Grittibänz – Christmas bread man

As you may know, Samichlaus visits children either in person Dec 5th (reserve early!) or leaves them a little bag of goodies to be discovered the morning of Dec 6. Usually we just visit him in the woods, but last year Samichlaus brought goodies for my children on Dec 6, including super delicious hand made Grittibänz. Oh, those elves are such good bakers and so creative with their designs 🙂

Every bakery and grocery around town has their own Grittibänz style and it’s fun to go on a little Grittibänz tour to see the variety. But it’s also fun to make your own, which often morph into simply bread monsters or lumps of dough covered in sugar. So I’m including a super easy recipe to get you started.

I was inspired to write this post by a video from, demonstrating how to form the fun Christmas breads you’ll see around Switzerland, particularly the Grittibänz. I’m definitely going to employ some of these techniques this year. You can see all sorts of crazy Grittibänz on Google Images.

Zopfteig (aka bread dough for Grittbänz, etc)

So here’s a very simple and quick Butterzopf dough recipe I got from my Swiss friend. It works great for Grittibänz but also good for regular Zopf and little Zöpfli covered with Hagelzucker (big sugar bits). I was suspicious of this recipe because it only rises 15 mins. But it totally works and is great for kids that can’t wait very long. I think I might go make some right now…

1. Heat 600 ml (2.5 cups) milk to slightly warm (not above 110F/40C or you will kill that yeast).

2. Melt 120g (4.25oz) butter. Combine with warm milk and set aside.

3. In a stand mixer bowl (or large bowl), combine:

1 kg flour (2.2 lb)
3 tsp salt
2-3 TB sugar
2 pkg yeast (about 4.5 tsp)

4. Add the milk/butter mixture to the flour mixture and start your kitchen machine. Knead for 15 min. Then cover it with a towel. The mixture will be a little wet.

5. Let it rise for 15 min or until it has grown bigger. You can let it rise longer, about an hour, if you have more time.

6. Form your dough into whatever shape you like. The full recipe make about 4 small men, 2 big braided Zopf or a couple dozen little rolls. Put the dough on a baking pan with baking paper on it. Brush the bread with egg yolk (or 1 egg mixed). Sprinkle with Hagelzucker (pearl sugar).

7. The original recipe has you bake the dough right away, which works fine. But I’m a little more formal and let my dough rise 30 mins or so before baking.

8. Bake in a preheated oven 200°C (400°F) for 20-30 minutes until it is done. A Zopf loaf will take longer, about 35-45 mins depending on how big it is.

If you want to make a braided Zopf, Laughing Lemon has a great instructional video on this topic.

I often make these homemade versions of Coop’s “sweeties” that my kids love. These are good treats for playgroups or school. But beware: they might just eat the sugar off the top.

In case you are not much of a baker, here’s what pearl sugar (aka Hagelzucker) and yeast (aka Hefe) look like in Switzerland.

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