Thursday, November 7, 2019

St. Martin's Day Sweet Pretzels - Süße Martinsbrezeln zu St. Martin

St. Martin’s Day (this special day is also known as 'Martinmas') is coming up on Monday, November 11. It is the feast day that celebrates the life of one-time soldier, turned bishop, St. Martin of Tours. I have written about St. Martin’s day celebrations at length in the past, including the St. Martin bonfires (Martinsfeuer), the handcrafted St. Martin's paper lanterns (Martinslaternen) and the processions (Martinszüge) – this is a wonderful feast day, one of my favorites. Last week, I was asked to put together a feature for a local radio show about this festive day (more coming up on this blog soon). So during my research, I came across a number of wonderful recipes and traditions, too many to crowd them all into one post, so I plan on posting a few recipe ideas within the next couple of days.

Today I’m beginning my series on St. Martins Day feast day bakes with this recipe for St. Martin’s Day Sweet Pretzels (Süsse Martinsbrezel). They are pretzels with a double twist, sweet, pillowy, brushed with melted butter before and after baking and then doused with vanilla-cinnamon-sugar. The yeast dough is enriched with milk, butter, sugar and heavy sour cream (Schmand as it is known here) I enjoy anything made with an enriched dough like French brioche, Italian panettone, doughnuts, Britsish hot cross buns, German raisin buns (Rosinenbrötchen), etc. If you cannot get your hands on Schmand, using full-fat Greek yogurt will do the trick.

So here we go. This is what I call a fun recipe, a recipe that’s fun to make and fun to share. And, after all, St. Martin's Day is all about sharing.

It’s is also a real treat, these pretzel are so good eaten while still warm and fresh out of the oven and the kitchen smells just great while these are baking. Just perfect for the gloomy wheather we are having these days, a true afternoon delight alongside a cup of hot tea.

St. Martin’s Day Sweet Pretzels - Süße Martinsbrezeln

  • 500g strong baking flour (around here that’s ‚Type 550‘) OR use 500g white spelt flour OR use AP (plain) flour, plus some to work the dough
  • 150ml lukewarm milk
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • 1 tbsp molasses (I like to use ‚Rübenkraut‘, a type of regional sugar beet molasses) OR use runny honey
  • 80g melted butter
  • 200g heavy sour cream (called ‚Schmand‘ around here, this is like a sour cream with a 20% fat content), make sure it’s room temperature
  • 80g superfine (baking) sugar
  • 8g vanilla sugar
  • grated zest of ½ organic (untreated) lemon
  • pinch of fine salt


To brush the pretzels before baking
  • 2 tbsp warm milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
To brush the pretzels after baking
  • scraped seeds from a vanilla bean (you can substitute pure vanilla sugar)
  • 100g superfine (baking) sugar
  • ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 50g melted butter

  1. Put the flour in a large bowl and create a well in the center of the flour.
  2. In a jug, mix together the lukewarm milk with the crumbled yeast and the molasses, stir to dissolve.
  3. Then pour the milk mixture into the well in the flour. Using a fork, mix some of the flour onto the milk mixture - just enough to cover the starter. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave the starter to rise for about 15 minutes.
  4. Then add the melted butter, the heavy sour cream, the sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon zest and salt to the flour mixture. Mix all the ingredients together and knead to form a rough dough.
  5. Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled kitchen wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  6. In the meantime, line two or more (if you have them) baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside. Mix together the second topping, that is, the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean, the sugar and the cinnamon. NOTE: keep the vanilla bean and add it to a jar filled with sugar for homemade vanilla sugar.
  7. Once risen, knock out the air bubbles in the dough and divide into 16 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a long rope about 50 cm long. NOTE: if you prefer big, fat pretzels, feel free to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces instead, make sure to extend the baking time by up to 10 minutes.
  8. To form into pretzels, lay the rope in a U-shape with the curve pointing towards you. Take the two ends and cross them over twice. Take the ends, lift them backwards and press them into the curve of the U-shape. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  9. Carefully place the pretzels onto your prepared baking sheets. Lightly brush with the first topping (lukewarm milk mixed together with melted butter).
  10. Cover lightly with oiled kitchen wrap. Set aside for about 15 minutes or longer until puffy (not completely risen as you would need for a bread dough).
  11. While the pretzels are rising, heat your oven to 180°C.
  12. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Brush the warm pretzels with the first topping, that is melted butter and sprinkly rather genously with the vanilla-cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  13. Enjoy warm or at room temperature – pls note, these are best eaten the day they were made.

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

  • St. Martin's Day Crescents (Martinshörnchen) 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. These look so lovely and sound absolutely delicious Andrea! Here's to St. Martin the inspiration for this feast!

    1. Thank you for that kind comment - so many recipes and so little time to celebrate this special day ;) These Martinsbrezeln are quite the treat and definitely worth making for St. Martin or, for that matter, any other teatime wit family and friends!

  2. Lucky that we have St. Martin to inspire this lovely recipe! What is the interior texture like? Sorry your weather has been so bad - reminds me of one of the first phrases I learned in German - "Fürchtbares Wetter, nicht?" We have been having the best weather and this month - November - is sunset season in Tucson. Every evening we are treated to blazing skies!

    1. Dear David, yes, we are lucky indeed and, what's even better, there's more to come...
      As far as the texture of these afternoon delights is concerned, they are soft, pillowy, almost a bit like soft baked doughnuts. Certainly worth making, if you ask me.
      Liebe Grüsse,

  3. These pretzels look so good as well - very soft and light!

    1. Thank you Amy, these Pretzels are soft and pillowy and with just enough cinnamon-vanilla-sugar coating to sweeten the deal ;)

  4. Andrea, I loved reading this post! It's like a history lesson where I'm transported back in time, yet I'm still cozy at home with a warm, delicious sweet pretzel and a steaming cup of tea! These sweet pretzels would be such a treat - my kids would go crazy over them!

    1. Dear Kelly, what a lovely and kind comment! Thank you! I made these fort he first time this year and, I must confess, that these are my favorites among all the festive St. Martin's Day bakes that I made this year and, trust me when I say that I went slightly overboard with new recipes this year...:)

  5. Oh go I don't know which one I like the best, the dough men, crescent or this pretzel with vanilla and cinnamon sugar on top...such a difficult about one of each?
    Have a great week my dear!