Ho Ho Ho – Grittibänz

I actually had no plans to make these little men of bread this year but my daughter came home with two yesterday and I got suckered into it. It’s Saint Nicholas day (at least it still is right now as I’m typing) and there is a tradition in this part of Switzerland that involves pretend cannibalism. We make bread shaped like little men and then eat them. I remember how I refused to eat them when I first arrived 11 years ago. Hahaha! How I laugh now. I can’t explain it but back then I just thought it seemed so wrong.


These little bread men are called Grittibänz. That’s pretty much all I knew about them.  So I did some research because I love you and need to fill you with knowledge you don’t need 🙂

  • Grittibänz is also made and sacrificed eaten in most German speaking countries and regions as well as in the Netherlands.  Though they’re called differently from region to region.
  • No one really knows why it’s eaten on St Nick’s day. Everyone’s telling a different story so I’m concluding that no one really knows.
  • Most people assume he’s a simplified bread version of Santa Claus. So I ask, why in the world would you want to eat Santa?!?!
  • It’s yummy

The fancier bakeries often use a brioche dough to make Grittibänz. But we simple housewives don’t have the time nor skill to make brioche, so we use a simpler Zopf recipe. Zopf  is Swiss Sunday bread. Although it’s available throughout the week, it’s mostly eaten on Sundays as a reward for making it through the week. I would describe it as white bread meets brioche. It’s buttery, though not as buttery, like the brioche but denser, like the white bread. I kneaded this batch by hand but if you have a stand-mixer, feel free to use that.


In other news, I now have Instagram! Yes, I know. Get on with it Grandma. I’m really very bad at keeping up with all these social media and technology and stuff (I wanted to use a different word but changed it because that word shouldn’t be around food). Anyway,  I’m still figuring it out, plus my pictures seem to be too sexy for Instagram (no, they’re not nudes) because they keep turning to random pixels after I post. But if you’re on Instagram anyway and don’t mind another useless feed, follow me at corianderandgarlic. I promise I’ll try not to bore you.



Makes 4 Grittibänze


  • 1kg all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 packets dry yeast @ 7g
  • 600ml milk, lukewarm
  • 120g butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the eyes and mouth

  • raisins
  • chocolate chips
  • walnuts
  • dates
  • etc


  • In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in half the milk. Stir gently with a wooden spoon just enough until it becomes a soft dough. Repeat with remaining milk.
  • Scrape off the dough from the spoon and add in the butter. Knead until all the butter is incorporated into the dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto the counter/table and knead for another 10 mins.
  • Roll the dough to form a ball and return to bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise for 1½ hour or until doubled in volume, in a warm and draft-free place, e.g. the oven.
  • Turn the dough out onto the counter. Knead it a couple of times and cut up into 5 balls.
  • Roll 4 of the balls into logs the size you want your Grittibänz to be.  Pinch out the heads but don’t sever them from the body. If you do, it’s no biggie. Just place it back next to the body and it’ll “fuse” back during the second rise. Using scissors, cut out the arms and legs. If you can’t picture this step, do whatever you need to do to form arms and legs 😛
  • Use the remaining ball of dough to make scarves, belts, hats, hair, etc and decorate the men as you please. Raisins are traditionally used for the eyes but no one in the family likes them so I used butterscotch chips and date halves for the mouth.
  • Cover your men with a damp cloth and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 190ºC fan-assisted. I used the fan because I was baking 4 Grittibänz at once on 2 racks. If you’re only using one rack, you can bake at 200ºC without fan.
  • Brush the beaten egg all over the men and bake on bottom rack for 40 mins. My son is allergic to eggs so I brushed on cream instead. If you’re baking on 2 racks like I did, remember to switch the tray positions at halftime. 
  • Let cool before devouring.

7 thoughts on “Ho Ho Ho – Grittibänz

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