These lovely “S” shaped buns are commonly made with quark (kesella) but that’s not terribly easy to find in the States. Mascarpone is an excellent substitute (homemade if you’re feeling ambitious!). Crème fraîche can also be used, but sour cream is perfectly good as well. Most recipes for these call for fresh yeast, but I’ve converted it instant. As my dear departed grandmother Margaret liked to say “why not do it the easy way?” God she was a great lady. Anyway, here’s what you need:
1 gram saffron threads
16 ounces (2 cups) milk
2 lbs. 3 ounces (7 cups) all-purpose flour
4.5 ounces (2/3 cup) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (20 grams) instant yeast
8 ounces quark or sour cream (room temperature)
3.5 ounces (7 tablespoons) soft butter
Crush the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle or in a bowl with the back of a spoon as best you can. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan just to the simmer and add the saffron. Stir it, turn off the heat and let it cool until it’s just warm (about body temperature).
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add the the quark (or sour cream) and stir to combine it a bit. Add the flour steadily and stir until a dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough about 7 minutes until it’s very elastic and comes away from the sides of the bowl. With the machine running, add the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time until it’s all incorporated.
Turn the dough out into a large bowl, cover it with a cloth and let it rise about 40 minutes or until about doubled in size. Flour a work surface, turn out the dough and cut it into 35 (or so) pieces. Roll them out into snakes about 14 inches long. Flatten the snakes slightly with a pin, then roll the strips inward from each end into an “S” shape. Lay them on parchment lined sheets to proof, about another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set your oven racks in the lower half of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Paint them with egg wash and dot them with raisins. Bake 8-12 minutes until golden.