Bethmännchen are bite-sized Christmas pastries traditionally baked and eaten in Frankfurt during Advent. Made with flour, icing sugar, marzipan and eggs, and flavoured with rosewater, they’re small, fat, lightly-browned balls with flat tops and bottoms, the sides decorated with three halved, skinned almonds. Bethmännchen have a mild marzipan flavour and a squidgy, slightly grainy texture, and are delightful with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon treat.
Bethmännchen translates literally as “little Bethmann”, the pastries named after a well-known family of bankers called the von Bethmanns, for whom it is said they were first made – back in 1838. Legend has it that Bethmännchen were originally decorated with four almond halves, each representing one of the family’s four sons, but when one of the sons died, one almond half was removed. In every other sense, however, the recipe has famously never changed.
Where to buy Bethmännchen
Much loved at the Frankfurt Christmas markets throughout Advent, Bethmännchen are also available in any Frankfurt bakery worth its salt. If you fancy warming up indoors with a couple of Bethmännchen and a coffee, head to tiny café-pâtisserie Condit Couture, a short walk from Frankfurt’s medieval Römerplatz, where the city’s main Christmas market takes place. (But be warned, it’s both tiny and very popular indeed.)
If you’d like to take a packet of Bethmännchen home, you can either pick them up from a Christmas market stand or head to Frankfurt’s beloved indoor market, the Kleinmarkthalle, where they’re available from the delectable (and award-winning) Confiserie Graff.
B is also for…
Bratäpfeln: large baking apples cored and stuffed with a mixture of nuts, spices, marzipan and/or raisins, sprinkled with sugar, baked in the oven and served warm, with a light vanilla custard.
Butterplätzchen: the simplest of all the German Advent cookies, crumbly and buttery, often flavoured with vanilla or lemon, and cut out in any shape you please.