Austrian Bread
Austrian St Nicholas Bread

Traditional European St. Nicholas Breads

Klauskerl (German St. Nicholas Doughman)
Biskupsky Chelbicek (Slovak Bishop's Bread)
St. Nicholas Breads (German)
Nikolausstifel (German Boots of St. Nicholas)
Slavski Kolach (Serbian Slava Bread)
Italian Garlic Bread (Bruschetta)

Other St. Nicholas Breads

St. Nicholas Buns (New England)
St. Nicholas Surprise Bread Purses
bread bundles with cream cheese filling
Candy "Crozier" Coffee Cake
sour cream dough with fruit filling
Saint Nicholas Bread
sourdough with starter

Traditional St Nicholas Breads

Klauskerl (German St. Nicholas Doughman)

For the Feast of St. Nicholas

1 package active dry, or cake, yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup soft butter
1 cup warm milk

Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in ½ cup flour; mix thoroughly. Let rise in covered bowl.

Sift 2 ½ cups flour into bowl; make "well" in center; put dough in it. Add 1 egg, sugar, salt, butter, milk. Knead until dough starts to blister. Dust dough with flour; cover; let rise to double thickness.

Punch to ¼-inch thickness and cut pieces in shape of body, head, arms, legs. Assemble to form "St. Nicholas doughman;" cover; let rise.

Make face, using raisins, slivers of almond, currants, etc. Brush with milk, beaten egg. Bake at 375º F. until golden brown. Yield, 1 St. Nicholas Doughman

From The Catholic Cook Book: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes by William I. Kaufman. The Citadel Press, 1965.

back to top

Biskupsky Chelbicek (Slovak Bishop's Bread)

This sweet fruit quick bread is also a Christmas favorite.

You will need:

¼ pound butter
½ cup icing sugar
4 eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
2 ounces chocolate chips
2 ounces almonds
2 ounces chopped figs
1 ounce raisins
2 ounces candied chopped fruit
one tablespoon baking powder

Mix together butter, half of the sugar and yolks. Beat up a snow from the egg whites, add the other half of the sugar and finish the snow.

Fold together into the egg yolk mixture half of dry ingredients together with the half of the snow and finish adding rest of the dry ingredients together with the other half of the snow.

Bake in a bread loaf pan. Butter and flour your baking pan before putting the mixture in. Fill the pan about ¾ full as the mixture will rise. Bake at 350º F. for 45 min. to one hour.

To make sure the Biskupsky Chlebicek is baked to perfection insert a toothpick in the middle of the bread. It should come out clean and your bread is done. Cool it before slicing. It can be sprinkled with confectioners sugar for festive effect.

From Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Vol. 3, No. 4, Winter 1995, used with permission.

back to top

St. Nicholas Breads (German)

St. Nicholas Bread
St. Nicholas Bread

These are baked dough figures known in many regions and made for the feast of St. Nicholas. Starting with a ball of dough, first the body is rolled out in a somewhat elongated shape and cut halfway up one side. Make the legs out of this divided part; score marks on the sides for the arms.

The St. Nicholas figures from the Rhineland are somewhat more complicated; often the St. Nicholas is riding on a horse.

For 2–4 figures:

7–8 cups (1 kg) flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups (½ litre) milk
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (150 g) butter
2/3 cup, scant (120 g), sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a depression in the center and sprinkle in the yeast. Warm the milk, pour it in, and dissolve the yeast. Sprinkle a little flour over the yeast-milk mixture and let stand, covered, until small fissures are clearly visible on the surface.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, add the sugar, salt, lemon rind, and whole eggs, and stir to combine.

Add this mixture to the yeast-milk solution and beat to form a light, smooth dough. It must be neither too soft nor too firm and must be easy to shape. Let rise for 15–20 minutes.

The figures are each shaped from a smoothly rounded ball of dough which is first rolled out into a slightly elongated shape. Next the head is shaped. The arms, legs, and hat are attached with egg yolk beaten with a little water. The remaining decorations, such as the beard, nose, eyes, and so forth are shaped or cut out separately and likewise attached with egg yolk.

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Lay the figures on a baking sheet lined with silicone paper and let rise completely (at least 20–25 minutes). Bake on the center shelf of the preheated oven for 20–35 minutes, depending on size.

From Christmas Baking: Traditional Recipes Made Easy by Christian Teubner Copyright © 1983 Barron's, New York. Permission pending.

back to top

Nikolaussteifel (German Boots of St. Nicholas)


This recipe makes a gift for the children; it used to be handed to them on St. Nicholas Day in Germany.


1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup (150 ml) milk, lukewarm
4 cups (500 g) flour
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 pinch salt


1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

DECORATION Sesame and poppy seed, almonds, sunflower seeds, or nuts; powdered sugar, licorice, sweets, etc.

Mix yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl until yeast is dissolved and let it stand for 15 minutes.

Add the flour to the bowl, melt the butter. Add sugar, vanilla, egg, salt, and melted butter to the flour. Work to a smooth dough first by stirring, then kneading. Put in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

In the meantime take some cardboard and cut a template for a boot about 14 inches (40 cm) high. Roll out the dough about ½-inch (1 cm) thick in the shape of an L. Put the template on top and cut the dough into the shape of the boot. Transfer the boot to a greased baking sheet.

Make the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk and milk. Brush the boot with the egg wash. Shape the rest of the dough into the rim and heel of a boot and put on top. Brush again with egg wash and put on the seeds, almonds or nuts.

Preheat oven to 400º F. (200º C) and bake the boot about 25 minutes until golden brown.

After it is cool, you may want to decorate the boot further by mixing some powdered sugar with water and sticking on extra sweets.

From Cooking with the Saints: An Illustrated Treasury of Authentic Recipes Old and Modern by Ernst Schuegraf. Copyright © 2001 Ignatius Press. Used by permission.
A beautiful collection with a bit of background and recipes related to seventy-three saints. Purchase from, or

back to top

Slavski Kolach (Serbian Family Slava Bread)

Slava Kolach
Slava Kolach
Photo: St. George Serbian Orthodox Church
Kansas City, Kansas
Used by permission
Slava Kolach
Slava Kolach
Photo: A Yankee-in-Belgrade
Used by permission
Slava Kolach
Slava Kolach
Used by permission

The kolach for Serbian Krsna Slava may be a sweet bread or a simple prosphora dough. The decorations always include a cross in the center of the bread, with 4 C's, and there may also be a Serbian eagle, grapes, wheat, and flowers. A braid is often put around the edge. The loaf symbolizes Christ our God, who said in the Gospel of St. John, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven." It may be taken to the church to be blessed or the priest may come to the Slava in the home.

8 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter
3 egg yolks
2 cups lukewarm milk
1 pkg dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest and juice to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional or in place of lemon)

Mix yeast with a teaspoon of sugar and ½ cup of the lukewarm milk. Set aside (this activates the yeast).

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the 3 egg yolks, add the rest of the lukewarm milk. Mix well, set aside.

Mix sugar & salt with 8 cups of sifted flour. Add lemon zest with an equal amount of juice (to taste). Add butter, mix with hands or pastry blender, as for pie crust, until butter is blended and has a fine texture.

Combine yeast mixture with the egg and milk, add to the flour. Beat until it comes clean from the bowl. Form into a ball, place in large clean bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise about 2 hours.

Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes. Form into a ball again, place in the bowl, cover with the damp cloth and let rise again, about 1 hour. Form loaf and place on large greased baking sheet (using parchment paper is optional).


2 cups flour ¾ cup water pinch salt

Work flour, water and salt into a smooth dough; form braid and cross for the top. After shaping the loaf, put cross and braid on the bread, attaching with a dab of water or egg. The top may be brushed with egg beaten with a little water.

Bake in preheated oven at 350º for one hour and 10 minutes.

From St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Kansas City, Kansas. Used by permission.

back to top

Italian Garlic Bread (Bruschetta)

Saint Nicholas's Day precedes Christmas, and it is incongruous that his imitation, the department store figure dressed in red with cotton-batting beard, has become the unique symbol of the Christmas season. Saint NIcholas' Day is a feast unto itself, a forerunner in a particularly endearing way of the major feast to come.

1 loaf Italian bread, cut in thick slices
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Toast the Bread slices on both sides until brown.
2. Rub at once with garlic; brush lightly with oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve hot.
8 servings

From Festa: Recipes and Recollections of Italian Holidays by Helen Barolini. 1988 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 2002 University of Wisconsin Press. Used by permission.

A delightful collection of Italian recipes for many saints days and other Italian festivals. Purchase from, or

back to top

Other St. Nicholas Breads

St. Nicholas Buns (New England)

St. Nicholas Buns
St. Nicholas Buns

In our family we have always celebrated with St. Nicholas Buns for breakfast. These tasty holiday treats are very easy to make and bring a bit of something special to the breakfast table. Serve for breakfast on St. Nicholas Day, perhaps with glasses of cranberry juice. They may be made ahead, then reheated in the oven. They also make excellent gifts.
—Geraldine Duncann

Recipe may be halved to make 12 buns. The editor has supplied a recipe for sweet roll dough

½ cup warm water (not hot—110 to 115º)
2 packages active dry yeast
1½ cups lukewarm milk (scald, then cool to lukewarm)
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
½ cup soft shortening
7 to 7½ cups flour

Whole berry cranberry sauce
1 egg
Raw sugar (Turbinado or Demerara)
Bakers' Syrup*
Small candy canes
Small sprigs of non-toxic greenery, like pine

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening and 5 cups of flour. With dough hook, blend for 3 minutes on speed 2, until thoroughly mixed. On speed 2, add flour ½ cup at a time until flour cleans bowl, for 5 minutes. Be careful not to add too much flour. Place dough in a greased bowl in a warm place until doubled in size (about 90 minutes).

When ready to form, divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Flatten each into a circle about 1/4-inch thick. Put a scant teaspoon of cranberry sauce in the center of each round. Gather up the edges and pinch together well to seal the cranberry sauce inside. Set sealed side down on a baking sheet lined with bakers' parchment. Put the buns about 2 inches apart. Paint all exposed surfaces with an egg wash: 1 egg beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of raw, not brown, sugar. Place in a warm place to rise until almost double in bulk (about 30 minutes), then bake in a 350º oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

As soon as they come out of the oven paint generously with bakers syrup. Allow to cool a bit, then stick a small candy cane and a small sprig of greenery into the top of each bun. Happy St. Nicholas Day!


1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla

Put all in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 or 20 minutes.

Adapted from Geraldine Duncann, The Questing Feast (nice pictures and instructions). Used by permission.

back to top

St. Nicholas Surprise Bread Purses

St Nicholas Surprise Bread Bundles

These golden-baked bread bundles, filled with a cream cheese surprise, can remind us of the coin purses with dowry money St. Nicholas tossed through a window. Made with either a savory or sweet filling and tied with festive ribbons, these rolls make a very special breakfast or brunch treat. If you make half savory and half sweet, remember to divide the egg. As the dough needs to chill, it may be best to make them the day before serving, or even longer, as they freeze well.

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110º)
½ cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine
½ cup half-and-half (light cream) or milk
3 tablespoons sugar (omit if using savory filling)
3 eggs
4 to 4¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Sweet or savory cheese filling (recipes follow)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In large bowl of an electric mixer, stir yeast with water and let stand 5 minutes. Melt butter and mix with half-and-half and sugar; add to yeast mixture with eggs, 2 cups flour, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to blend. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

If using dough hook, gradually mix in 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed until dough pulls from bowl sides. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons more flour if needed. Remove hook and scrape down bowl; cover with plastic wrap.

Or by hand, use a heavy spoon to mix in 1¾ cups flour. Scrape onto a board coated with about ¼ cup flour. Knead, adding flour as required, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put into a greased bowl; turn to grease top; cover bowl.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours. Punch down and knead several times. Wrap airtight and refrigerate least 2 hours or as long as overnight.

Knead dough several turns to remove air, then divide into 16 equal portions. Shape one portion at a time into a 6- to 6½-inch circle. Place equal portions (2 to 2½ tablespoons) of filling in center. Draw dough up around filling, and pleat pinch firmly just above filling, letting dough top flare loosely. As you finish each bundle, place 2 inches apart on greased 10- by 15-inch baking sheets; cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep cold until all the dough is shaped.

Place baking sheets with covered bundles in a warm spot and let rise until puffy, about 30 minutes, then uncover. To seal firmly, lightly pinch pleats together again. Brush surfaces with egg- water mixture. Bake in a 350º oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Tie with ribbons and serve warm or at room temperature (cloth ribbons may be reheated, but not plastic ribbons that will melt). To store, cool completely; freeze up to 6 months. Makes 16 buns.

Sweet cheese filling
Beat together 2 large packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature, with
½cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Stir in 1 cup raisins and
½ cup chopped candied orange peel
Use, or cover and chill as long as overnight.

Savory cheese filling:
Beat together 1 large package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg
1 cup finely chopped green onion.
Use, or cover and chill as long as overnight.

From Sunset Magazine, December 1982, pp. 88,89.

back to top

Saint Nicholas Bread

This is a sourdough bread which requires preparing the starter 5 to 7 days before us—

Late in the evening (about 9 pm) make a sponge of the following:

2 cups warm water
4 cups natural, unbleached stone-ground white flour
3 tablespoons sugar or white corn syrup
1 ½ cups starter (see below)

Beat together thoroughly, cover tightly in a large mixing bowl and let stand in comfortably warm place overnight. Early in the morning (about 7 am) make a dough with the following ingredients:

2 cups warm water
1 cup dried skim milk powder
½ teaspoon ginger
6 tablespoons soft lard
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons salt
9 cups natural flour

Stir the dried milk and ginger into the warm water. Add to the sponge with the other ingredients, reserving 2 cups of the flour to spread on the pastry board. Stir until the dough clears the bowl. Turn out onto the floured board and knead thoroughly for several minutes, using a little more flour if necessary to make a smooth, non-sticky dough. Return to bowl, brush top with lard, cover with a light towel and let rise until light (about 1 ¼ hours). Turn out dough, knead well without using any more flour than necessary, divide and shape into loaves or rolls as desired. Place in greased pans, brush tops with soft lard, cover and let rise until the pans feel quite light when lifted (about 2 ¼ hours). Bake in oven preheated to 350º F. about 30 minutes for rolls and 50 to 60 minutes for loaves, according to size. About 5 minutes before the end of the baking period brush top of bread with soft lard or butter and again as soon as removed from oven. Turn loaves on side to cool. This recipe makes 6 medium-size loaves.

For a coffee loaf which is delicious toasted, roll a loaf-size portion of dough into a long rectangle as wide as the length of the pan. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon instant coffee. Roll as for cinnamon rolls, but instead of cutting, roll into long rectangle again. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Roll, seal ends and place seam-side down in pan. Proceed as with plain loaf for baking.

Note: Vanilla sugar can be purchased in sealed packets or can easily be prepared at home by simply keeping four or five vanilla beans buried in two cups sugar in a tightly closed glass jar. Replace the amount of sugar used each time until the beans become dry and begin to lose their aroma. They can be split and the seeds scraped out to mix with the sugar or boiled in milk to get the last bit of flavor when making custard, rice pudding, ice cream, etc.


First prepare the following ferment:

4 tablespoons corn meal (white or yellow)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup milk

Mix the corn meal, sugar and salt with the cold milk until smooth and free from lumps (use fresh or homogenized milk). Heat to the scalding point, stirring constantly. While still hot pour into an enameled or stoneware container which can be covered tightly. Keep in a comfortably warm place (about 80º F.) until the mush ferments and becomes quite light. This will take about four days in winter, but perhaps only two in warm, humid weather.

Stir the mush at least once a day. At first the liquid will separate and rise to the top. Then, as the fermentation proceeds, the settlings will rise up through the liquid until the whole mixture is uniformly spongy and the bubbles can be seen working to the top. When the ferment has reached this stage prepare the following:

3 medium-size potatoes
1 quart water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Cook the potatoes in the water until tender. Drain off the water. If too much has boiled away add more water to make 3 cups of liquid. Put potatoes through food mill or sieve, then combine with the 3 cups of liquid, sugar and salt. When this mixture has cooled to comfortably warm, stir in the ferment. This should be done early in the day as the mixture should now stand in a warm place for several hours. Stir it down each time it becomes foamy. Then store in a covered 2-quart glass jar in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days to ripen before using. Stir or shake until thoroughly mixed each time before removing a portion of the starter. When the amount has been reduced to about 1 to 1 ½ cups add this to a newly prepared mixture of potatoes, potato water, sugar and salt and proceed as before.

From Breads and Coffee Cakes with Homemade Starters from Rose Lane Farm by Ada Lou Roberts, Hearthside Press Inc., 1967, which has eight other recipes using this starter.

back to top