Grittibänz, Grittibaenz, Grittibenz or Samichlaus bread
In Switzerland, people mark St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, by eating Santa-shaped bread figures called Grittibenz or Samichlaus bread. You have the Grittibaenz (bread men or figures), and the Samichlaus bread, which could be also just santa’s head. Switzerland, like many other European countries have a rich standing tradition with breads. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be reflective of a certain holiday or season. Easter bread, August 1 bread, Three King’s bread, and for Christmas, The Samichlaus bread.
Forming the Grittibenz
The Samichlaus (Grittibanz) are made from the same dough as the Zopf, which is a nice buttery dough, comparable to challah bread, which we can always find on the shelves in the U.S. In Switzerland, not only is the bread special, but the preparation is a family involved event. This is a bread dough that we make in advance, then gather around the table and make our own figures together. It brings laughs and creativity while we all await for our people to take shape and character. One can certainly go about making and shaping their own bread whichever way they choose, however, if you want to follow the Swiss tradition, take a peek at the video link below.
- 500 grams flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 TBS sugar
- 60 grams butter soft
- 20 grams fresh yeast
- In a small sauce pan, warm the milk and butter together until warm, not hot. Take off the heat and add the yeast to the mixture until dissolved and well combined. Add to dry mixture.
- Kneed dough by hand for about 15 minutes until dough is well combined and very soft. Or, if using a mixer, mix for about 10 minutes until well combined
- Set dough aside to rise, laying a warm, wet towel over the dough. Let rise until it’s doubled in size, usually 1-2 hours
- Divide dough in to equal sections (about 8) and begin to form. Use your imagination to get your desired results. Use raisins to decorate the eyes, and a dough ball for the nose, etc.
- paint on egg wash before baking. (egg yolk and a bit of milk)
- Bake @ 200 degrees Celsius until golden brown (about 15 minutes)