Plunderhörnchen or, to quote several German baking websites, “plunder croissant” or “plunder squirrel.” What better name for a treat that’s shaped like a croissant, glazed like a doughnut, tender like a roll, baked like bread and jam-filled like a croissant-shaped, doughnut-bread-roll.
I would love to share a fascinating origin story for plunderhörnchen. However, all I have are basic facts. In Germany and Austria plunder is a yeast-leavened dough used in sweet baked goods. Unlike croissant dough, plunder contains eggs. It also has less fat in it than other pastry doughs.
As for the designation “plunderhörnchen,” like whoopie pies, snickerdoodles and other unusually named treats, it remains a mystery. So, too, does the reason for calling it a ‘squirrel.’ What’s not a mystery is why I came across it so often while traveling in Germany. This pastry is light, portable, convenient and delicious. You can take it on the train, munch on it as you walk and never worry about crumbs, greasy fingers or sticky frosting.
As with doughnuts, people generally eat this roll at breakfast. With its airy, bread-like consistency, mild jam filling and delicate icing, it offers a satisfying but not overly sweet or filling start to the day. For the same reasons it makes a pleasant snack or coffee time treat.
Similar to doughnut and croissants, plunderhörnchen tastes best when eaten fresh. As if there’s any other way to enjoy a homemade baked good.
MIXED BERRY PLUNDERHÖRNCHEN
Makes 10 to 12 rolls
for the dough:
1 1/8 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons milk, warmed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
for the filling:
1/4 cup mixed berry or other fruit jam
for the glaze:
1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl and allow the yeast and sugar to dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes. While you wait, whisk together the egg and melted butter.
Stir the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the egg and milk mixtures. Stir the ingredients together until a rough dough has formed. At this point you will either place the dough on a flour-covered work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes or place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a dough hook, knead the dough until a smooth, soft dough takes shape, 5 to 6 minutes.
Once the dough has reached the desired smooth consistency, place it in a bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rest and rise for 1 hour in a warm, draft-free spot.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
After an hour uncover and punch down the dough. Place it on a lightly floured work surface and, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s a large rectangle roughly 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife cut the dough in half horizontally. Using your knife, cut 5 or 6 isosceles triangles (two sides the same size, one side a little longer) on the top half of the dough. Repeat with the bottom half.
If your triangles look too thick or small, roll them out again. Otherwise, center and place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of jam toward the top of the triangle. Roll the long edge over once on itself and then over the blob of jam. Keep rolling until you reach the triangle’s point. Tuck the point beneath the roll and place the pastry, point-side down, on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining cut dough.
Cover the baking sheets with clean dishtowels and allow the plunderhörnchens to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the rolls are golden in color. Remove the pans from oven and place the rolls on a wire rack. Cool completely before applying the glaze.
To ice the pastries, mix together the confectioner’s sugar and 1 tablespoon water; if the glaze seems too thick, add the remaining water. Brush the glaze over the top and allow it to harden slightly. Enjoy on the go or with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.