Saturday, July 12, 2008

St Martin's Bread (Weckmänner)

You can tell it's winter in our part of the woods. It is cold outside and baking bread warms the kitchen and fills the house with a lovely scent.

These little bread men are called "Weckmänner" (sweet bread men). Traditionally, in my Rheinland home town of Cologne, they are eaten on St Martin's day, which is in November. However, June and July in South-Eastern Australia have a kind of November feel for me, and so we eat them now! They are, in fact, delicious any time of the year.

This recipe was developed by my mother, who is an excellent cook. It reflects very much the cultural mix of the modern Rheinland, as she developed it from a combination of a Turkish and a German recipe. The result is delectable.

Here is the recipe:


500g plain flour (plus extra flour for kneading)
7g yeast (or 2 teaspoons of dried yeast)
12g baking powder

approximately 250ml warm milk
1 cup of plain yoghurt
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil

70-80g of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt

Mix the flour, yeast and baking powder in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients to the bowl and mix to a batter-like dough. You need to continue beating it until the dough starts to develop bubbles at the edges.

Cover with a dish towel or a lid and leave to rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm spot. The dough needs to double in size.

Add a tablespoon of flour to improve consistency before tipping the dough onto a floured benchtop or table. Knead the dough (and add flour as necessary) until the dough is no longer sticky.

Divide into nine or ten segments, then form little men. It is a Cologne tradition that one of their arms is folded over - don't ask me why or what it means! Add raisins for buttons and eyes. In Cologne bakeries, you can also buy Weckmänner holding little clay pipes - to our great excitement when we were children. (I wonder whether today's children would find this exciting?)

Lay the little men onto a baking tray and let rise again.

Mix some egg yolk with a tablespoon of yoghurt and apply with a brush to give a nice warm colour.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 210 degrees Celsius.


  1. They look wonderful and I am going to try making them.

  2. A little touch of your homeland here Chervil. I'll bet your children love them. Do they help? Of course they do.

  3. They look good Chervil, I'll make some of them the next time my Grandaughters visit. We usually try to bake some cakes.

    The little men look very like gingerbread men that are popular in the UK, based on a popular chidren's story about....would you believe....Yes you've guessed.... A Gingerbread Man.

    Hello Chervil BTW. This si my first visit to your site and I am enjoying it.


  4. Lovely, I've made a copy of the recipe, hope to make them this week, although it is hot here, I am sure they will still taste delicious. Jxx

  5. Thanks for all the nice comments. Trubes - yes, the men look a little bit like gingerbread men, but they actually taste quite differently. Interesting though - I wonder where the tradition comes from and whether there is a link?

  6. So cute! I am going to try making them :)

  7. I will try this one! I make a lot of bread type things and this looks like a great variation..

    I was going to say "Crumbs!" but that would have been silly...

  8. Thank you for your wonderful blog! Our German Christuskirche annually celebrates St. Martin's Day with the laterns, parade and all. Last year, I attempted to make an offering of these little men. This time, I wanted to see what an actual St. Martin's Day Brotmann looked like!

    Our pastor's wife grew up calling these "Dumperdies".

    All the best! Vivian