Image from West Coast MCC Sale FB pageIn last week's edition of Really Random Thursday, I posted a picture of my granddaughter teaching her classmates how to make zwieback.
I received an interesting comment by Anna (a no-reply commenter) who in essence said that while the rolls looked yummy, she doubted very much that they were zwieback as they looked more like brioche, and that zwieback were similar to old, dried toast, usually eaten when you have an upset stomach.
I remember seeing packages of "zwieback" on the grocery store shelves and being very confused myself, because the picture on the package did not look anything like the zwieback I was familiar with!
Then when my good friend, Elizabeth (a fabulous cook--and I know this from experience), also expressed confusion, as the word conjured up images of the same hard, dried piece of toast often used as a teething biscuit, I knew it was time for a little clarity.
I come from a Russian German background, my grandparents on my father's side having migrated from Russia to the Midwest and finally to California. With that background comes a lot of really good food. Nothing I would consider gourmet, but rather food that kept our ancestors full as they worked very hard.
I can't remember a time when I didn't eat zwieback. Every culture has food like this, right? Food that you have grown up with and maybe assume everyone knows what you are talking about.
Zwieback, in my life at least, are double-decker rolls, best eaten warm, especially good when you pull off the top, add some butter and fresh strawberry jam, put the top back on and let the butter melt.
My grandmothers both made zwieback. My mother-in-law was an excellent cook and loved to entertain. A few years before she passed away, there was an article about her cooking in one of the local newspapers. Look, here she is with a plate of her famous zwieback.
When both Anna and Elizabeth mentioned the similarity to the French brioche, I pulled up a recipe to compare. I found that the dough is very different. Brioche dough is very egg rich and also baked with an egg glaze, and while I found a couple of zwieback recipes that called for eggs, they were usually listed as "optional."
Naturally, while there is at least one recipe in every Mennonite church cookbook I have, they are all just a little bit different from each other.
Zwieback technically means "twice baked," which I find interesting, as you only bake them once. Actually I always thought it meant "two buns." I pulled out a great source of Mennonite cooking, Mennonite Girls Can Cook. These women from Canada have attained somewhat of a celebrity status--you can check out their blog here (highly recommended--there are some really good recipes there).
a recipe (the blog recipe is here, along with a yummy picture)
West Coast Relief Sale, zwieback dough is made ahead of time, then baked on site and sold--countless dozens--a great number of which never make it home. And you can also buy homemade jam. There is hardly anything better than warm zwieback and fresh jam. All the supplies have been donated, so all the proceeds go to Third World relief. Win-win.
Image from West Coast MCC Sale FB pageSo, Anna, if you are reading, and Elizabeth, I hope this gives you a little glimpse into the zwieback I have grown up eating. I also hope you will have a chance to taste some for yourself someday. I can guarantee they won't be hard and crunchy. :)