For new years morning I baked my traditional New years pretzel, Westerwälder Neujährchen and Rheinische Neujährchen. The swirly form of the Rheinische Neujährchen may looks familiar to some of you. It is one of the forms that is used traditional for Lussekatter. And in Tyrol there is a Bread called “Thomasradl” which is baked during Christmas time in this form. The wide spread of this form is a hint that baking breads in this forms stems from a pre-Christian time. It is discussed that its a leftover of the midwinter fest and is a symbol for the sun.
I like the idea of sun very much as I am waiting each year in January to the days get visibly longer again.
The Saint Martin’s Day is a celebrated through whole Germany. The traditions anyway vary from region to region. In the Bergische Land, where I live, and in the Rhineland, one tradition is to give a Weckmann to each child after the lantern procession. In other regions instead of this weckmann they get a Martinsbrezel (Martin’s pretzel).
I learned about these tradition quiet recently and did some researching then. And interestingly this tradition is rather wide spread and there are differnt kinds of pretzels. In some regions, they are topped with pearl sugar before baking while in other regions they are brushed with butter and turned in fine sugar after baking.
I decided to try the second variant. Due to the big amount of sugar decided to use only a small anount of sugar in the dough. And then these pretzel are big treat – they may not replace a weckmann in this house but are a good addition to them!
During the last weeks I planned my recipes according to different leftovers I found in my flour storage boxes. Now, they are (almost) tidy and I can come back to my personal favourites: regional bread recipes.
The special thing on regional recipes is the fact, that they are hard to find. They are often so common in their region that no one recognize them as that what they are: little recipe gems which can be found only in a narrow area. Only when an habitant moves into a area farer away, he or she will learn that this common everyday bread is not known in this part of the world. Nevertheless I stumble over a recipe from time to time or one of my readers askes for a special recipe and so I can enlarge my collection continuously.
The Butter Blatz is such a readers request. Blatz can be found in the southern Rhineland and in the Bergische Land and is baked in different variants: filled with raisins or almonds or topped with crumbles. The plain butter blatz variant is shaped to long loaf and cut serveal times on both sides prior to baking. This gives the bread the appearance of a leaf and looks just beautiful.
Goldknödel, the Transylvanian variant of monkey bread, is a all-time family favourite in the extended family. But as we have a genetic deposition for fructose intolerance some family members have to have a close look on their fructose intake. And as my favourite cousin asked for a low fructose Goldknödel for her birthday a work-over was necessary.
The main point was exchanging sugar (saccharose) with glucose. And as I made the experience before that to much glucose will dry the dough, I added a water roux to keep the dough fluffy soft and moist. As my cousin can eat some nuts, I halved the normal amount. Adding some tonka bean helps to replace the missing nut flavour.
And with this few changes on the recipe it results in a cake that tastes nearly indistinguishable with the “normal” variant. If you can not tolerate nuts at all, I would replace it with a teaspoon of cinnamon. That gives the cake a different flavour, but tastes good too.
I stumpled about the Neheimer Stütchen during a guided tour in the cologne cathedral. It was the fact that Count Gottfried von Arnsberg IV. is buried as the only not clerical person. This prominat burial place he got because of a very generous gift to the cologne bishop – and to ensure that the people in his county would pray for him after his death he gifted a very good forest to the city of Neheim. The forest still exists and from the yearly gain of it several celebrations are paid: each year a wreath is laid down at his tomb in the cathedral, there are count gottfried games and all children of the city get a roll called “Neheimer Stütchen” at the 4th september.
The Neheimer Stütchen is a sweet milk roll, a bit larger then normal and already that tempted me. And as this story is such a nice one that it fits very well in my blog series of regional, traditional breads. And so I baked my version of this roll, with a biga for aroma and a water roux for fluffy soft crumb.
And the next recipe is again a recipe which circled for a long time in my mind before I would write it down. But as soon as I had penned it to paper I was itchy to try it. But with sometime circumstances slowing me down. This time it was first the bread baking course I gave and then the monthly bread baking day in the old wood fired community oven in our local history museum which keeps me from testing. And as I bake more then one bread in the wood fired oven my freezer was afterwards well stocked and with no free space. But…
… I found an excuse for baking the recipe anyway (visiting family or friends is always a good excuse – I can not come with empty hands, can I?).
Another discovery of my search for regional breads is the Salzweck. Its a roll which stems from the region Baden and which is formed in a special way. Its rim is folded in a similar way like used for Kärntener Kasnudeln or for the Handsemmeln. Its not so difficult to form and to proof this I took a video from the forming process.
The roll comes golden brown out of the oven and provides a fluffy soft crumb under its crisp crust. This is due to the combination of the macial combination of egg yolk, butter, enzyme active malt and vitamin C from the powdered rose hip. To make the flavour deep and complex, I added a Biga to the dough, too. Taken together this yields a beautiful looking roll with great aroma!
In this year Indian summer lasted long. But now the days are getting shorter and air is chilly when I leave the house in the morning. And when I drive through the range of the hills I can see the first sun rays turning the misty valleys below into golden lakes. It is autumn, finally.
And so a recipe, which I got from a reader some weeks ago, fits into this beginning autumn very well. It is a recipe for pumpkin “Stuten”. Literally the term “Stuten” means “Mare” and my reader was very puzzled about it when she moved to Oldenburg many years ago and the bakeries were advertising “It is Pumpkin-Stuten time again”. But in Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein the term means “sweet bread” as well as “horse”. And this pumpkin bread was a steady companion for my reader in the following years.
And when I asked for local recipes she sent a recipe from her kids kindergarten. I modified it strongly (ok, I tore it down and rebuild it from the fragments), so it contains now much less yeast but a preferment and some more liquid, too. And I kneaded the dough much longer as well. All of this together makes the bread irresistibly soft and aromatic. A great bread for autumn!
A reader told me about “Schulmäusen” (School mice), a small sweet roll filled with hazelnut praline. She tried to bake similar rolls in a spelt variant but struggled with them getting to dry. My brain worked a while on this idea in the background and came up with a recipe at the end – just in time for school start. As the name “Schulmaus” is a brand name, I decided to call my rolls Spelt mice and formed most of them like a mouse, too. But if you do not roll one end into a long tail, then you get the original form, too.
They are not a healthy snack, but a treat for small and big ones with a sweet tooth. The crumb is fluffy and the filling creamy – a good way to make school start a bit sweeter!
This Sandwich bread is a readers wish. But I needed two rounds, until I was really satisfied. In the first Variant I had a boiled soaker with whole spelt flour and seeds, but this added to much liquid to the dough. This resulted in a very instable crumb. The recipe needed adjustments!
The bread (in both tries) is a pure spelt flour with 30 percent whole grain flour and amixture of flax seeds, sesame and sun flower seeds for an extra nuttiness. The preferment is a biga made from whole spelt flour. This has many advantages: the whole grain flour has enough time to soak up the liquid, a biga helps to strength the gluten network and it adds complex flavour nuances, too. As every sandwich bread this bread needs a fully developed gluten network, and spelt is a sensible. So it is needed to keep a close eye on the dough to find the perfect spot.
At the rerun of the recipe I used a bit mashed potato for fluffiness and a soaker with an only moderate amount of water. This makes the dough recognizable firmer, the dough is easier to handle and the fluffy crumb gets enough stability. So what was my lecture of this day? Sometimes less (water) is more!