Making Zwieback, The Mennonite Bun

I am going to show you here how to make Zwieback.  This video will show you exactly what to do.

These are traditional Mennonite buns and they have been part of my life pretty much forever.  My mom would make dozens of these every Saturday morning.  A weekend without Zwieback was definitely a sad weekend. These buns were incredibly popular in my Mennonite community.  Not only were these buns served at home, they were also part of all church events, such as weddings, holiday festivities, and even funerals.

The word Zwieback means two buns baked together.  Buns are shaped from a rich, buttery dough by pinching off a ball of dough and placing it on a baking pan.  A second smaller ball is pinched off and pressed deeply into the first so it will not topple off while baking.  Now I tell you, to make that second bun stay is the hardest thing.

My recipe is written out for you here.  The instructions are given together with the pictures.  Now about kneading the dough.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixing machine, which works really effectively.  If you don’t have a machine, no problem, you got a pair of hands!!  I will show you pictures on how to do the dough both ways, with the machine and by hand.  First, you will see how it’s done with the machine and then I’ll show you pictures how it’s done by hand.

Now about flour.  Best flour is unbleached all-purpose flour.  Use whole milk and unsalted butter if possible.  Yeast:  use active dry yeast.

Ingredients to make the dough

3 cups warm whole milk

3 tsp active dry yeast

3 tsp sugar

3 tsp salt

1 stick butter (4 oz), melted (40 sec in the microwave is enough)

More or less 7 cups of flour

olive oil (… or any other oil, like canola, vegetable oil will do)

Place milk in the mixing pan.  Add the yeast.  Note:  milk must be nice and warm.  Don’t overheat it though.  Place your fingers in the milk, if it’s stinging your skin it’s way too hot.  It must be warm and comfortable.  Mix the yeast into the milk.  Add sugar, salt, and butter.

Add 3 cups of flour.  Set the machine on setting 2.  For mixing the dough, never let the Kitchen Aid Mixer go higher than 2, NEVER!!  Remember to use the dough paddle.


Add another 3 cups of flour.  From now on you need to keep an eye on what is going on.  Make sure you have olive oil ready.

You have a total of 6 cups of flour, and that is likely not enough.

You need to gradually put in more flour, 1/2 cup at a time and pour some olive oil on the dough.

I used another 1/2 cup of flour and still little more oil. That made a total of 7 cups of flour.  You know the dough is ready when it’s not sticking to the sides of the pan anymore and the dough looks smooth, like playdough.   The dough should not stick to your hands.

Cover the dough with a towel.  The dough needs to rise now. Heat the oven for 3 minutes, no more than that.  After you turn off the heat, place the covered dough inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour.


Now how to do the dough by hand.  Use a large bowl. Mix milk, yeast, sugar, salt, butter.  Then add 3 cups of flour and mix with a spatula.

Add another 3 cups of flour.  Now it’s too tough to mix with a spatula, so you must mix with your hands now.

Next, simply dump the dough on the table and start kneading it really hard.

Keep adding small amounts of flour and olive oil, until the dough feel smooth.


After the dough rises for 1 hour, bring it to your table.  The dough has doubled in size, or more.

Greece two baking pans with oil.  Don’t wash your hand.

Scoop the dough and grab a small amount.

Play with it a little, but do not squish it to hard.


Grab a small amount between your thumb and index finger and squeeze the dough through.  It takes some practice, so keep trying.

Place each bun on the baking pan.

Now make even smaller buns and place them on top of the bigger ones.  You have to press them dwn really well.  They love to slide, those naughty little things…

Cover the bun with a towel and bring. Heat your oven a little bit, 3 minutes or so, turn it off, and put the baking sheets with the buns inside the oven.  Let them rise for 45 minutes.

They have grown again!!!  Bake them for 25 minutes, at 350 F


I had to place one baking pan ont he top and one on the bottom.  With that, the bottom ones didn’t get done in the middle.  I switch the baking pans around, and let them bake another 8 minutes.


Look at them now…

You must check the bottom of the buns.  They need to be nice and golden.  The whole baking process should be no more than 40 minutes.