When I made hamantaschen a few months ago, my fellow volunteer commented on how they reminded him of another German delicacy, Mohnschnecken — poppy seed “snails.” I resolved to give them a try. With his birthday sneaking up on me, and an evening free at last, I finally sought out guidance from the internet. I was particularly intrigued by a recipe from Lena Makes that used a quark dough, or Quarkülteig, since it was quick and simple, and I have become helplessly addicted to quark. (Funny to remember how baffled, skeptical, and unimpressed I was by quark when I first heard of it.) I took the warnings of how sticky the dough was to heart, and generously floured before rolling it out. It was indeed quite soft, but pliable and much tidier and easier to roll out than most doughs I’ve tried, perhaps because of this precautionary measure. Unfortunately, because it was so soft, and rolled out so readily, I ended up spreading the dough too thin and spreading the filling too thick, and it squashed into a mess when I went to slice the rolls. I pushed them back into rounds as best I could, and the spiral came through better than I expected once they were baked, but they turned out more like cookies than cinnamon rolls. Perhaps cutting them thicker and baking less time would do the trick. They turned out tasty nonetheless, at least to the rest of us who had nothing to compare them to. Ach, well. I guess I have an excuse to make these again, and see if I can get a bit closer to the authentic German treat that he pines for.
Mohnschnecken (Poppy Seed “Snail” Rolls)
1 cup quark (chèvre, sour cream, or Greek yogurt might also work)
6 tablespoons oil
2 cups all purpose flour (spelt or whole wheat pastry would probably also work)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
A teaspoon or two of orange zest
Whisk together quark, egg, and oil until smooth and creamy. Combine dry ingredients, then gradually stir into the wet ingredients. Fold in the orange zest, if desired. You can make it ahead and chill until ready to use — it will not firm up much, however.
1 1/2 cups poppy seeds
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Grind poppy seeds in small batches in a coffee/spice grinder. (Skip this step if you don’t have one.) Melt butter, then whisk in milk and sugar. Beat eggs in a small bowl, then continue whisking while gradually stirring in about 1/2 cup of the warm liquid. Pour egg mixture gradually back into the pot and simmer gently for 3-6 minutes, until thickens and coats the back of a spoon (it always takes longer than that for me, eventually I got impatient, turned the heat to medium, and it quickly turned into curds. Not the end of the world if this happens, just remove from heat and whisk it smooth again.) Remove from heat, stir in poppy seed, and chill at least 15 minutes before using.
While the filling is chilling is the perfect time to roll out the dough and preheat the oven! Be sure to flour the surface generously. I rolled it on the back of a baking sheet. Roll into a rectangle, about 1/2″ thick. Spread filling (you will have more than enough), roll it up lengthwise, cut into slices about an inch thick, and bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes.