Saturday, November 9, 2019

St. Martin's Day Crescents - Martinshörnchen

For the second festive bake, I chose Martinshörnchen. These are crescent-shaped rolls, said to originate in Saxony (Saxony, or Sachsen, is the tenth largest of Germany's sixteen states) literally‚ 'St. Martin’s little Crescents‘. Similar to the recipe I featured in my previous post, these Crescents are made with a simple yeast dough enriched with sugar, vanilla, butter, whole milk and fresh eggs. And like the St. Martin's Day Sweet Pretzels (Süße Martinsbrezeln) they are best eaten the day they were baked.

They are equally wonderful for afternoon tea as they are for breakfast, of course. But, originally, they were handed out after the Martinssingen - this being a popular custom where children go through the suburbs from door to door after the onset of dusk carrying their colorful paper lanterns and singing Martinslieder (St Martin's Eve songs).

The shape of the Martinshörnchen is inspired by the most famous legend surrounding the life of St. Martin. The Crescents are said to symbolize the cloak that St. Martin of Tours cut with his military sword and shared with a beggar. According to medieval accounts about his life, Martin was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity after an encounter with a beggar at the gate of the city of Amiens in Northern France. Martin cut his cloak in half in order to share it with the beggar, who that night appeared to him in a dream and revealed himself to be Christ. This experience encouraged Martin to renounce the army and be baptized. He became a priest and was appointed bishop of Tours in 371. For more details about St. Martin's life, pls go HERE or HERE.

St. Martin´s Day Crescents - Martinshörnchen


For the Yeast Dough
  • 500g strong bread flour (around here Type '550') OR go with AP (plain) flour, plus some extra for flouring 
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • 250ml whole milk (I like to use 3.5%), lukewarm
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic if possible
  • 80g superfine (caster) sugar
  • 8g OR 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter, soft
  • one pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp rum (you can leave out the rum, if you want but them make sure to add the zest of 1/2 organic or untreated lemon)

For the Eggwash
  • 1 egg yolk (L), free-range or organic if possible
  • 2 tbsp whole milk 

For the Finish
  • some pearl sugar*

Special Equipment needed
  • 2 baking sheets
  • parchment paper suitable for baking

Preparation of the Yeast Dough

(yields about 12 crescents, depending on the size you choose - pls remember that with varying size, the baking time will vary as well)
  1. Put the flour in a bowl, make an indentation in the center of the flour and crumble the yeast into the indentation.
  2. Then add 1 tbsp of the sugar and 5 tbsp of the milk to the yeast in the center of the flour. Using a fork, mix some of the flour into the yeast-sugar-milk mixture - just enough to cover the starter.
  3. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave the starter to rise for about 15 minutes.
  4. Then add the egg, the remaining sugar, vanilla sugar, butter, salt, rum (or lemon zest) and the remaining milk to the flour mixture. Mix all the ingredients together and knead, until bubbles form and the dough does not stick to the mixing bowl anymore. Tip onto your lightly floured work surface and continue to knead for a few minutes until you have an elastic, smooth dough.
  5. Leave the dough to rise in a warm draft free area for another 60 minutes OR until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. In the meantime, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle and cut into angled triangles.
  8. Roll the dough triangles into croissant shaped pastries.
  9. Place the pastries onto the prepared baking sheets, cover with lightly oil food wrap OR with a loose plastic bag and leave to rise again for 15 minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 200° C.
  11. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the 2 tbsp. milk.
  12. Carefull brush the pastries with the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
  13. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes (agian, depending on the size you make these) OR until deep golden. 
  14. It's best to let the Martinshörnchen rest for a few minutes before taking them off the parchement and transferring them to cooling racks.
 *Pearl sugar is a type of specialty sugar used in baking. Sugar crystals are compressed together to form larger nibs of sugar, hence it's also called 'nib sugar'. You can find it at specialty stores, online, OR you can even make it yourself. You could also skip the pearl sugar and sub with a generous dusting of powdered sugar after baking and cooling the Martinshörnchen.

Serve while still warm, if possible - as is, because, of course, they are wonderful enjoyed plain as 'fingerfood'. But if you want to gild the lily or serve them for afternoon tea, offer your freshly baked Martinshörnchen together with some good farm fresh butter and homemade jelly or jam (you know, the one you bought at the farmer's market and have not had a chance to use yet) or, my favorite, honey from your local beekeeper.

For more special St. Martin's Day recipes, please take a look at these lovely festive bakes:

  • St. Martin's Day Sweet Pretzel (Süße Martinsbrezeln) HERE
  • Saint Martin´s Day Sweet Dough Men I (Weckmänner) HERE
  • Saint Martin´s Day Sweet Dough Men II (Weckmänner) HERE

To celebrate Martin Luther (who, btw was named after 'Martin' and baptized on November 11, 1483)

  • Yeast Luther Roses with Raisins & Cherry Jam (HERE)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you kindly, dear Gloria!
      Glad you like these special St. Martin's Day Crescents, a very nice treat this time of year!

  2. With both the waldorf and Tinkergarten programs my kids have done, they've done a little lantern walk with songs. We just did the outdoor lantern walk last weekend when daylight savings time ended. It was really lovely, but I wish we had some of these delicious crescents to go along with it!

    1. Oh, Amy, that is so nice to know - must have been a lot of fun participating with your twins in a little lantern walk with songs. Just in case you are looking for a nice little treat to bake for St Martin's Day next year, you might want to consider these St. Martin's Crescents or the Pretzel ;) Our kids and their friends love them!

  3. Andrea, such a delicious treat with an inspiring history behind it! I find it fascinating to learn about your holidays and celebrations that seem all but forgotten in the US. These crescents look so delicious with their shiny finish and sprinkling of pearl sugar!

    1. Dear Kelly, I have a definite week spot for culinary history and I just can't help myself but talk about and try a lot of traditional recipes - it's a lot of fun and it's also fascinating to me and, of course, along the way, I always hope that some of the historic fun facts (as I like to refer to them) will be remembered, maybe by the readers and friends of my blog, my family and our friends.
      Thank you kindly for stopping by!

  4. I think I would love one of these with my morning cocoa. Mark suggested I make them for Christmas - wrong holiday but maybe St. Martin wouldn't mind sharing them? Hope you are well, my friend!

    1. Dear David, at the end of the day, St. Martin's Day celebrations are all about sharing - sharing is always good, no matter what the occasion, so making these Weckmänner for Christmas or any other special or 'ordinary' day of the year and sharing them with family, friends and/or guests is totally within the spirit of St. Martin's day ;)
      Thank you for stopping by, my friend!

  5. I'll take mine with butter! What a yummy treat!

    1. Thank you kindly, dear Liz! With butter or jam or honey or without, these are a rather enjoyable treat!
      Thanks for your comment,

  6. These little crescent rolls look fabulous and I especially like the crispy pearl sugar on it...thanks Andrea!