St. Nikolaus Day is officially December 6th, but it’s never too late to have fun making these, er, ummm, renegade versions of German holiday breads also known as Weckemaenwchen in honor of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. My friend, Renate, grew up in the Rhineland region of Germany, and she taught me to make the official version of these traditional breads, which are supposed to look like St. Nik. Somehow, they get away from us every year, and they have taken on a life of their own.
They make a nice breakfast treat or you can dry them for festive decorations. Or, if you’re like me, take pictures of them and make that your holiday greeting card … from our quirky family to yours!
Anyway, in early December, you’ll find the ones that look like St. Nik lining the display windows of bakeries throughout Germany, where doting grownups buy them to give to the little ones in their lives. My friends, Jen, Cece, and Renate will take you through the steps of making them and then you’ll find a recipe below. These make fabulous gifts! Have fun!!!!
First roll your dough into an oval.
Then cut the arms.
Then the legs.
And then spread arms. Remember, he will puff up considerably.
Snip with sisissors like Jen
if you want Santa to look like a fish ….
A floury Cece adds the finishing touches to her gal/guy.
This is Renate. She already loves her Weckmann.
To get raisin eyes to stick, snip a slit with sissors and scooch them in.
Risen and ready to go into the oven.
This is Renate’s recipe for the St. Nik breads. Someday, I’ll have to do a post about her unbelieveably wonderful recipe book she made for her family.
To make the breads:
You can use any bread recipe you like that is a firm kneadable dough without little pieces of raisins or nuts. Renate uses the traditional sweet recipe above. Jen added an egg to her batter for a Challah type dough. I use this variation:
The night before I bake, I mix up the dough and let it sit out on the counter for an hour or two before refrigerating. In the morning, you’ll take it out of the fridge, take it out of the bowl, warm up the bowl by washing with hot water, and put it back in the re-buttered warm bowl to rise.
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (you can use less, but a little helps them color nicely)
Zest of an organic lemon makes them extra fragrant
2 Tbs. soft butter
4 cups all purpose unbleached flour (and more to knead)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast (I use instant, use more yeast if you want a faster rise)
And that’s it. Combine milk, water, sugar, lemon zest and butter. Then add 4 cups flour that’s been mixed with the salt and the yeast. Let the dough rest, covered with a towel 30 minutes. Knead in a Kitchen Aid about 5 minutes or on a board about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding enough flour so that it holds its shape and doesn’t stick. If using a mixer, add enough flour so that the dough just clears the sides and bottom of the bowl but is still soft. If you use bread flour, you will have to knead longer to develop the gluten. Put the dough in a buttered bowl and cover with a plate or put it in a big zip lock bag, or cover it with plastic. Let it rise until doubled or refrigerate overnight. Then shape as instructed above. Best to put a piece of parchment on your baking sheet and form your St. Nik on the pan. Let the breads rise about an hour or so until puffy. Right before baking, brush with an evenly applied egg wash (an egg well beaten with a spoon of water). Bake at 350º until golden.