June 02, 2014

No. 4 // Weckmänner aka sweet yeast bread

I feel like I am baking myself through my childhood days these past weeks. Weckmänner are another font memory of mine from the years where I could count my age on two hands. The sweet taste of the man-shaped yeast bread is ultimately connected to November the 11th – St. Martins day – and dark evenings, bright handmade lanterns and big bon fires at my kindergarden. Every year we would make our own paper laterns at my kindergarden and then on the 11th or around that would go on a procession around the neighbourhood with our parents and carers. The afternoon (yes I am talking about the dreadful days when sundown is at four o'clock) would end around the big bonfire in our kindergarden backyard where we would drink hot sweet juice and eat Weckmänner.

Reminiscing in these days I found many recipes online for Weckmänner, but in the end went with a slightly altered version of this one (Link in German!). Here is what went into my Weckmänner:
500g strong white flour
42g fresh yeast
8g vanilla sugar
72g caster sugar
200ml luke warm milk
100g melted butter
3 eggs

I started by warming up the milk in the microwave and then crumbling the yeast into it and adding the sugar and the vanilla sugar. I slightly mixed everything with a whisk and put it to the side.

Then I sieved the flour into a large bowl. With my hand I pressed a dent into the flour deep enough to hold the milk-yeast-sugar mixture and poured it inside. I covered the mixture lightly with some flour from the side, but did not mix it together. Instead I placed the bowl in a warm place (I just did the microwave trick again I spoke about here) and let it sit there for around ten minutes.

Meanwhile I melted the butter and split the eggs (keeping both yolk and white!). After ten minutes I added the butter, the egg yolks and a pinch of salt to the bowl and mixed everything together until a nice and smooth dough formed. Again I placed the bowl in the warm place, this time to let the mixed dough rest for 30 minutes. As soon as the time was up I placed the dough ball on a lightly floured work surface and kneaded it for 3-5minutes. Then I covered it with a kitchen towel to let it rest again until it doubled in size (that took around 50min in my house, which is not too warm). Once the dough had rested long enough I punched the air back out and cut it into six equal portions.

I formed each portion into an about 10cm long roll and then shaped it into the “Weckmann” form. I made to little cuts approx. 2 cm from the top and squeezed the dough together to form the head and the neck. Then I placed a 2cm long cut in the middle of the bottom part to form the two legs. Finally I made two cuts along the side of the roll to create the arms. It takes a bit of kneading and moulding before the parts take shape.

Once the little men were formed, I pierced cuts into the dough for the eyes, nose and buttons along the body and placed pistachios and pumpkin seeds in them. The original version in Germany comes actually with raisin and a clay pipe, but I had neither in the house, so I went with nuts and seeds.
Now it was time to turn the oven on. While it was heating up to the required 180degrees, the Weckmänner rested for another ten minutes. Just before I popped them in the oven I brushed them with the egg white that I had kept earlier, to give them a nice glazed finish later. In the oven they went and 15minutes later they were all shiny and yummy.

Now they only had to be paired with a dash of butter to make the perfect man.

Happy baking!

This was Number 4 of my 12 baking adventures on The Bread List, for more recipes and adventures from my kitchen, check in next Monday.

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