The holiday season is fast approaching, bringing with it a variety of familial and cultural traditions from apple picking to pumpkin carving to recreating family recipes with loved ones. Whether old or new, we embrace traditions because they provide us with a source of identity– they tell us where we came from and what experiences have shaped our lives. With the many holidays before us, we asked local recipe developer, Sophie from Dirndl Kitchen,to share with us one tradition from her German upbringing that she's looking forward to this season and the food surrounding the tradition that brings it to life.
Sophie shares, "November 11th is when St. Martin’s Day is celebrated in Germany, marking the end of the harvest season. St. Martin is known for his love for children and the poor. On the night of November 11th, German children will walk in processions with lanterns they made in school, led by a man on a horse who is dressed like St. Martin. The procession leads through town to a large bonfire where Martinsbrezeln, traditional sugar coated pretzels, are passed out to the children. I remember the processions very vividly, and always enjoyed singing the St. Martin’s Day songs while walking with my lantern. The sweet reward at the end, the Martinsbrezel, was the best part. Clearly, it may be difficult for you to find a lantern procession in the United States, but if you have kids that like to be involved in the kitchen, why not try to make these pretzels together as a family and enjoy them as a fun snack."
In honor of St. Martin's Day, Sophie shares with us her recipe for Martinbrezeln, paired with our Minimal Salad Dish and a cup of freshly brewed coffee in our 10 oz Minimal Mug.
Learn about the tradition below in a short interview and then follow the recipe below to create these sugar coated pretzels yourself.
Will you share a brief glimpse into who you are and what you do.
Who am I? That's a question I have been on a mission to answer for all of my life! :-) Looking back, my life so far was really shaped by a handful of events, and especially one in particular. Having grown up in Germany and really only knowing America from movies and music, I planned my first trip to America when I was barely 12 years old. It was supposed to be a trip to New York City and I had every day planned out, Broadway shows to visit, restaurants to check out, excursions to go on and all. When that fell through because of the tragic events on September 11th later that year, I was shattered for so many reasons, but never gave up on my dream to visit America. I ultimately decided it was time to explore America for the first time as an exchange student at age 16, and left Germany behind for a year to live in Tonganoxie, Kansas. Little did I know this exchange year would change my life forever. After the year, I came back to Kansas to study marketing and finance at KU, met the love of my life at a Christmas party and ultimately got married to him and now am the mother of two beautiful daughters.
What inspired you to start your food and lifestyle blog,Dirndl Kitchen?
My heart is split in two it feels like. On one hand, it belongs here in America with the family I have created with my husband and kids. On the other hand, it also still belongs in Germany and its culture and values, and my family and friends there. After moving to the US in 2009, I missed the ladder so much that I felt the desire and need to stay connected to that very pronounced part of me. The year I started my blog was turbulent to say the least. I had just graduated from college the Winter before, but felt like my passions in the career I pursued were unwanted. I ended up leaving that job, and had to inspect my core values and beliefs in search for where my passions really lie and could succeed. At the same time, my Oma Sieghilde's health deteriorated quickly and I felt like I needed to attempt to carry on what she left behind for us. It almost felt like a calling to start my blog. Cooking, baking and writing about German food and my German upbringing is therapy in a way, to deeper connect with my roots and to combat this immense homesickness I felt. I also thought that I couldn't possibly be the only one feeling this way, so I started sharing my thoughts, feelings and German recipes (some family recipes and others that I researched and tested) with the world, in hopes to educate America about German food and culture and to create a community of German-minded people that would just like to be on this journey with me.
Tell us about your favorite Convivial piece (or pieces) and how you enjoy using them in your home?
I love the oval serving tray! It has morphed in our home from a cheese board to a dessert board to a candle display and now a spice display.
The minimal mugs are my favorite! At first I was worried they’d be too small, but they’re really the perfect size and I love the geometric handle. Overall the mixture of modern and cozy is what we have in mind for our home and I believe that’s exactly why I love the handmade pieces by Convivial so much. They’re modern, they’re classic, they’re unique and versatile. What else could one want?
Tell us a little bit about the recipe you are sharing with us today.
Some of the things I miss most about Germany are the fun kids holidays and I am now attempting to bring them to life here in America with my own kids. As with so many cultures, specific traditions and celebrations are often accompanied with unique foods. I think food is really the best way to learn about another culture, as it ignores language barriers and engages all of our senses. Martinstag (Saint Martin's Day) was one of my favorite kids holidays growing up. From crafting lanterns and practicing the Sankt Martin songs at school in preparation, to finally walking through town with our lanterns singing those songs and eventually arriving at a large bonfire for the best part, to eat Martinsbrezeln, German sugar coated pretzels. These pretzels are specifically baked for Martinstag by the local bakeries, then handed out to all the children in remembrance of Saint Martin's benevolence. The sugar-coatedMartinsbrezelnare made from a yeast dough containing sour cream and are soft and airy. I now make them every year for Martinstag to share with our friends and their kids and we celebrate with a little fire and our hand-crafted lanterns. It's one of the many fun, German traditions that I miss so much and am so excited about helping spread in the United States.
In a small bowl, combine warm milk, yeast, and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Using the bowl for a stand mixer, combine the yeast mixture and all remaining dough ingredients and knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes.
You should end up with a smooth bowl that doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour or until doubled in size.
Dust your hands in flour and divide the dough into 8 pieces (about 120 g or 4.2 oz each - a kitchen scale comes in handy here).
Form each dough piece into a long log shape, tapering towards the ends, and shape your pretzels (make sure to watch the pretzel shaping video for help with this if needed!).
Transfer the pretzels to baking sheets covered with parchment paper, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rest for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (conventional setting).
For the topping, melt 1 tbsp butter and brush onto the pretzels. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until light brown. While the pretzels are baking, melt the remaining butter and place 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow dish.
Immediately after baking, brush the top of the pretzels with the butter (2 pretzels at a time at most because the butter dries quickly), then dip in the sugar. Allow to cool for a few minutes before enjoying.
For more German recipes by Sophie, check out her website Dirndl Kitchen. To shop Convivial dinnerware and serving items, perfect for baking and serving holiday treats, click here.