As the weather gets colder, we are coming up to the time of comfort foods and baking. Weckmänner are perfect! You can eat them for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. They are easy very to bake and, unlike many breads, don’t need a lot of kneading. Indeed, the most difficult part was finding somewhere warm for proofing the dough.
Weckmänner supposedly resemble St Martin and are eaten around St Martins Day (11 November). In some areas, they are said to resemble St Nicholaus and are eaten until 6 December. Both were bishops.
Weckmann literally means ‘wake man’, more traditionally ‘watchman’. Weckmänner is the German plural of Weckmann. They are also known as Stutenkerle, Piepenkerle, Hefekerle, Kloskaehlsche, Printenmänner, Hanselmänner, Klasenmänner or Jahresmänner, depending on where you live in Germany.
The clay pipe that the Weckmänner traditionally hold is supposed to resemble the bishop’s crosier. How did the crosier become a pipe? No one is really sure.
Unless you live in Germany, you will probably find it difficult to get the ‘pipe’. Even if you do live in Germany, the pipes are not that easy to obtain.
There are sets of ten available on amazon, such as this set. However, I didn’t want to make ten Weckmänner and I doubt you will either (they can be quite filling). Instead, I washed and reused the pipes of three that we bought at the bakery.
If you can’t get a pipe: don’t worry. Many bakeries are now baking them without pipes to be more environmentally friendly I assume (and to be cheaper). The pipe also looks nothing like a crosier, which it originally represented.
They will still taste the same without pipe. It also leaves more space for buttons, if that is what you wish.
The Weckmann dough
The Weckmann dough is worth making if you are not religious and don’t want to make a baked good that resembles a bishop. It is a simple and tasty dough that evidences you what German baked goods are like.
Here the dough is also used for sweet pretzels, smaller people shapes and just simple rolls. Sometimes the orange peel is omitted and sometimes more raisins or almond slithers are added. You can eat them plain or with butter.
Why not bake some Weckmänner today?
Are you looking for something simple and comforting to bake? Try Weckmänner (or indeed any form you wish to make with the dough). They are easy to make, tasty and suitable for both small children and adults. You will also be able to boast that you made some traditional German baked goods.
- large gingerbread man cookie cutter
- clay pipes
- baking paper
- 500 g flour
- 1 packet or cube of yeast
- 250 ml lukewarm milk
- 125 g melted butter
- 100 g fine sugar
- grated rind from half an orange
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla sugar or essence
- 1 egg size L or XL
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 good pinch of salt
- Raisins for eyes and buttons if desired
- Extra flour to flour the board
- MIlk for brushing
- Activate the yeast: crumble the yeast into a bowl and add the milk and 1 tbsp. of the sugar and let it stand for a few minutes. The milk will start to go frothy and the yeast will start to spread.
- Add the other ingredients and mix with your hand until all is combined.
- Cover and put somewhere warm to proof until the dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180°c fan-forced.
- Turn out onto a floured board and use your fingers to flatten and spread until about 2-3 cm thick.
- Use a large gingerbread man form to cut out the Weckmänner. If you don’t have a gingerbread man form, roughly sculpt the form of a person with dough. Place raisins where the eyes and buttons should be.
- Brush with milk and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.