St. Hubertusbroodjes

I love old traditions, especially ones that involve food. As luck has it, the month of November leads into a whole Saint-related food fest, with Saint Nicholas as a culmination in early December.

Today, November 3rd, is St. Hubertus day. St. Hubertus was born in and around the early 650s and was an avid hunter. On Good Friday, when he chose to go hunting instead of attending church, he came across a huge deer in the woods. The animal displayed a burning cross between its antlers and the voice of God spoke: "Hubert, turn your life around or else!" Or something to that extent.

Long story short, Hubert listened, moved to Maastricht, eventually was elected bishop and became the patron saint of archers, huntsmen, mathematician and a myriad of others. He's probably most famous for being invoked to combat rabies, as he presumedly once healed a dog from rabies by performing the sign of the cross over the animal's head.

It also inspired the tradition of applying a heated key called St. Hubertus key to the animal's forehead, after which it had to stay in confinement for nine days and only be fed dry bread. This is presumably where the St. Hubertus rolls tradition started: a soft, white roll, sometimes with raisins or anise, but most often plain, with a cross cut in the top was baked by hundreds of bakers during this time, blessed by the church on November 3rd and consumed by both dog and owner.

Bakeries in a variety of locations in the Brabant province will sell thousands of St. Hubertus rolls (also known as hupkes, huipkes or hubkes) today, rolls that earlier that morning have been blessed by the local Catholic clergy. People of all ages will enjoy a huupke today, and are sure to give a piece to their dogs as well. Better a roll in the mouth than a key on the forehead, I say!

If you don't have dogs or don't believe in tradition, this recipe is also good for just a plain, soft white roll. Increase the weight on the roll to 2 1/2 oz.

St. Hubertusbroodjes
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2  1/2 cups milk, warm
4 oz butter
1 egg

Proof the yeast in the warm milk. Mix the flour with the salt, add the milk and knead together, adding in the butter and the egg as you go. Knead it all together into a soft dough, let it rise to double its size,  punch it down and cut into 1.5 oz portions.

Roll each piece of dough into a tight ball, place them side by side in a buttered baking pan. Cover and let rise. Preheat an oven to 400F.

Right before baking the rolls, cut the top of the dough from left to right, and top to bottom. Bake for 10-15 minutes until done, then brush with some butter when the rolls come hot out of the oven.

Optional: some Hubertusbroodjes have raisins or currants in them, which you can add after having kneaded the butter and the egg into the dough. Others have a slight anise flavor: add two tablespoons of gestampte muisjes to the flour before you mix in the rest.


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