Tweibach: The Iconic Bread of the Mennonites

The Steinbach Tribune

Recently, we were inspired to write an article about the grain millers son Cornelius F. Toews. The inspiration came from some of the “Toews Bakery family" in Steinbach and after having received a copy of the Johan F. Toews autobiography.

William (Bill) Toews working in the home bakery, Steinbach.

It’s been said that tweibach and bread speak to the heart of the Mennonite culture. So I thought it might be fitting to start with an article about the funny looking “bun” that is so well known. Tweibach are of course part of a bigger faspa tradition - but let’s stick with tweibach for now.

A short history lesson: Russian Mennonite tweibach is a centuries old food tradition that was enjoyed almost daily, as well as at special celebrations. Pronounced Tweebak in Plautdietsch, it is a yeast bread roll formed from two pieces of dough that are pulled apart when eaten. Placing the two balls of dough one on top of the other so that the top one does not fall off during the baking process is part of the art and challenge that must be mastered by the baker. Traditionally, this type of tweibach is baked Saturday and eaten Sunday morning and for afternoon Faspa, a light meal. Tweibach originated in the port cities of the Netherlands and the Danzig area. The toasted, dried buns were used to provision ships. Mennonite immigrants from the Netherlands, who settled in around Danzig in West Prussia, continued this practice and brought it to Russia when they migrated to new colonies in what is today Ukraine.”

Making tweibach is more about technique. Here is a recipe;

--4 cups milk (or 1 cup dry milk dissolved in 4 cups warm water)

--1-1/2 cups shortening (butter and lard/shortening)

--1/2 cup sugar

--1 teaspoon salt

-- 3 tablespoons dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup of warm water

--8-10 cups al-purpose unbleached flour.

Mix ingredients in mixer with batter beater. Add enough flour until dough is difficult to mix. Let dough stand 10 minutes. Then add more flour, a little at a time, using a dough hook or kneading with hands to form a soft dough. Let rise again and shape into zwieback by pinching balls of dough about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter for the base and slightly smaller for the tops. Fill one cookie sheet with bases, flatten them slightly and then another cookie sheet with tops. At that point, when they had set a couple minutes, put a top bun on each of the base buns, using the second knuckle of your forefinger or middle finger to press/pinch the top bun quite firmly down to the bottom bun. Let rise 5 minutes and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Sounds easy, right? Well it’s the pinching technique that takes time to master. Here’s a photo to illustrate;

This technique required strength and stamina.  Rosa Amelia Toews (nee  Zilkie) is pictured (below) in the home bakery.  She would have made thousands upon thousands of tweibach in her time.  Can you imagine making making a few hundred dozen of these in a single day?  It was a once a week treat that was only offered Saturdays at the Steinbach Bakery. Why on Saturday?  So you'd have some ready for Sunday faspa our course :-)  And in case "jast" would show up to visit.

Rosa Amelia Toews (nee Zilke)

We welcome comments below from anyone who enjoys celebrating great people and great events of the Mennonite culture and Steinbach history.


    Keep Calm It's Almost Faspa shirt by      

Back in the day, it seemed there was no such thing as relaxing.  There was work, work and more work.  And if you wanted to relax there was more work.  Occasionally playing knipsbrat or knacking sunflower seeds. Going out to your cousins for faspa or visiting an old uncle or taunte.  Relaxing was just not a high priority.

But today, there is a solution for all your relaxing needs!  Learning Plautdietsch!  It's fun and you can do it from the comfort of your own home!

A Plautdietsch dictionary will provide you with hours of endless enjoyment while you reminisce through more than 25,000 words and Mennonite phrases.    It makes a great gift for anyone who appreciates this unique spoken language.  It also makes a great keepsake for children and grandchildren.  There are still a few available.  



Romance and unbridled passion in a Mennonite house-barn?! A couple from Steinbach is tying the knot and heading to the barn!

Jessica Toews and Ron Plett of Steinbach plan to spend the first 7 days of their honeymoon in an original Mennonite house-barn in Jant Sied. The young couple says they’re going all the way, giving up their iphones and all modern conveniences to experience a taste of married life, similar to that of their great grandparents. Our reporters asked them if they had any concerns. “No,.not really,..well maybe one. I guess it would have to be the whole toilet thing,..but other than that,.. we’re totally good with whatever happens. We’ll be like…. the first Mennonite pioneer lovers who came to Canada!” says Jessica. “I mean,…my great grandparents lived in a house-barn after they got married.   There was probably only dial up Internet and no pizza delivery or anything back then. And they managed to have,,….14 kids! So,. ya,..we’re totally doing this. It’s exciting!”

Our reporter tried to dig out the exact location that the couple has chosen for their first night of passionate Mennonite romance. “We’re only saying that it’s a house-barn located somewhere in Jant Sied” says Ron. We don’t want our first night spoiled with curiosity seekers and media attention.  After all, we're not going to be just playing knipsbrat and having meddachschlop,..this is our honeymoon!”

It’s this reporter’s opinion that curiosity seekers and no toilet will pose the least of their concerns of a honeymoon night spoiler. The Mennonite Enquirer has just learned that the couple has requested that the barn be filled with livestock and that the living conditions provide no more than could be expected in1897. Can love endure its’ first test in a Mennonite house-barn?

Will the kielke with smaunt-fat over candlelight dinner bode as well when the cows start mooing and the horses can be heard farting on the other side of the gank? Find out in an upcoming edition of the Mennonite Enquirer.

Dear Helen,

I need some advice. I’m 37, (well, actually 39 and a half) single and still hoping to find the right Menno man to marry but I’m not sure how to go about searching for the "Right Reimer" at this point in my life.

I’m an old fashioned Mennonite girl. The last relationship I had was when I was 22.  I’ve met a few guys but all of them just want to bring me to meet the parents over faspa.  I don't consider that actual dating. I want a little more out of a man. I’m not asking for a lot really. He just has to be willing to get married within a year, have a nice house (about 5000 sq. ft. preferably on a 10 acre lot in Jant Sied) ) and a full time job that pays at least $95,000.00 a year (after taxes) with 3 weeks holidays.  Do you think that’s asking too much at my age?

BTW: All Jant Sied men know how to cook,..right?

Yours truly, still searching for the "Right Reimer"


Dear still searching for the Right Reimer

Would you like your man to be feeding you New Bothwell cheese curds in a meadow overlooking Jant Sied as well? Seriously though, wouldn’t every woman want a Reimer in Jant Sied  who has financial security and is willing to make a commitment within a year. Here is some advice: Try to find a man who'll take you out to dinner instead of just having faspa at his folks.  And try not to have your heart set on a Reimer.  There are lots of great Menno men out there!  So don't limit yourself to Jant Sied!

Be sure to follow The Menno Tribune to make sure you don't miss out on the Plautdietsch word of the day and other stories and articles.

You haven't done that yet?  Na oba!  Click on Leina and Hein below and it will take you to the Menno Tribune and hit the "follow" button. Daut es emm sonnst! And remember to forward the Menno Tribune facebook link to your friends and frintshoft!

Be sure to follow The Menno Tribune to make sure you don't miss out on the Plautdietsch word of the day and other stories and articles.

You haven't done that yet?  Na oba!  Click on Leina and Hein below and it will take you to the Menno Tribune and hit the "follow" button. Daut es emm sonnst! And remember to forward the Menno Tribune facebook link to your friends and frintshoft!

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  • Mitchell Toews on

    Wonderful! Pics of my Uncle Bill and Grandma Toews. Also, FYI, I have a collection of short stories, “Pinching Zwieback” (At Bay Press, Wpg) coming out Oct 24. I’ve had two author nights in Steinbach so far and there will be launches and events in Steinbach, Winnipeg, Lac du Bonnet, Kenora, and elsewhere, starting in November. See for a synopsis and comments by Ralph Friesen, Armin Wiebe, and Zilla Jones. See my Facebook page and also

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