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.