Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club - November Recipes

Today, marks the seventh month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, called „River Cottage Everyday Veg“.

The Cottage Cooking Club international online cooking group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, getting to know less known vegetables, learning new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes, and sharing them with family and friends.

All the members of this cooking group will make an effort to use as much local, regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is resonably possible. With that goal in mind, during the month of November, I prepared a nice array of vegetable dishes from the recipe line-up.

Let us start with a picture that reflects the season that is upon us – today is the last day of November and around these parts, we celebrate the beginning of the Advent season on this first Sunday of Advent. I hope all of my friends celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful time with family and friends – no matter what we celebrate these days, it seems to be a time for peace and quiet and reflection upon the previous months.

Since I prepared nine out of ten recipes, I will write about each dish according to the order in which they appear in the book. My first recipe for this November post is the „Stuffed cabbage leaves " (page 38), from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts".

This was the most labor-intense yet also most fun to prepare of all the dishes this month. When making this dish, you will be required to follow a few steps. The first step is the preparation of the slightly chunky and thick tomato sauce with carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic and thyme. By now, I believe I am able to prepare a tomato sauce with my eyes closed. When the sauce was simmering, I made the filling with pearl barley, onion, garlic, currants, walnuts, lemon zest, lots of chopped fresh parsley and dill, chili flakes for some heat and an egg to bind it all.

Then onto the cabbage leaves – buy a really nice Savoy cabbage (know as „Wirsing“ in these parts), choose one with big, dark green leaves, separate the leaves and blanch in well-salted boiling water for a few minutes - you have to make sure to remove the though parts of the ribs before blanching the leaves. Then fill up the leaves, roll and fold and place in baking dish. Spoon the tomato sauce over, dot with sour cream and bake for a good half hour.

The lengthy preparation of this dish was truly a labor of love! It took forever and tasted divine – the kids ate vegetarian cabbage rolls and mopped up the rest of the sauce with a few slices of rustic bread. And so did we. A success story.

The second recipe this month was „Couscous salad with herbs and walnuts“ (page 89), from the chapter "Hearty Salads".

The recipe lists „giant“ wholemeal couscous as the main ingredient. After searching high and low for this ingredient, it proved to be impossible to get a hold of. So I decided to substitute large pearl barley. Other than that particular ingredient (I am still looking for it), I had most of the other components on hand. Toasting spices such as cumin and fennel seeds, is certainly a welcome activity these days, it smells amazing while you do that. And the month of November seems to be all about smells. Always is.

After the couscous (pearl barley) is cooked, it gets mixed with the previously prepared spice mixture and the sautéed onion, garlic, chopped celery and fennel, as well as lemon juice, chopped parsley, chives, terragon and walnuts – this is one way to use those walnuts that I bought at a country fair the other day – I kept the kids busy for a while cracking the fresh nuts and getting them ready for the salad.

This is a salad loaded with herbs and sweets nuts – definitely one that you should try if you enjoy those components – the herbs could also easily be just parsley or maybe parsley and basil if that is what you like and /or have on hand. And if you do not like nuts in your salad, you could just leave them out and it would still be delicious.

The third recipe was the easiest and fastest to prepare. The „Chicory, pears and salty-sweet roasted almonds“ (page 118), from the chapter "Raw Assemblies".

Ever since I started cooking from this book, I have developed a true liking for these „raw assemblies“. And this recipe was no exception.  I adored the combination of the crunchy, salty-sweet almonds, the slightly bitter local chicory and the perfectly sweet, yet firm pears form my favorite farmer.

I prepared the almonds in my tried-and-true cast-iron skillet – easy to nibble away at them after they have had a chance to cool down a bit. Be careful, they are molten-lava hot at first. The dressing is quickly made with olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then assemble the chicory leaves, the pear slices, the dressing and the almonds on a platter and enjoy the combination of flavors as well as textures – it is one that you will come back too once you tasted it, trust me!

The fourth (and fifth) recipe must be one of my very favorite seasonal soups of all times, the „Chestnut and sage soup“ (page 158), from the chapter "Hefty Soups" that I served together with the „Crostini“  (page 178), from the chapter "Bready Things".

There is a chestnut tree in our garden and every year I look forward to the harvest season – this year I used the chestnuts for baking my favorite chestnut cake, made this amazing soup and kept the remainder for roasted chestnuts.

This is such an elegant and velvety soup, I cannot get over the taste – the finished soup got a nice garnish of sliced chestnuts and sage leaves from my garden, fried in some light olive oil – serve this soup nice and hot and you will know what I mean – it is absolutely fabulous and perfect for serving to guests. Make sure to make some „Vegetable Stock“ (page 130) beforehand and serve some Crostini (page 178) alongside – no, no toppings for my Crostinis, just plain but pretty and delicious.

The sixth recipe were „Twice baked potatoes“ (page 226) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“ – one of the two kids favorites this month.

Large potatoes get baked for an hour, then halved – while you prepare the filling, you return the skins to the oven „to dry“. The filling consists of the scooped out insides of the potatoes, sour cream, grated cheese (I chose Emmenthal), spring onions (I used fresh chives instead), sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper (I also added grated nutmeg).

My next stop will be filling them with spinach and Gruyère, a combination that is suggested by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the end of the recipe – the kids cannot wait.

The seventh recipe this month were the other crowd pleasers, the „Patatas bravas“ (page 322) from the chapter "Mezze & Tapas".

This recipe is based on a classic Spanish tapas dish. The potatoes get a two-part treatment, first you boil the cubed potatoes, then you fry them. And serve them together with a piping hot spicy tomato sauce that you can easily prepare in advance. It is also nice to let the eaters adjust the spicyness of their dish by serving a bit of chili flakes on the side.

These potatoes in tomato sauce are wonderful when you serve them alongside a few other lovely little dishes such as olives and make sure to also serve some nice rustic bread alongside, for that extra sauce.

My eighth recipe this month were the delightful „Roasted parsnip chips“ (page 357) from the chapter "Roast, Grill & Barbecue". Now what is not to love about parsnips that get roasted with shallots, olive oil, pepper and salt until crisp and caramelized on the outside and creamy in the middle – unless, of course, you do not care for those fall vegetables.

Last but not least, I made the „Creamy potato and celeriac mash“ (page 388) from the chapter "Side Dishes". A nice, comforting side-dish of cooked potatoes that you pass through a ricer and mix together with celeriac that was cooked in milk and puréed in a food processor – these two vegetables make a wonderful, slightly sweet mash – just before serving you can drizzle a bit more melted butter on top and add a bit of ground nutmeg to round things off.

Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly enjoy the recipes from this cookbook!

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the Cottage Cooking Club members and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. For more information on the participation rules, please go here.

To see which wonderful dishes the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared during the month of November, please go here.

Erster Advent - First Advent

First Sunday of Advent
Erster Adventssonntag

As we traditionally light the first Advent candle today, happy and blessed first Advent wishes from our family to you and all your loved ones!
Ich wünsche euch und euren Familien einen schönen und besinnlichen ersten Advent!

Friday, November 28, 2014

FFwD - Béatrix`s Red Kuri Soup

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is „Béatrix`s Red Kuri Soup“, an elegant soup with velvety texture and creamy flavor, just perfect for this time of year.

Squashes and pumpkins belong to the same family as cucumbers, melons, marrows and courgettes (zucchini). There is really an amazing variety of sizes, shapes and colors, and although most are edible, some are used for decoration only. All squashes and pumpkins have a tough outer rind, an inner cavity filled with hard seeds and sweet, rich flesh with a dense, nutty and earthy flavor.

The Red Kuri squash required for this recipe is very easy to find in these parts. It seems to be omnipresent in markets and health-food stores at this time of year until the season ends in February. Depending on where you live, this squash might be called either „Hokkaido squash“ (that´s how we call it) or „Kuri squash“ (Kuri means „chestnut“ in Japanese.) The French call it „potimarron“, referring to the fact that the squash combines the flavors of pumpkin and roasted chestnuts (marrons). And there is another plus to the squash, the skin is edible.

Onto the recipe for today, this was another no-fuss soup recipe. You simply boil the deseeded and chopped, skin-on squash together with some cut-up leeks (white parts only) in milk and some water, no broth, for a good thirty minutes. Then you purée the soup until very smooth. Add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste and serve with topping(s) of your choice such as croutons, fried sage, sautéed chestnuts or whatever else strikes your fancy. I added a swirl of crème fraîche and dark-green roasted pumkin seeds from Styria, Austria. To roast the seeds, add a handful of pumpkin seeds to a non-stick pan, then cook for a few minutes until they become fragrant.

Dorie´s recipe renders a silky textured soup, that is delicious sprinkled with some pumpkin seeds and finished with a light swirl of crème fraîche – we really enjoyed it, it was different from the cream of Hokkaido squash soup that I usually prepare (with a bit of heat from Spanish roasted paprika). Less is often more and this seven-ingredient-recipe showcases the nutty, rich flavor of the Red Kuri squash in the best of ways – you can taste the squash as well as the hint of roasted chestnut, a flavor combination which we truly enjoyed.

To see how much the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for “Béatrix`s Red Kuri Soup“ on pages 78-79 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas Stollen - Weihnachtsstollen

This classic sugar-dusted seasonal German fruit cake is also known around the world as „Christmas Stollen“ ("Weihnachtsstollen"), or simply „Stollen“. The distinct shape of this baked, sweet delight is said to represent the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothing.

Stollen was invented in the City of Dresden, and nowadays is the subject of an annual festival in its honor, the so-called „Stollenfest“. Each year the stollen is paraded through the market square, then sliced and sold to the public, with the proceeds supporting local charities. This candied fruit peel-studded cake has been around since 1474 and was originally known as “Striezel” which referred to a braided shape. The Stollen actually started life as a very different confection. During its long history, it has been transformed from a simple oat bread consisting only of flour, oats and water, to a rich, buttery loaf. The dough itself only became enriched with butter in 1647, when Pope Innocent VIII gave his official permission to include butter and milk in the recipe during the Advent season, then a time of fasting.

Dresdner Christstollen” is said to be the most famous and oldest stollen. It is a yeast bread or rather cake with lots of raisins, currants, candied lemon and orange peel, and with those most Christmassy of spices, namely cinnamon, anise, coriander, cloves, allspice and cardamom. The commercial production of Dresden stollen is carefully licensed and regulated to ensure quality and authenticity.

Nowadays, there are several other variations of Stollen, some have a yeast dough others do not. There are Stollen like „Poppy Seed Stollen“ (Mohnstollen), „Nut Stollen“ (Nußstollen), „Marzipan Stollen“ (Marzipanstollen), and „Quark Stollen“ (Quarkstollen) made with fresh quark, also known as „curd cheese“. In fact, there are probably as many recipes for stollen as there are (home) bakers.

Having baked Christmas Stollen for many years now, some with yeast, others without, I am now very partial to a Stollen that has no yeast in, like this recipe. It is easy to put together, bakes up beautifully and is prepared with curd cheese (quark) instead of yeast. But I will caution you, if you are expecting a dough that is light, this certainly isn´t it. With lots of dried fruit and nuts (and candied fruit peel if you use it), this is a rather dense dough that bakes up into a wonderfully rich cake, best enjoyed in the afternoon or for breakfast with a nice big cup of coffee or tea. You can enjoy a big slice on its own, or slather it with some good butter and your favorite jam or honey.

Before you get started baking, you should remember that your dried fruit (such as raisins, sultanas or currants) need to soak in a lovely bath of rum, brandy, or hot apple juice for a full day before you bake the Stollen.

It is also good to know before planning your Christmas baking that once the Stollen has cooled, it will keep for a few weeks if you wrap it well, otherwise it will dry out. For storage, it has to be kept in a dry and rather cool place.

One more thing to remember before you get started, around here, Stollen are usually baked in a special Stollen baking pan that you can order online but you could also use a bread baking pan or shape the dough by hand to imitate the shape.

I have made a few adjustments to the original recipe and the resulting confection is moister, with even more dried fruit and nuts than before.

Recipe for Christmas Stollen (Quarkstollen)
Inspired by a recipe from Stevan Paul ("Deutschland Vegetarisch")

Ingredients for the Christmas Stollen
  • 250 grams dried sultanas
  • 50 ml to 100 ml dark rum, brandy or apple juice (enough to cover and soak the sultanas)
  • 500 grams AP (plain) wheat flour (you can also use white spelt flour here)
  • 2 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 150 grams super fine (caster) baking sugar
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla sugar (or homemade)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1-2 tsps Stollen Spice Mix*(according to your personal taste)
  • 200 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 250 grams, curd cheese also called "quark", room temperature (fat reduced)
  • finely grated zest from one organic orange
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 100 grams golden raisins (Stevan Paul´s recipe calls for diced candied lemon peel)
  • 100 grams chopped, natural almonds (Stevan Paul´s recipe calls for diced candied orange peel)
  • some unsalted melted butter for brushing the warm baked caked (as needed, about 50 grams)
  • a generous amount of powdered sugar to dust the cake (as needed, about 25 grams)
*If you cannot find Stollen Spice Mix at a store or online, you can make your own, following the recipe below.

  1. Warm the rum or juice. Soak the sultanas/raisins/currants either in the rum, brandy or the apple juice and let sit at room temperature, overnight.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. Prepare a baking sheet, cover with parchment paper (baking parchment) or use a Silpat non-stick baking mat to line your baking sheet. NOTE: If you are using a specialty Stollen baking pan, brush with melted butter, dust with flour, tap out excess flour and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and spice mix.
  5. In the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter, curd cheese, and orange zest until smooth, then beat in the egg.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  7. Stir in the golden raisins (or candied fruit peel if using) and the chopped almonds.
  8. Shape the dough in a roughly oval form, fold dough in half lengthwise and place it on the prepared baking sheet. OR: using a Stollen baking pan, place the dough in the pan and press it in, then place the filled baking pan on the prepared baking sheet, making sure, you place it "upside down".
  9. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until golden on top. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  10. While still warm brush generously with melted butter and dust very liberally with powdered sugar. You can repeat this step to create a generous white coating. Let cool.
NOTE 1: Stollen should set for at least one day before serving.
NOTE 2: If wrapped really well, the Stollen will keep for about two weeks in a cool, dry place.

Stollen Spice Mix (Stollengewürz-Mischung)
(feel free to double or triple the quantities, as needed)

Ingredients for the Spice Mix
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I always use Ceylon cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace

Preparation of the Stollen Spice Mix
  1. Carefully measure out the spices.
  2. Mix all spices well.
  3. Scoop the mix into a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Label the jar (with date and contents).
  5. Use this mixture in recipes that call for Stollen Spice Mix
  6. Discard any leftovers after four months. 

If you have not tasted Stollen before, trust me, you will be in for a treat. Why not start a new tradition this season and bake this classic German Christmas loaf known as Stollen, a spirited, spiced (use the fresh, warm spices listed above), sugar-topped confection, packed with almonds, dried fruit (raisins or sultanas are a given here), and candied citrus peel (an option).

If you would like to add Marzipan (almond paste), you can do so by using about 150 grams, all rolled up and enclosed in the middle of the dough.

It is also good to remember that Stollen keeps rather well, which lends itself to both local and national distribution – think of your neighbours, friends and family and send them some.

As you can glimpse from the pictures above, I prepared my Burnt Sugar Almonds (recipe can be found here), Dutch Pepernoten (recipe to follow in a few days), and Stollen, for a Christmas Charity Bake Sale on the weekend. I filled seasonal, labelled cellophane bags with the Almonds, cut the Stollen into thick slices and placed the cookies together with Dutch tea bags in Christmas themed mugs - all sold out at the end of the afternoon - so, go ahead and make some goodies this season, give some away and keep some for yourself!


* non-stick stollen baking pan can be ordered in the US here
* stollen baking tins can be ordered in the UK here

Friday, November 21, 2014

FFwD - Storzapreti (Corsican Spinach Gnocchi)

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is „Storzapretis (Corsican Spinach Gnocchi)“ – a wonderful dish of end of week comfort - and certainly worth making.

Gnocchi are small Italian dumplings usually made from potato, flour (traditionally buckwheat flour) and egg and shaped into small ovals with a ridged pattern on one side. They can also be made from semolina flour, as they are in Rome. Or, as in this recipe, they can be prepared with fresh ricotta or brocciu (a cheese produced from ewe's milk on the island of Corsica, where it is considered a national food). Gnocchi are often poached and then cooked au gratin (with grated cheese) in the oven and served as a hot starter. They are served in a similar way to pasta often with a cheese- or tomato-based sauce and freshly grated parmesan. They can also be added to soups, stews and casseroles.

Dorie´s recipe for the Storzapreti is a two-step process. I started with the preparation of the spinach gnocchi. You will be required to follow the recipe rather closely. Cook the spinach, drain very well and chop finely. Then add the brocciu or ricotta, an egg, grated cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano), mint or majoram (I used fresh basil and Italian parsley instead), a bit of flour, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using two tablespoons, you will form quenelle, freeze them for a good thirty minutes. While the gnocchis get the cold treatment, it is a good time to make the fresh tomato sauce – I just prepared my very favorite recipe with previously oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, a bit of garlic and more fresh basil – I reduced it quiet a bit until it had a nice, thick consistency.

Carefully cook the gnocchi in barely simmering, salted water, drain, add the tomato sauce to an oven-proof dish, layer the gnocchi in or on the sauce, add some more cheese on top, pop in the oven, bake for a bit and serve piping hot.

Whimsical pasta shapes such as these Corsican gnocchi invite inspiration in the kitchen and are just plain fun to eat. That´s at least what my taste testers thought – our kids absolutely adored them.

To see how much the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for the "Storzapreti (Corsican Spinach Gnocchi)" on pages 376-377 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Friday, November 14, 2014

FFwD - Pan-seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is „Pan-seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats“ – a restaurant-quality dish made using wonderful ingredients.

Dorie´s recipe is based on the famous French classic „Duck à l´orange“ – but her recipe replaces whole duck with Muscovy duck breasts and the syrupy orange glaze with a red-wine sauce and tart-sweet candied kumquats.

Kumquats are also called „Chinese oranges“ (although mine hailed all the way from South Africa). They are the smallest of the common citrus fruit. In contrast to other fruit from this group, the skin and zest are sweet, while the juicy insides are tart with a hint of bitterness. As they are a  winter treat, they were a bit hard to track down around here. Kumquats can be eaten whole, just as they are or cooked with sugar, spices or spirits to make sweet compôtes and aromatic chutneys.

This recipe is done in three steps. First up you have to candy the kumquats in sugar syrup. Then it is onto the sauce made of a fruity red wine, balsamic vinegar, chopped shallots, crushed black peppercorns and coriander seeds, freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade chicken broth and a few tablespoons of that lovely kumquat syrup. The third and last step is the preparation of the duck breasts.

To prepare the duck breats, using a sharp knife, slash the fat of the duck breasts in a criss-cross, cutting almost through to the flesh. Season with salt and pepper. Then heat a Dutch oven or a heavy-based frying pan, until you can feel a gentle heat, then place the duck breasts, skin-side down. Cook for eight minutes on a low to medium heat until the fat begins to melt. Spoon over the duck and season some more. When the skin begins to brown and crisp, spoon out the excess fat (there will be lots of it) to save for frying shoestring potatoes. Flip over the breasts and cook for another three minutes on the flesh side. This will give you medium-rare duck. Remove from the heat, cover with foil, place in the oven and allow to stand for five minutes,  then slice diagonally.

Divide duck breast slices among the plates. Drizzle duck with red wine sauce, garnish with candied kumquats, sprinkle with crushed peppercorns, and serve with some seasonal lambs lettuce and delectable shoestring fries made with the duck fat that you saved earlier.

This recipe is truly amazing. The sauce is dependent on a good-quality wine and the candied kumquats were delicious and easy to make. Really an elegant dish with a well balanced red wine sauce and sweet-tart candied kumquats, that both complement the duck very well. This recipe is definitely a keeper and the flavors are so appropriate for the season.

To see how much the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for the “ Pan-seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats“ on pages 232- 233 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saint Martin´s Day & Sweet Dough Men - Sankt Martin & Weckmänner

Today, on November 11th, Germans celebrate St. Martin's Day (“Martinstag”) also known as the "Feast of St. Martin of Tours". It is a special day that is particularly popular with children. 
Heute am 11. November feiert man in Deutschland Sankt Martin, auch bekannt als das "Fest des Sankt Martin von Tours". Für Kinder ist dies ein ganz besonderer Tag. 

St. Martin was born in 316 or 317 and started out as a Roman soldier, he was baptized as an adult, became a monk and was named Bishop of Tours on July 4th, 372. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life.

The most famous legend of his life is that one cold winter day, during a snowstorm, he was riding through the country when a shivering beggar came his way. Since he had neither food nor money, St. Martin cut his wollen cloak in half with his sword to share it with the freezing beggar. It is said that he thus saved the beggar from a certain death. 
Sankt Martin wurde 316 oder 317 geboren. Er wurde zunächst römischer Soldat, dann wurde er als Erwachsener getauft, wurde Mönch und am 4. Juli 372 dann Bischof von Tours. Es wird davon ausgegangen, dass er ein guter Mensch war, der ein ruhiges und einfaches Leben führte. Die berühmteste Legende seines Lebens ist, dass er an einem besonders kalten Wintertag, während eines Schneesturm über Land ritt, als er auf einen frierenden Bettler traf. Da er weder Essen noch Geld hatte bei sich hatte, teilte Sankt Martin seinen Umhang mit seinem Schwert und gab die eine Hälfte dem Bettler damit der nicht mehr frieren sollte. Es wird gesagt, dass er damit dem Bettler das Leben rettete.

Every year, St. Martin´s Day is celebrated to commemorate the day of his burial on  November 11th, 397.

In some parts of the Netherlands, in a small part of Belgium, and in some areas of Germany and Austria, children walk in St. Martin´s processions through the villages and cities. They carry colorful St. Martin´s  paper lanterns and sing St. Martin´s songs. Usually, the procession starts at a church and ends at a public square. The lantern processions are aften accompanied by an actor impersonating the Saint. He is on horseback dressed like a Roman soldier and wrapped in a red woolen cloak. When the procession reaches the town square, a St. Martin’s bonfire is lit and in some parts of Germany, such as the Rhineland (where we live) and the Ruhr area, Sweet Dough Men ("Weckmänner") are distributed to the children.
Jedes Jahr wird Sankt Martin gefeiert, um dem Tag seiner Beerdigung am 11. November 397 zu gedenken.

In einigen Teilen der Niederlande, in einem kleinen Teil Belgiens und in einigen Gebieten Deutschlands und Österreichs gehen Kinder in Martinszügen durch die Dörfer und Städte. Sie tragen bunte Martinslaternen und singen Martinslieder. In der Regel beginnt der Martinszug an einer Kirche und endet am Marktplatz. Die Martinszüge werden oft von einem Reiter begleitet, der als römischer Soldat verkleidet, Sankt Martin darstellt. Desweiteren begleiten meist auch einige Musikgruppen die Martinszüge. Am Ziel des Martinszugs wird ein Martinsfeuer entfacht und im Ruhrgebiet und im Rheinland (da wo wir leben) werden frisch gebackene Weckmänner an die Kinder verteilt.

The tradition of the mostly handcrafted paper lanterns goes back to former times, when people lit candles to honor their saints and when lanterns were put up everywhere in town when a bishop dropped by for a visit.
Die Tradition der Laternen geht zurück auf frühere Zeiten, als Menschen Kerzen anzündeten, um ihre Heiligen zu ehren und Laternen überall in der Stadt aufgestellt wurden wenn ein Bischof zu Besuch kam.

The custom of lighting a St. Martin´s bonfire after the lantern procession represents the beginning of festivities. In former times, most of the work on the fields had been completed and now it was time to celebrate, drink and eat. Traditionally, a fat goose and sweet bread treats were served.

Today, in the days and weeks leading up to the feast of St. Martin, children craft their own St. Martin´s lanterns in school or in kindergarten.

On the day of the celebrations, after participating in one of the numerous lantern procession´s, the children go door to door singing St. Martin´s songs in exchange for sweets or other small treats. Singing in exchange for candies is called "schnörzen" around here in the Rhineland.
Der Brauch des Martinfeuers am Ende des Martinszug symbolisiert den Beginn der Festlichkeiten. In früheren Zeiten war um diese Zeit die meiste Arbeit auf den Feldern war getan, und nun war es Zeit zu feiern, zu trinken und zu essen. Traditionell wurden eine fette Gans (Martinsgans) und süßes Brot serviert.

Heute, in den Tagen und Wochen vor dem Sankt Martinsfest, basteln die Kinder ihre eigenen Martinslaternen in der Schule oder im Kindergarten.

Am Tag der Feierlichkeiten gehen die Kinder nach dem Martinszug von Tür zu Tür und singen Martinslieder – sie werden mit Süßigkeiten oder anderen Kleinigkeiten belohnt. Hier im Rheinland nennen wir das "schnörzen". 

As mentioned above, to conclude the celebrations of St. Martin´s Day, the traditional treat that is given to the children after the St. Martin´s Day procession, are pastries called “Weckmänner”, baked goods in the shape of a man holding a clay pipe.

Every year, I also bake a few of these "Sweet Dough Man"(for a lack of a better translation) for family and friends.
Wie oben erwähnt, ist es nach dem Martinszug  mmer noch Tradition, dass alle Kinder, die mit dem Martinszug gegangen sind, einen Weckmann bekommen.Allerdings ist der Weckmann ursprünglich  ein Gebäck, das den Bischof Nikolaus von Myra darstellt.

Auch ich lasse es mir nicht nehmen und backe jedes Jahr zu Sankt Martin einige "Weckmänner" für Familie und Freunde.

To this day, the clay pipe that each sweet dough man carries, symbolizes an episcopal crozier, in memory of St. Martin the Bishop.
Die Tonpfeife, die die Weckmänner ziert symbolisiert einen umgedrehten Bischofsstab, in Erinnerung an St. Martin den Bischof.

The clay pipes that I always use were handcrafted in Germany and have become somewhat of a collector´s item.
Die Tonpfeifen, die ich immer benutze, werden in Deutschland handgefertigt und über die Jahre haben sich da schon einige angesammelt.

Today, on St. Martin´s Day,  we will be watching the St. Martin´s procession along our street, right in front of our house. We will decorate the front yard with lots of colorful lanterns. And after the procession, the children will carry their candle-lit lanterns from house to house in our neighbourhood singing St. Martin´s songs, receiving sweets and other little treats. We will be waiting for them with baskets full of sweets, apples and clementines.

 The festivities in memory of St. Martin bear some resemblance to Halloween that was celebrated in many parts of the world just eleven days ago. 
Heute geht ein Martinszug direkt in unsere Strasse. Wir werden den Vorgarten mit vielen bunten Laternen schmücken. Und nach dem Zug werden die Kinder in unserer Nachbarschaft mit ihren handgefertigten Martinslaternen von Haus zu Haus gehen,  Martinslieder singen, und dann Süßigkeiten oder andere Kleinigkeiten bekommen.Wir werden auf die Kinder mit Süßigkeiten, Äpfel und Clementinen warten

 Die Feierlichkeiten zu Ehren von St. Martin ähneln denen zu Halloween, das in vielen Teilen der Welt vor elf Tagen gefeiert wurde.

Sweet Dough Men
(makes six)

Ingredients for the Yeast Dough 
  • 500 grams strong flour
  • 42 grams of fresh yeast 
  • 80 grams fine (caster) sugar
  • 180 ml lukewarm milk
  • 60 grams unsalted butter 
  • 3 egg yolks (L), free-range or organic 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla sugar 
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest (organic)
  • one pinch fine sea salt
(für sechs Stück)

Zutaten für den Hefeteig
  • 500 Gramm Mehl (Type “550”)
  • 42 Gramm frische Hefe
  • 80 Gramm feinster Zucker
  • 180 ml lauwarme Milch
  • 100 Gramm Butter, geschmolzen
  • 3 Eigelbe (L), Freiland oder Bio 
  • 1 ½ TL Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 1 TL geriebene Zitronenschale (Bio)
  • eine Prise feines Meersalz

Ingredients for the Topping
  • 1 egg yolk (L), free-range or organic 
  • 2 tbsp.milk
  • a few raisins for the eyes, mouth and buttons
  • clay pipes * OR small lollipops 

Special Equipment needed
  • 2 baking sheets
  • baking parchment
  • soft brush
Zutaten für den Belag
  • 1 Eigelb (L), Freiland oder Bio
  • 2 TL Milch
  • ein paar Rosinen für Augen, Mund und Knöpfe
  • Tonpfeifen oder kleine Lutscher

  • 2 Backbleche
  • Backpapier
  • Backpinsel

Preparation of the Yeast Dough
  1. Put the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center of the flour.
  2. Then add the fresh yeast to the warm milk together with the sugar, stir to dissolve, pour the yeast mixture into the well, cover with some of the flour.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave the starter to rise for about 10 minutes.
  4. Then add the butter, egg yolks, pure vanilla sugar, lemon zest and salt to the flour mixture. Mix all the ingredients together and knead well.
  5. Cover again, leave the dough to rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead. Return the dough to the bowl.
  7. Cover the dough and let rise again until it has doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  9. Knead the dough and divide into 6 pieces to form into gingerbread men shaped "Weckmänner".
  10. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  11. Place the pastries onto the prepared baking sheets, cover and leave to rise again for 10 minutes.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the 2 tbsp. milk.
  13. Brush the pastries with the egg wash and decorate with raisins for the eyes, mouths and buttons. Add clay pipes (if using).
  14. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes until deep golden. Let cool on racks.*NOTE: unfortunately I am unable to locate a U.S. source for the clay pipes. Please let me know of a source if you know one.
Zubereitung des Hefeteigs
  1. Das Mehl in eine Schüssel geben, in die Mitte eine Vertiefung drücken.
  2. Die Hefe und den Zucker in der warmen Milch auflösen, in die Mulde gießen und mit Mehl vom Rand bestreuen.
  3. Zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort 10 Minuten gehen lassen.
  4. Butter, Eigelbe, Vanillezucker, Zitronenschale und Salz zum Mehl geben und alles zu einem glatten Teig verarbeiten.
  5. Zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort zirka 30 Minuten gehen lassen.
  6. Dann mit den Händen auf der leicht bemehlten Arbeitsfläche gut durchkneten. Den Teig wieder in die Schüssel geben.
  7. Zugedeckt weitere 40 Minuten gehen lassen, bis sich der Teig verdoppelt hat.
  8. Den Backofen auf 190 Grad Celsius vorheizen.
  9. Den Teig zusammenkneten, in 6 Portionen teilen und Weckmänner formen.
  10. Zwei Backbleche mit Backpapier auslegen.
  11. Die Weckmänner auf die vorbereiteten Backbleche legen und zugedeckt noch einmal 10 Minuten gehen lassen.
  12. In einer kleinen Schüssel das Eigelb mit den 2 EL Milch verquirlen.
  13. Die gegangenen Weckmänner damit bestreichen und mit den Rosinen Augen, Mund und Knöpfe eindrücken. Tonpfeifen auflegen.
  14. Die Weckmänner für zirka 20 Minuten backen.Vom Blech nehmen und auf einem Gitter abkühlen. 

Have a wonderful St. Martin´s Day today!
Viel Spaß beim Martinsfest heute!