This Stutenkerl - a German-sweetened yeast dough in the shape of a man is traditionally served around St. Martins Day, and sometimes St. Nicholas Day, in Germany.
This is a veganized version of the traditional German recipe that tastes just as delicious. It costs only $2 per serving, is entirely dairy-free, and is such a fun activity to make that you can even include children!
If you love German food make sure to check out our German recipe collection. You will love these Franzbrötchen (German cinnamon rolls), this Russischer Zupfkuchen (German chocolate cheesecake), and these sweet pretzels.
🍞 What is a Stutenkerl?
Everyone has nostalgic foods from their childhood. One of them for me is definitely the Stutenkerl! A yeasted bread dough formed and baked into little men that actually dates back to the Middle Ages. These baked men typically carry a small clay pipe and are served on St. Martins Day (November 11th), and sometimes during Christmas time on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th).
"Stuten” meaning ‘sweet leavened dough’, and “Kerl” meaning 'lad' or ‘fellow’’. In some regions the Stutenkerl is referred to as Weckmann or Kiepenkerl. As mentioned, it is a sweetened yeast dough, however it's not SWEET like American Pastry is sweet. The fluffy bread has just a slight undertone of sweetness. If you are a fan of very sweet treats I totally recommend dipping these delicious Stutenkerl vegan into your favorite jam! It's super good!
🇩🇪 The tradition of St. Martins Day
On November 11, children in Germany celebrate St. Martins Day by parading with Lanterns (that they usually made themselves at school) and singing Martin’s songs. The evening often starts or leads to a public square where actors play the story of St. Martin. The parading crowd is usually led by the actor impersonating the Saint, dressed up as a Roman soldier riding on a horse.
At the very end, people gather around a large bonfire (called “Martinsfeuer”) to sing more songs dedicated to St. Martin, munch on sweet pastries like Stutenkerl, and drink German hot chocolate (Kakao) or mulled wine (Glühwein). Arriving at the Martinsfeuer also means the excitement of getting a paper bag full of treats! In my hometown, they would fill the “Martinstüte” with a Stutenkerl, a clementine or apple, and some nuts like walnuts or peanuts. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole night!
- Unbleached All-Purpose Flour: Flour is the backbone of the Stutenkerl, providing the groundwork for its fluffy texture and rise.
- Cane Sugar: Not just for sweetness! Cane sugar gets the yeast going, helping the dough rise and giving that lovely golden crust.
- Dry Yeast: The magic behind the fluffiness! This yeast teams up with sugar, creating bubbles that make our Stutenkerl light and airy.
- Oat Milk: This liquid brings richness and helps the dough stay moist, giving our Stutenkerl that tender crumb and a bit of creaminess.
- Vegan Butter: Adding that buttery goodness and softness to the dough, vegan butter makes our Stutenkerl rich and delightful.
- Lemon Juice and Lemon Peel: A zesty addition! Lemon perks up the dough, giving it a refreshing, citrusy kick for that extra zing.
- Raisins: These little gems are the Stutenkerl's features, bringing sweetness and a chewy bite, making each figure unique and delicious.
For those seeking alternatives, consider:
- Using different types of plant-based milk or butter to suit your taste preferences.
- Experiment with gluten-free flour blends, if you want them GF!
- Try different citrus zest variations, such as orange or lime, to add a unique twist to the flavor.
While traditionally shaped into little men, there’s room for personal touch:
- Play with shapes and sizes, forming unique figures beyond the classic 'little men'. Some shape ideas include a goose, other animals, or numbers.
- Experiment with toppings like nuts, seeds, or dried fruits for added texture and flavor.
- Incorporate almond extract or vanilla essence into the dough for a delightful nutty or sweet flavor. These extracts add a lovely aromatic depth to your homemade Stutenkerl.
- For a unique combination, infuse the dough with cocoa powder and add a hint of orange zest. This mix provides a delightful chocolate-orange flavor that can be both festive and comforting.
For preparation, have your mixing bowl, baking sheet, parchment paper, and a rolling pin at the ready.
A dough scraper is helpful to shape your Stutenkerl, and if you can get them decorate your Stutenkerle with clay pipes!
✨ Expert Tips
- Allow the dough ample time to rise for the best texture and flavor. A warm, draft-free spot is ideal for this. If you place the dough in a slightly warm (not hot) oven, it can speed up the rising process.
- Consistency in ingredient measurements and dough texture is crucial. Use a kitchen scale for accuracy and aim for a dough that's soft, smooth, and slightly tacky but not overly sticky.
- Ensure proper kneading for a smooth and elastic dough. The "windowpane test" is handy; stretch a small piece of dough between your fingers. If it becomes translucent without tearing, it's ready.
💭 Recipe FAQ
Shaping Stutenkerle involves creating distinct figures that hold their form during baking. A key tip is to ensure a firm and tight shaping of the dough, especially in areas like the head and arms. Additionally, gently press any decorations, like raisins or clay pipes, firmly into the dough to prevent displacement during baking. The proper shaping ensures the figures maintain their individual shapes and features as they rise and bake.
Absolutely! While the traditional recipe involves ingredients like lemon juice and zest, you can experiment with various flavor additions to the dough. Consider spices like cinnamon or nutmeg for a warm touch, or almond extract for a nutty flavor. Dried fruits, such as chopped apricots or cranberries, can add a sweet twist. Experimenting with different flavors allows you to create unique variations of Stutenkerle that suit your taste preferences.
Absolutely! While the classic Stutenkerle are shaped like little men, you can get creative with different shapes and decorations. Try forming animals, hearts, or even abstract shapes. Additionally, consider using various toppings like nuts, seeds, or even dried fruits for a unique touch. This allows for a fun and creative baking experience, letting you tailor the figures to suit different occasions or personal preferences.
🥣 Storage and Freezing
For optimal taste, freshly baked is ideal, but if time is a constraint for you, bake them no more than a day ahead. Once cooled, store at room temperature in a bread box, cake container, or paper bag.
Before indulging, lightly moisten and briefly reheat in the oven to restore that fresh, crisp taste.
Freezing: To freeze, place fully cooled Stutenkerle in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months, removing any excess air and labeling with the freezing date. Thaw them in the fridge overnight and reheat briefly in the oven before serving.
🌱 More German Recipes
Stutenkerl (vegan) - German Sweet Yeast Men
- electric mixer with dough hook
- dough scraper
- clay pipes (if available in your country)
Sweet yeast dough
- 250 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
- 40 grams cane sugar
- ½ package active dry yeast
- a pinch of salt
- 115 mililiters oat milk
- 35 grams vegan butter
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel grated
- 20 raisins
Vegan egg wash
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- ½ tablespoons plant milk
- ½ tablespoons filtered water
- ½ tablespoons cane sugar
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, dry yeast, and salt.
- Add milk, melted butter, lemon juice, and grated lemon peel to the dry ingredients. Use the dough hook attachment on your electric stand mixer or a hand mixer to combine the ingredients. Start at low speed and gradually increase to speed 2, kneading the dough for about 10 minutes. The dough is fully kneaded when it's smooth and springs back when lightly pressed.
Kneading and Resting
- Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a round ball.
- Lightly grease the mixing bowl, place the dough back in it, cover it with a bowl covering or a damp cloth, and let it rest in a warm, draft-free spot for 15 minutes. (An idea: I like to put the bowl in a non-heated oven with the light on to create a warm environment.)
Prepare for Baking
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Divide the dough: For 4 small Stutenkerle, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. For 2 larger ones, divide it into 2 equal pieces. You can estimate this or use a food scale for accuracy.
- Shape each piece into a ball, then roll it with your left hand to form a long strand of dough, with one end pointed. Using your right hand, press the other end down to form a round head, leaving two-thirds of the dough as the elongated part and a round ball on top.
- Use a rolling pin to flatten the pointed end into a triangle shape. With a baker's dough scraper, slightly cut the middle of the pointed end lengthwise for the legs. Cut the dough at the upper left and right sides for the arms.
- Press raisins into the dough for the face and buttons. Optionally, add clay pipes if desired. For guidance on shaping watch this video of two professional bakers forming Stutenkerle. The video is in German, but I'm sure watching them do it can still be helpful!
- Place the shaped Stutenkerle on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1-2 inches of space between each. Cover them with a damp cloth to prevent drying and allow them to rise for 40 minutes.
- Prepare a vegan egg wash by mixing oil, milk, water, and sugar in a small bowl. Set it aside. Preheat the oven to 185°C / 365°F.
- After the resting time, remove the cloth and brush the tops of the Stutenkerle with the vegan egg wash. Reapply raisins by pressing them down once more, if needed. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Allow the Stutenkerle to cool before serving. They are best enjoyed on the day they're baked. Get creative with shaping and have fun making these delightful treats!
The provided nutritional information is an estimate. Accuracy is not guaranteed.