The feast day of St. Martin or Martinstag falls on November 11th and is one of the most popular saint’s days in Germany. It marks the end of the agrarian year and the start of the harvesting season. German children especially in rural areas carry candle-lit lanterns and sing “lantern songs” in celebration of Martinstag walking in a procession after darkness falls from the church to the public square where a bonfire is lit.
Martinstag features a special treat to eat: a sweet bread roll shaped like a gingerbread man called Weckmänner or Stutenkerle . These Martin Men are decorated with raisin eyes and a white icing clay pipe. They are also called “Bishop’s Men” because the pipe looks like a Bishop’s staff. Besides the Weckmann, the main culinary symbol of St. Martin’s Day is the goose. Legend has it that St. Martin was betrayed by geese cackling while he was trying to hide in a pen to avoid being appointed Bishop of Tours.
RECIPTE FOR MAKING 10 WECKMANN-STUTENKERL
1 Cup Milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Grated peel from 1 lemon
1/2 oz (One package or 2.1/4 teaspoons) rapid yeast
3 tablespoons warm, not hot, water
6.2/3 cups flour
1 well beaten egg yolk for glazing
Raisins and pieces of nut for decoration
- Mix yeast with 1 tablespoon sugar and the warm water
In a saucepan heat gently milk, butter and sugar, leave to cool
- Add the flour to a large bowl and after making a hole in the center pour in the blended yeast, gently mix together, cover and allow to rise for about 20 minutes
- Add milk and butter mixture to flour, mix thoroughly, knead into until well combined and smooth, roll into ball, sprinkle with flour and leave to rise for 45 minutes.
- Flatten out dough, divide into 10 pieces. There are special baking forms, but the majority of “Weckmann bakers” still enjoy shaping the rounded bread man by hand.
- Place the Weckmaenner on greased or baking paper covered baking tray, allowing enough space in-between each one to allow for spreading and leave to rise for another 20 to 45 minutes.
- Brush with beaten egg yolk, and add raisins, (it is a good idea to soak them in water for a few minutes before adding so they don’t harden or burn), for the eyes and down the body section for “buttons” use three or four raisins or pieces of nut.
- Place in a preheated oven and bake at 325 to 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes until golden and ENJOY ! (clay pipe is optional icing treat)