp. I kept looking for and trying out other recipes and watching videos. In the end, I put together what I believed to be the best techniques and the best recipe in my way of baking them. The most part of the recipe though comes from s-kueche.com and I don’t want to leave it unmentioned, the recipe deserves credit. I changed it a little though.
Puff Pastry – Storebought or from Scratch?
Making puff pastry might be scary at the beginning and it is very tempting to just buy it frozen and ready to use. If that’s the way you want to do it, I won’t judge you. If you are not from Hamburg, you will most likely still be happy with it since you’ve probably never had the original. But for those here who are adventurous or homesick natives from Hamburg, you should definitely try my “made from scratch puff pastry for Franzbrötchen” since it is 1. a little sweet, 2. with vanilla and 3. free of weird chemicals and ingredients that one can barely pronounce.
Puff Pastry is made from layers of dough and butter. The way it is made is wrapping a large, thin slice of butter into a dough that contains a little yeast. Then you fold this wrapped butter several times, creating more layers the more you fold it. In this recipe, you want to have 6 layers of butter in the dough, so you first fold it in halves, which creates 2 layers of butter and then fold it in thirds which then results in 6 layers. If this is somewhat unclear, please watch the video, it will become clear to you when you see it.
Tip for Success
You want to keep your ingredients and dough cold until before baking: The yeast in the main dough should not become active before the rolls are shaped! The only exemption is the butter that you mix into the dough, it needs to be soft (not liquid) to mix in well.
Below the ingredient list, you can switch from metric to US customary units. The best outcome is always with metric units since I often have to round up or down the units for US customary measurements which makes them even less precise.
The Sweet Cinnamon Filling
Some of the videos I watched, showed some “behind the scenes” of Hamburg’s bakeries and how they are making the Franzbrötchen – without spilling their recipe though. Most bakeries brush the dough with water, before putting the cinnamon-sugar mix on top. Some brushed it with melted butter and in one video they mixed the sugar-cinnamon mix with soft butter and then put it onto the dough all together. In the video I do the second technique: Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle the mix on top. But also in the video, you can see that some of the cinnamon-mix comes out of the rolls when I cut and shape the rolls. So, next time I will use the third method and mix soft butter with the sugar and cinnamon and see how that goes.
Some bakeries brush the Franzbrötchen with sugary water after baking. I oppose this practice since it makes them really sticky and way too sweet.
Franzbrötchen Freeze Very Well
Since making them is a little time consuming, it makes sense to make a lot of Franzbrötchen at once and then freeze most of them. After thawing, they will taste just the same if they were fresh. Warming them up in the pre-heated oven for a few minutes, even gives them the “freshly from the oven” vibe and nobody would ever guess that they have ever been in the freezer!
If you still want your Franzbrötchen fresh from the oven but want to be able to prepare them ahead: Prepare the puff pastry as described in this recipe to where the puff pastry has to rest and instead freeze it. Thaw the pastry dough when you want to make them, and continue from the step with the filling.
Pin Franzbrötchen – German Cinnamon Pastry to Pinterest
- 100 g All Purpose Flour (regular flour)
- 100 ml Milk
- 2 g dry Yeast or 13 g / 1 tbsp of sourdough starter
- 25 g All Purpose Flour (regular flour)
- 125 ml Milk
- 3 g Salt
To make the Main Dough
- Pre-Dough 1
- Pre-Dough 2
- 375 g All Purpose Flour (regular flour)
- 30 ml Whole Milk, cold
- 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2 ct. Eggs, cold
- 60 g Sugar
- 4 g dry yeast
- 60 g unsalted Butter, soft
To make the dough into Puff Pastry
- Main Dough
- 250 g unsalted Butter, cold but soft enough to cut into slices
- 200 g sugar
- 3 tsp. ground Cinnamon prefer Ceylon-Cinnamon over Cassia Cinnamon
- 4-6 tbsp. unsalted Butter melted or softened
Day 1, making the Pre-Doughs
- In a small bowl, mix the 100g flour, 100 ml milk and 2 g yeast. Cover and set aside for 20 hours. If you are living in a warm area: Keep it in the fridge.
- In a saucepan, mix the 25 g of flour, 125 ml milk, and 3 g salt and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. Turn off the heat when it is thickening and continue to stir for one minute. Then put the pre-dough aside for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Making the Main Dough
- Put all ingredients, except the butter and sugar (!) into a bowl. Add both of the pre-doughs.Start mixing with the kneading attachment of your mixer. Mix on slow for 5 minutes, then add the soft butter and the sugar. Knead for another 5 minutes on high.
- Put the dough onto a cold surface and give it a quick knead. Add flour if it's too sticky to work with it. Then shape into a sphere, but back into the bowl, cover, and let rest in the fridge for 90 minutes.
- On a large sheet of parchment paper, draw a rectangle of 25 x 20 cm (9¾ x 7½ inches).Turn the side with the drawing to the bottom, so you can see it through the paper.Cut the butter into slices and place the slices into the rectangle to cover most of the space.Use a second sheet of parchment paper and put on top.With a rolling pin, roll & spread the butter to an even layer, covering the entire rectangle. Put into the fridge to become hard again.
Making the Puff-Pastry
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out so it is larger than the rectangle of the butter.
- Take the butter from the fridge and place it in the center of the dough. Next, take the sides of the dough and flip them on top of the butter, so the butter is completely wrapped in dough.Use the rolling pin to close the seams.
- Now fold the dough in halves, creating two layers with butter. Roll out with the rolling pin, make sure the butter stays inside.Next, fold the upper end to a third and the lower end to a third, creating an overall of 6 layers with butter. (see video!)
- Wrapp it into the parchment paper and put into the fridge until the butter is hard again (about 60 minutes).
Make the Filling & Shape
- For the filling, mix the 200g sugar and 3 tsp. cinnamon. Then mix this with the soft butter. Alternatively: Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the sugar- cinnamon mix.
- Get the dough out of the fridge and roll it out as large as you can.Spread the filling onto the entire top of the dough.Starting from the longer side, roll the dough tight to a large role.
- Take a knife and cut the roll into slices 4 cm /1½'' wide. The best way to do this is cutting trapezoids that are almost rectangles (see video).Turn the short side of the trapezoid to the top, then press the handle of a wooden spoon into this end, pressing down almost all the way. This creates some sort of butterfly shape (see video).Place the shaped slices on a baking sheet.Cover and let rest in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes or until the rolls have visibly increased in their size.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F.Either place a bowl with hot water into the oven or spray the oven walls with water when you place the baking sheets into the oven.Bake for 20 minutes or until the Franzbrötchen are golden brown. Remove and let cool. Enjoy either slightly warm or cold.