There are so many great things to love about Switzerland. Chocolate, Emmentaler cheese, fondue, Roger Federer, Raclette cheese, precision timepieces, Gruyère cheese, Swiss banks, Roger Federer, stunning mountains, rösti, alpine hiking, .. did I mention Roger Federer…?
Lucky for me, I have a good friend who is Swiss. Whenever Pamela comes back from a trip to Switzerland, she always brings back wonderful goodies from her home country, like chocolates, cookies, and biscuits. She’s also a fabulous cook and baker who knows a lot about Swiss food traditions (and incidentally hits a mean tennis ball). Last week she invited me to spend a fun morning in her kitchen learning how to make Grittibänz!
Grittibänz, are charming little bread-men that are a popular holiday treat in Switzerland. Roughly translated – “Gritti” refers to a figure with legs apart, and “bänz” is the short form for the name Benedikt. Some say these adorable little bread-men represent Santa Claus, or “Samichlaus” in Swiss German 🙂 They’re widely made in homes and bakeries across the German speaking part of the country beginning to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. They’re a beloved tradition throughout the holiday season.
The bread is made from a lightly sweet yeast dough, similar to brioche or challah. The dough is shaped into little people, with arms and legs akimbo, often with a pointy hat, and they’re decorated with currants, nuts, candies, coarse sugar and sometimes a pipe. These little guys really have personality. They can range from elaborate, detailed figures, to very simple and rustic, to slightly deformed, like some of my first attempts above…
Whatever form they take, they’re fun to make with your kids and they’re delicious- fluffy, soft and lightly sweet, and great with a cup of coffee! Check out the recipe below- Thanks Pamela!
- 7 g yeast ( about 1½ teaspoon)
- 500 g flour (about 3 cups)
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 70 g sugar (about ½ cup)
- 70 g butter (about ½ cup), softened
- 2.5 dl milk (about 1 cup)
- 1 egg
- Lemon zest (optional)
- 1 egg yolk
- Almonds, raisins, Craisins, coarse sugar for decorating
- In a cup, mix the yeast with a little sugar. Place the flour in a bowl and mix it with salt and sugar, softened butter, lukewarm milk, egg, lemon zest and the yeast mixture. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Cover an leave to rise in a warm place to twice the size.
- Knead the dough again, use a knife to cup off pieces of the dough in the desired size and roll out to an oval shape. Mark the head by pressing the dough together slightly and turn the head to the back to make the neck. Cut out the arms and legs and place them in required position.
- Decorate the figures with raisins and almonds and trim the hat with remnants of dough. Leave to rise and put in a cold place for 20 to 30 minutes. Before baking, brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with coarse, granulated sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven.