Schneeballen are pastries made from shortcrust pastry that are especially popular in Munich and the outlying area of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, where they were invented. Its name derives from its ball-like shape with a diameter of around 10cm and these balls are traditionally decorated with chocolate and/or sugar.
The main ingredients of schneeballen are flour, eggs, sugar, butter, and cream. To give it the characteristic shape, the dough is rolled out and cut into even strips with a dough cutter. The strips are then arranged alternately over and under a stick, or the handle of a wooden spoon. Eventually the stick is lifted and slowly removed while the dough strips are formed into a loose ball. Using a special holder known as a “Schneeballeneisen” in order to retain the shape, the ball is deep-fried in boiling fat until golden brown, and finally dusted with oodles of sugar while warm.
Schneeballen pastry has been known for at least 300 years in the regions of Franconia, where it was first invented, and Bavaria, where it remains a very popular snack. They are nowadays available throughout the year and can be found around Munich in bakeries, pastry shops, and cafés. In its birthplace of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, however, there are even companies that specialize in the pastry, constantly coming out with new variations (as seen in the photos above). Beside the classical ones dusted with sugar, there are recipes glazed with chocolate and nuts or filled with marzipan. As the pastry is considered the signature dish of the town, it is a very common souvenir. I have yet to see anything from my travels that even barely resembles the schneeballen. It is certainly very unique!
I was delighted to find some schneeballen in Munich in a bakery near to Marienplatz in the centre of the city. I also tried some in the airport before flying back to the UK. I have not yet seen these delicious fist-sized confections anywhere apart from Germany, although upon doing some research I found a few places in South Korea that specialise in schneeballen. I guess Koreans must love them as much as the Bavarians! Be warned, though, that schneeballen are very hard to break, and often you get presented with little fork-sized mallets to bash the schneeballen at your table in the cafés. Inside, you may even find chocolate, but as these are considered long-life products, there won’t be anything fresh inside.