Almost everyone is around me had started to visit a gym more frequently – i realized yesterday. Well well well… the fact, that the festive time is coming soon with lots of lots of things to eat (and drink)…. absolutely understandable. After reading this blog – i would start the exercise… for “Christ sake”….
So… i just wanted to have a little bit bigger knowledge about traditional Christmas sweets and i found their histories really interesting and funny. Now – while we are living in England – i face with british traditions on every corner of a street and on the field of desserts the situation not as horrible as u would think. Let me start with a little list of the very traditional English sweets for Christmas… just stop your mouth watering!
- ” christmas cake ” – the proper version came from Scottland called Whisky Dundee, a light and crumbly cake with fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries) and candied peel, soaked in a huge amount of Scotch Whisky
- ” christmas pudding ” – originally called plum pudding using luxurious ingredients, sweet spices and suet. Looks really dark thanks to dark sugar, black treacle and really long cooking (steaming) time. Traditionally the pudding were made five weeks before Christmas moistened with juice of citrus or/and lots of alcohol. It was common practice to hide some coins in the pudding mix – belived to bring wealth in the next year. Serve warm with brandy custard, rum butter etc…
- ” gingerbread ” – recipe from Middle East. Its a dense, molasses based spicy cake. U have a special way how to make this cake, called ‘gingerbread method’, when melt the fat and mix in all the ingredients in a bowl (can be mustard, pepper, apple, raisin, nuts). In the USA this is more soft and spongy like a cake serve with warm lemon sauce. In France it called pain d’epices, more dry and always using honey. Traditional Christmas-tree decoration the little gingerbread-men. Other form is the Parkin made with treacle and oatmeal, popular in North England.
- ” custard ” – u can ask me WHY? Why is the custard in this list with all the other Christmas desserts? Well… u are right. But if u check any type of festive cake receipe u need to face with the fact, the custard is fuckin’ everywhere. So its a milk and/or cream cooked with egg yolk. To make it christmasy? Add a drop of brandy, a hint of clove, a crunch of caramel…
- ” candy cane ” – traditional came from Germany. Around 1670, the choirmaster of the Cologne Cathedral wishing to stop the noise caused by children at the ceremony on Christmas Eve, so asked the local candy maker for some “stuff for lick” with no noise. The crook to the top of each stick helps children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. This peppermint flavored hard candy became really popular in the USA and England.
- ” trifle ” – not much history behind this, i can imagine a housewife in the 16Century to forgot the shopping but wants to make anything sweet to her husband after the roast turkey dinner… so opens the fridge door and chuck everything in big bowl – voila, the trifle born. A bit of everything layered down: sponge cake, jelly, fruits, custard, whipped cream (sometimes a bit of alcohol gives a silent twist).
- ” pavlova ” – meringue based dessert named after a Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova. Its popular sweet in Australia and New Zealand all year around, but in Christmas time u can find it all over the world. So easy to make, the meringue crunchy outside and creamy inside, winter time served with berries berries and a bit more berries.
- ” mince pie ” – ‘Pyes of mutton or beif must be fyne mynced & seasoned with pepper and salte and a lytel saffron to colour it / suet or marrow a good quantitie / a lytell vynegre / pruynes / great reasons / and dates / take the fattest of the broath of powdred beefe. And if you will have paest royall / take butter and yolkes of egges & so to temper the floure to make the paest.’ -i think no comment needed. Old time they used this much sweet to preserve the meat, nowadays the meat appears just in a suet form. I would whisper that for me the mince pie stuffing seems absolutely the same like the christmas pudding itself (lots of dried fruits, nuts, peel, suet, alcohol…)…
- ” yule log ” – this has a big history goes back to the 12Century in Scandinavia, Italy, France… The main pont was, that the leader of a family goes to cut down a big tree (preferably oak) and take home where they make big fire of it during praying – gives luck, health, wealth for the next year. In Serbia and Bulgaria this tradition is still alive. The cake looks like a log and decorated with leaves and scratches. Its a thin cacao-sponge rolled up into a cylinder and stick together with a chocolate icing.
Enough enough enough for England… lets see other countries, however i mentioned already a few other origins earlier…
- “Lebkuchen“: gingerbread cookies exist in a much more softer form, but can purchase them in the famous Christmas street-market decorated with sweets and colorful icing
- “Christollen“: not as sweet, more like a bread leavened with yeast filled with nuts and raisins baked in different shapes
- “Pepperkaker“: this ginger sweet is a very thin, brittle biscuit using as a window decoration with glaze and candy (Pepparkakor, Piparkakut etc etc…)
- “Ris à l’amande“: rice pudding with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds serve cold with cherry sauce… YUMMMMMY
- “Goro“: rich man cookies, baked on specially smithed irons that became family heirlooms
- “Fattigman“: poor man cookies twisted into pretty knots, quickly fried and sprinkle with vanilla sugar
- “Biber“: known as gingerbread, a thick piece of cake filled with marzipan decorated with icing-images from the mountains around
- “Brunsli“: like brownie just without flour. Lots of bitter chocolate and ground almonds pulse together with some egg whites, get the right balance with a hint of clove or cinnamon giving a sexy shape.
- “Panettone“: fruity sweet bread, a bit like Stollen in Germany or Kalacs in Hungary. Using lots of first quality butter and yeast, make it rich with dried fruits, nuts, give a citrus kick with some lemon zest and juice bake in a special mould.
- “Zuppa Inglese“: italian version of the british trifle with rum
- “Struffoli“: deep fried dough balls size of marbles dipped in honey, crunchy outside and light inside, Neapolitan
France: (tradition of the 13desserts)
- “Buche de Noel“: as i mentioned earlier, this is a french type of Yule Log. The sponge cake base filled with buttercream rolled up like a log, cover with rich chocolate ganache and decorate with holly leaves and marzipan mushrooms.
- “Gugelhupf“: from Alsace, kouglof baked in a ring shape with brandy and raisins (similar to panettone or Stollen)
- “Pain d’epice“: the honey-gingerbread as i mentioned before
- “Nougat“: black nugat with honey or white nugat with nuts
- “Truchas de navidad“: flaky turnovers (puff pastry) with sweetpotato, almond and anise filling, dusted with icing sugar
- “Turron“: Spanish nougat, the hard type is Alicante variety (whole almonds 60%), soft type is Xixona variety (64% almonds but make into paste)
- “Mantecados“: like anise flavored shortbread-cookies, melting in the mouth, brother with the ‘Polvorones’
Hungary: last but not least… :)
- “Szaloncukor“: silly translation is parlour candy. Originally the candy was candy when it appeared in France, since then it became more like a chocolate covered bom-bom. My memories still screaming for that old type, hand-made and wrapped one with jelly filling. This is one of the most popular decoration for Christmas trees, but disappearing slowly day by day…
- “Bejgli“: sweet rolled bread made with yeast, stuffed with walnut (good againts bad power) or poppy seeds (good for get rich) served with sweet fruit-wine
- “Mezeskalacs“: hungarian type of ginger biscuit, need to be ready a month before, cause it needs lot of time to getting edible (softer) hahaha, popular tree-decoration as well
- “Hokifli“: snowflake pastry (flour, butter, sour cream) stuffed usually with grandma’s sticky plum jam, bake in the shape of a half moon and cover with icing sugar
Im more than sure that there is a few missing pieces from this list, but luckily its a never ending story and im running out of “paper” :)…. so
We can not do anything else just
WISH YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
full of boozy drinks and yummy sweet treats!