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)
- Put the flour in a bowl, make an indentation in the center of the flour and crumble the yeast into the indentation.
- 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.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave the starter to rise for about 15 minutes.
- 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.
- Leave the dough to rise in a warm draft free area for another 60 minutes OR until the dough has doubled in size.
- In the meantime, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle and cut into angled triangles.
- Roll the dough triangles into croissant shaped pastries.
- 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.
- Preheat your oven to 200° C.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the 2 tbsp. milk.
- Carefull brush the pastries with the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
- Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes (agian, depending on the size you make these) OR until deep golden.
- It's best to let the Martinshörnchen rest for a few minutes before taking them off the parchement and transferring them to cooling racks.
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)