This is a recipe for German Weckmänner, sometimes also called Stutenkerle, or literally translated: bread roll men. They are made of sweet yeast dough and traditionally eaten on 11 November.
11 November means two very different holidays in our bi-cultural home: For Rich it is Veteran’s Day, for me St. Martin’s Day. I have plenty of childhood memories of St. Martin’s Day. My family has never gone to church, but on 11 November going there felt more like a cultural than a religious event. Normally, a group of people would reenact the story of St. Martin: St. Martin of Tours, as he was later known once he became a bishop, was a Roman soldier. One freezing night he met a beggar in the streets. Martin descended from his horse, cut his coat in two with his sword and gave one half to the beggar.
After that play we kids would take out our lanterns and walk from the church to another site in the village to a bonfire. There we would either make campfire twist bread or receive Weckmänner. Since I moved to the U.S., I particularly liked that every year the parent association met in each of the schools I worked at and made those bread roll men for everyone in school. The younger classes mostly also had little lantern processions.
This St. Martin’s Day I don’t work, but I still wanted my bread roll man. Also, this is a tradition that I definitely want to pass on to my daughter. Although we probably have to wait for at least two years before she will enjoy the Weckmänner and can properly hold a lantern.
After I did a bit of research, I made Weckmänner for this St. Martin’s Day. Rich likes them, too.
What to pay attention to when making the Weckmänner
- The yeast dough is greasy and sticky in the beginning. Give it enough time to rise.
- I used almond milk and margarine (instead of dairy milk and butter). That worked without any issues.
- If the dough is still sticky after each of its two rises, add more flour.
- It sounds much more difficult to shape the dough into men than it actually is. Once you have your little dough cylinder, you will easily figure out how it works. Also, see the photo below.
- To cut the dough, I used pizza scissors, which worked best. If you use a knife, you have to oil it before cutting. Else it just gets stuck.
- Basically the Weckmänner are just sweet bread rolls shaped as men.
- You can use the same dough to make sweet bread rolls. Just form smaller balls and bake them for only ca. 10 minutes. You can also mix in raisins after the first rise.
How to form the Weckmänner from the dough ball – Where to cut
All you need to make this recipe:
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Weckmänner (= bread roll men) for St. Martin’s Day
- 500 g or 3 cups + 2 tbsp flour
- 1 package dry yeast
- 250 ml or 1 cup milk/non-dairy milk
- 125 g or 1/2 cup butter/margarine
- 80 g or 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 pinch salt
- Heat up the milk.
- Mix the dry yeast with the milk.
- Melt the butter.
- In a big bowl, knead together the butter, flour, sugar, lemon extract, 1 egg and salt.
- Add the milk and yeast. Mix well.
- Cover the bowl and put it in a warm spot to raise the dough. It will take about one hour for the dough to double in size.
- Divide the dough into 6 parts.
- Form balls and put them on a baking sheet. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour.
- Cover the dough balls with a dishtowel.
- Heat up the oven to ca. 50°C (or 125°F) and then switch it off.
- Put the covered baking sheet with the dough balls into the oven. Also put a cup of water next to it. Let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Take out the baking sheet and form the men: Roll the balls out to cylinders. Use your fingers to indent the dough 1/3 of the way down to form the head, neck and body. Use food scissors or a knife to cut the body part diagonally for the arms. Finally, cut the bottom center of the dough to create the legs. Move the arms and legs to the sides.
- Press raisins into the dough for the eyes and buttons.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (or 360°F).
- Beat 1 egg in a little bowl. Add 1 tbsp water. Brush a layer of egg on each dough man.
- Bake the bread roll men for 15 minutes.