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On November 11th, children throughout Germany celebrate St Martin’s Day by parading with Lanterns, and enjoying a Stutenkerl. But what is a Stutenkerl? In the northern and western parts of Germany, you can find these little guys throughout every bakery in November. “Stuten” is a soft, slightly sweetened, yeast bread. And a “Kerl” is a man or guy. So, translated Stutenkerl is a man made from sweetened yeast dough.
They are also very popular in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Sometimes these men are also baked in December, for St Nicholas’ Day, and are called “Klausen” men. In the southern part of Germany, they are more commonly known as “Weckmann.” The word “Weck” is another word for roll. Sometimes these little bread men also go by “Hefekerl” (yeast man), Klaaskerl (which is Dutch for Nicholas Man), Männele (little man), Stutenmann (bread man), along with a few other ones. I guess it just depends on what area you are in within Germany or surrounding countries.
Children especially love the story of St Martin in Germany and of course these sweet treats. In many households children actually help in baking their own. Here is a great recipe for you which makes about 4 to 5 Stutenkerle.
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 package yeast
- 14 tablespoons milk (at room temperature)
- 16 teaspoons sugar
- a little less than 8 tablespoons of butter (melted) – 100 grams to be exact
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- raisins – I used 8 semi-sweet chocolate chips on each Stutenkerl for the eyes, mouth and buttons since our family isn’t really into raisins. But traditionally they are made with raisins.
- 2 egg whites
- Mix the yeast with the milk and sugar in a bowl.
- Put the flour into a different larger bowl, make a hole in the middle and place the yeast mixture in the middle of the flour.
- Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 15 minutes in a warm place.
- Add the butter, egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and lemon zest to the large bowl, and knead all the ingredients together.
- Cover them again with plastic wrap and let it sit for 50 minutes in a warm place.
- About 30 minutes into waiting, preheat the oven to 390 degrees.
- Split the dough into baseball sized portions and place them onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- After forming little squares, use your fingers and pinch off the head portion of the Stutenkerl. Then using a sharp knife, cut arms and legs.
- Brush the Stutenkerle with egg whites and using raisins or chocolate chips form the faces and buttons.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, let them cool off completely, and serve.
One of the best things about the Stutenkerl is that it is believed to taste better shared! That believe goes back to the origin of why a Stutenkerl is given on St Martin’s Day. St Martin was a kind and generous man who cut his cloak in half and shared it with a beggar. And since the Stutenkerl represents St Martin, why not break it in half and give it to someone you like being with this St Martin’s Day!