On November 11, children in Germany celebrate St Martin’s Day by parading with Lanterns, and munching on a Stutenkerl, also known as Weckmann or Kiepenkerl. But… What IS a Stutenkerl? What is a Weckmann? Are they the same thing? It turns out, these baked men… like a sweetened yeast dough version of a Gingerbread man… date back to the Middle Ages. Now, every time I bake a batch of Stutenkerl, they end up looking like they have been visiting their Omas. And where do the necks go??? No matter, they taste good… and they certainly look happy.
Learn more about Weckmänner and Stutenkerle, and get a recipe to bake them.
What is a Stutenkerl
In the northern and western part of Germany, “Stuten” is a soft, slightly sweetened, yeast bread. And, a “Kerl” is a guy or a man. So, logically, Stutenkerl is a guy or man made from sweetened yeast dough. Pretty simple. Much like the word “Weck” is another word for roll… Weckmann is used more in the Southern part of Germany. To make it more confusing, this little bread man is also called Hefekerl (yeast man), Klaaskerl (Dutch for Nicholas Man), Stutenmann (bread man), Männele (little man), Boxemännchen (in Luxembourg), Grittibänz and Grättimaa (in Switzerland). And of course, Kiepenkerl (like the traveling Merchant statue in Münster). Proving once again, that Germans are a nation divided by the same language….
Long confusing story short… a Stutenkerl is a Bread Man, and in this case, he represents St Martin.
But why is a Stutenkerl or Weckmann given on St Martin’s Day? Ahhh… this is a story I love. St Martin was a kind and generous man who once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar. And a Stutenkerl or Weckmann, looks like Bishop Martin… and tastes better when shared. So, find someone you enjoy being with, and share a Stutenkerl while celebrating St Martin’s Day.
When the Stutenkerl or Weckmann were first made in the Middle Ages, they held a Bishops Crook. Somewhere along the way, most likely during the Reformation, the crook was flipped around, and it became a little clay pipes. This made the Kerl look less like a Bishop, and more like a regular guy. (My mom remembers pretending to smoke with the pipes… I’m sure kids today still do!). Unfortunately, the clay pipes are difficult to get here in the United States, but they are available to order from Germany HERE
A Stutenkerl or Weckman is made from a sweetened dough… but it’s not SWEET like American Pastry is sweet. Some kids might prefer to eat their Stutenkerl with butter and jam or marmalade, like you would a Brötchen.
Step by Step Photos for How to Shape a Stutenkerl or Weckmann
Make the Sweetened Yeast Dough… according to the Above Recipe, and let it Rise
Cut the Dough into the Number of Pieces You Desire
I cut mine into 8 pieces… and made 8 Stutenkerl, about 6-7 inches tall.
(If you want to make special features on your Stutenkerl using dough, save a little aside to use after shaping)
Shape each piece of Dough into a sort of Rectangle
Pinch in a bit at the “neck”
Use a Knife to cut Arms on Each Side
Just cut in at an angle…
Now cut from the Bottom to make Legs
Spread apart the Arms and Legs
Maybe give them a little bit of shape… I also pinched the top of the “head” to make him wear a hat.
You can cross the Arms across the Chest
(if you have a pipe, tuck it under the arm)
(If you saved dough to make features, do it now)
Ready to Rise Again!
After the Shaped Dough Rises Again… Paint them with Egg Wash
Now Give Your Stutenkerl some Features!
eyes, mouth… buttons… beard…. up to you.
Cool on a Rack
I like to eat mine with butter and Jam