Buchteln, delicious Austrian pull-apart buns with jam filling are like oven-baked doughnuts, and blissfully tasty served warm, perhaps decadently with custard.
Buchteln – the trouble is only with the name
So, what’s the deal? These are soft, sweet buns baked with jam inside instead of being spread on them after baking. Squished close together into a too-small dish, like baked doughnuts.
The name is nigh impossible to pronounce for your average Englishman without a smattering of German (which is your average Englishman).
‘Book-tin’ is what The Weather Man manages to produce, and only because he wants them for breakfast. ‘Book-tale’ is another variation I’ve heard.
Somebody else calls them ‘those little jammy puffybuns’ and I actually accept that as a descriptive enough moniker.
Buchteln are my childhood throwback
Of course – but of course – I can say them pitch perfect: ‘boogh-telln’.
Some special Sundays my Austrian grandmother would fluff up the dough, butter a tin, find a jar of plum preserve in the larder (of course she had a larder) and magic them out of the oven an hour or so later.
They were served warm (burning hot in my case) with obligatory vanilla custard. I didn’t much care for the sauce so I just stuffed my face with a warm Buchtel, plum jam running down my chin.
The feature in The Guardian reminded me of them but they missed a few important things, like brushing the Buchteln with butter before baking, or to mention the vanilla custard.
Buchteln and associates
They have a lot of relatives around central and Eastern Europe, with the Czech, Polish and Slovak buchtas.
Interestingly though, the Polish and Czech version is usually steamed which in turn grants them similitude with Chinese dim-sum dumplings. The latter are always savoury, filled with pork or prawn, while the Slavonic and Bohemian ones swing both ways: sometimes meaty and spicy, more often sweet and desserty. What a small world though, when it comes to food.
The dough is nice and brioche-like in taste, fluffiness and texture but not quite as rich as brioche. It is made with milk and has a substantial amount of butter in it, but only one egg plus a yolk. It is fine to work with and shape the buns after it’s risen, without needing to chill it like it is the case with brioche.
Warm milk, melted butter and sugar with yeast stirred in is the ferment. You may let it stand for half an hour to foam up, but the recipe is forgiving enough to skip that step and pour the ferment straight into the flour, followed by an egg and a yolk.
A standing mixer will do the job with ease but if you want to knead the dough by hand, it will take time from Sticky Central to smooth and elastic. It will now rise to twice the volume, in a warm place, for about an hour.
Filling for buchteln
The traditional, classic filling is plum jam or powidla, thick Easter European preserve made from damson plums. But whatever jam is your favourite, and thick enough (here I used strawberry) will do.
My grandmother used to serve buchteln warm, drowned in custard, but you could actually use custard as filling, to make buchteln resemble doughnuts a little.
Fruit filling will also be delightful – peek at my recipe for easy Danish pastries which includes homemade raspberry and apple filling.
And curd, which is so gorgeous in buns and unfairly forgotten these days.
Shaping and baking
Buchteln are baked close together so they have to be pulled apart to serve, or to help yourself.
Shaping first: risen dough should be cut into eight pieces, each flattened and dolloped with filling. Then the trickiest moment: pinching the sides of the dough together into a knot, then twisting it to seal the seam.
Thus shaped balls should be brushed with remaining butter so they don’t merge into one giant Buchtel and can be pulled apart when baked. Nestle them in a tin or a dish about 30 cm in size and let them proof, covered with plastic, for about forty minutes.
They’ll bake for just under half an hour until golden and puffy.
They are gorgeous warm, with custard my Granny style or simply dusted with icing sugar. You can also warm them up atop a toaster or briefly in the oven, if there are any left on the following day.
More breakfast bun recipes
Soft sweet buns with dried apricots and apricot jam. Like apricot Chelsea buns they are rolled around the filling and baked close together so you tear them to eat.
Best hot cross buns ever: wholemeal, with tons of raisins, piped crosses and delicious sticky honey glaze. There’s no better spring breakfast than a buttered hot cross bun.
Yorkshire teacakes with raisins or currants, toasted and buttered are the best tea time treat. And they are really easy to make.
More Austrian recipes
Raspberry Linzer torte recipe, with homemade raspberry filing made with frozen raspberries. Linzer torte is a shortcrust pie pastry base made with toasted whole hazelnuts which gives your Linzer torte lovely colour and a deep nutty flavour.
Sacher torte recipe, mine is quite close to the original. Sacher torte is the most famous Viennese confection available in the Sacher Hotel, at a small price but with long queues.
Apple strudel recipe with homemade pastry. This is an easy apple strudel recipe, with delicious brioche dough replacing the famously transparent-thin stretched pastry.