Friends of mine who live outside of Berlin complained once about the Halloween hype at their son’s school, whereas most kids don’t know much about why October 31 is a public holiday in the state of Brandenburg, just like in the other four East German states.
October 31 commemorates the day in 1517 when Martin Luther penned his protest against the pope’s practice of indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Schloßkirche in Wittenberg, Germany. This sparked the Protestant Reformation.
Although I am always for mixing and mingling traditions from all over the world, I think my friends have a point. As I wrote in a previous blog post, Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in Germany, from Halloween decorations and dressing up to all kinds of Halloween foods and trick-or-treating. And there is nothing wrong with that but Reformation Day is an important day in German history regardless of one’s religious beliefs.
I started wondering whether there isn’t any special food associated with Reformation Day. My mother’s family is Lutheran and this is the way I was raised but I had never heard of anything.
Poking around a bit I indeed found something: Reformationsbrötchen, literally Reformation buns. Some bakeries sell these jam-filled yeasted buns on or around October 31. The square buns symbolize the Luther seal or Luther rose, and the red jam represents the heart in the center of the seal.
Compared to all the colorful Halloween treats, these buns might not get children too excited but I certainly was about my “discovery”. The buns are delicious, especially when eaten fresh from the oven.
And there is news, too. For the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day in 2017, several federal states in Germany will declare October 31, 2017 a public holiday.
Maybe for the occasion those buns will then appear all over Germany!
Yeasted Buns with Jam Filling (Reformationsbrötchen)
These buns almost did not happen. First I realized I had very little all-purpose flour left so I used half all-purpose and half cake (pastry) flour. This makes an even finer texture but using only all-purpose flour works too.
And in this stormy fall weather the power went off for a few seconds several times. I ended up standing by the oven turning it back on after each outage and holding my breath, as our generator does not power the oven….
2 envelopes (½ ounce/14 g) active dry yeast
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (250 ml) lukewarm milk
3½ cups (17.5 ounces/500 g) all-purpose flour, or equal parts all-purpose and cake flour
A pinch of salt
1 small egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup (100 g) raisins
½ cup (50 g) slivered almonds
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied citron (optional)
Milk for brushing
Strawberry or raspberry jam (preferably a rather stiff jam, otherwise it will run off the buns during baking)
1. Combine the yeast with the milk in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and combine well. Add the egg, butter and sugar and knead into a smooth dough in a food processor with a dough hook or using the kneading attachment of an electric mixer. The dough should easily detach from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is dry and crumbly, add a little bit more milk, a tablespoon at a time. If it is too moist, add a bit more flour. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
3. Soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry well with paper towels. Mix the raisins, almond and citron in a small bowl.
4. Place the dough on a clean lightly floured work surface. With your hands, gradually work in the raisin mix. It takes a while for the dough to absorb it. The dough will be slightly tacky.
5. Lightly flour the work surface again. Divide the dough in half. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out half of the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin to a rectangle of 10 x 5“ (25 x 10 cm). Lightly dust the surface of the dough during rolling to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. With a sharp knife or a pastry wheel cut the dough into 10 squares of 2.5 inches (5 cm).
6. Place the squares on one of the baking sheets with ample distance between them. Cover with a towel and proceed the same way with the rest of the dough. Place the squares on the second baking sheet and cover.
7. Fold two opposing corners of each square over and join them in the center, then fold the two other corners over and also join them in the center, as if you were folding an envelope. Gently press down the center with your fingertips to seal. Cover again with towels and let rise for 20 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
9. Brush the buns of the first baking sheet with milk. Gently push down the center of each piece with your index finger to create a cavity for the jam. Place a small spoonful of jam into each cavity. Leave the second baking sheet covered with a towel.
10. Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden. Transfer the buns to a cake rack to cool. Proceed with the buns on the second baking sheet as described.
Makes 20 buns