Manalas, the little brioche men
Happy Saint Nicolas day! I guess this won't mean much to most of you, but it's kind of a big deal where I live. Especially when you're a kid, for us Saint Nicolas is like Santa Claus, and has an "evil twin" in case you're not behaving, called "Père fouettard", who would threat you to take you in his bag or hit you with his martinet. That's always a great way to make children behave in my experience.
So the children who behave receive a gingerbread and an orange or mandarine, and also peanuts are traditional here. My grandma told me it was a big deal back in the days to get those sweets, they wouldn't get any others thru out most of the year. Which always makes me realised how spoiled we are, and how much worse it's getting with every generation.
No Saint Nicolas celebration would be right without our "Manala", the little man made out of some sort of brioche dough. We have that for diner on the 6th of december (or the evening before depending on the families), with tea or hot chocolate, cutting them open and spreading butter, jam or nutella on them. Completly regressic and so good!
Makes 9-10 units
500gr of Flour
100gr of Sugar
100gr of Butter
25gr of Fresh Baker Yeast
200gr of Milk
5gr of Salt
1 Egg Yolk
optional: chocolate chips, raisins, pear sugar...
Heat up half of the milk, and add the fresh yeast into it, stir to combine a little. Add 100gr of Flour to that and combine aswell. Place a humid cloth on it and let it rise for 20 minutes near a radiator.
In a pan, with the other half of the milk, make the butter melt on a low heat, add the sugar and the salt with it too. Don't let it boil, and when everything is melted, set aside to cool a little.
Now combine the yeast preparation with the melted butter using a wooden spoon, or you standmixer on a low speed. Add the two eggs and the rest of the flour (400gr) and keep mixing for about 15 minutes, the dough has to be smooth and elastic. When you're finished, cover it with a cloth and leave it for 30 minutes in a hot place.
Now tip the dough on a floured worksurface and form the little men. Roll out a cylinder, about 15cm long, pinch the top part to form the head, using a sharp knife, cut the legs by cutting the lower part in two, and than cut the arms out on each side (see the picture).
Place them on the oven tray lined with parchement paper. Beat the egg yolk with a bit of milk and brush the men with it. Now you can use chocolate chips or raisins for the eyes, you can sprinkle pearl sugar on their tummies for instance.
Leave them to rise for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they have a nice golden, light brown color. Cool them on a rack and enjoy!