Holiday Baking World

by Jeanne

          Gingerbread

A re-post of last year’s popular favorite–Holiday Baking Around the World. I hope you and your families have a wonderful holiday and may the new year bring you happiness, abundance and plenty of great food.

Around the world holidays bakers regal family and friends with once-a-year treats.

Throughout Denmark the Danish Kringle, a flaky pastry shaped in a ring and filled with almond paste, topped with sugar and shaved almonds; Ukranians serve, Makiwnyk, a poppyseed roll; Christmas Eve Greeks prepare Christopsomo; julebrod is central to a Norwegian Christmas celebration and in Czech Republic bobalky is served over mushroom soup. In America and in Britain there’s also the ever present and chided fruit cake.

Germans, love almonds and pride themselves on their fruit-studded yeast bread, the Christmas stollen is the King of holiday breads. Oblong-shaped and tapered at the ends it is a flat loaf of bread with a ridge down the center and is covered with icing sugar. The traditional German stolen is so revered that it has it’s own annual festival where a Stollen-maiden is crowned. There is also a preservation society that monitors the commercial production of Dresden stolen to ensure quality and authenticity. Today there are 120 bakeries in the Dresden area authorized to use the official seal. During the Christmas season a marzipan log is tucked inside the dough. The trick is to taste a small bit of the paste with each bit of the buttery cake.

According to historians, the original Dresden recipe was far more austere than what we know today. Six hundred years ago ingredients included little more than flour, yeast and water due to Catholic dogma, eggs, butter and milk were strictly taboo. This forbearer of the holiday bread was known as Christbrod (Bread of Christ) due to its shape, as it represented the swaddled body of the infant Jesus and was used as nourishment through the fasting period leading up to Christmas. Today, the loaf is studded with raisins, almonds and flavored with orange and lemon.

In the United Kingdom, plum pudding which has no plums and isn’t a pudding has been a long British tradition. It is more of a cake made with raisins and other fruits and is steamed for hours. When it’s ready to serve, it’s doused with brandy, flamed and served with a butter sauce.

In Provence, the traditional Christmas meal is called le gros souper (the big supper). It ends with Les Treize Desserts, (13 desserts) symbolizing Christ and his 12 apostles. The desserts must be served all at the same time and each guest must taste each one of them. The sweets consist of fresh and dried fruits.

And of course writing on holiday dessert traditions wouldn’t be complete without mention of the French pastry dessert Bûche de Noël (yule log). There seems to be a general agreement that the tradition is tied to the age-old custom of putting a log of wood in the hearth to slowly burn on Christmas Eve. However after more research it appears that tradition is tied to the pagan worship of fire and vegetation. In ancient Celtic laying a carefully chosen tree trunk or stump at the back of the hearth and allowing it to burn down during the holiday festivities. The ashes were preserved to ensure good luck for the home.

Well, needless to say this rolled sponge cake is typically filled with a buttercream—chocolate, coffee or a simple vanilla cream. This year Parisian pastry chef Pierre Herme is using dark chocolate with yuzu an Asian citrus fruit.

In Italy, the Milanese have been eating panettone (pan-et-TONE-ay), for centuries. This is by far my favorite once a year treat. Although some suggest it’s nothing more than glorified raisin bread. Bah humbug. This large mushroom-shaped, brioche-style bread is fragrant with citrus oils, laced with eggs and butter and flecked with small pieces of candied fruit and whole sultanas (yellow raisins). It is also golden yellow from the eggs used to make it.

The “his”-tory dates back to the 15th century and a Milanese baker, apprenticed to a man named Antonio. In love with his boss’s daughter, the young man produced a rich, fruity creation. The instant success of Toni’s bread, or pane ad Toni won him his bride.

To this day, most of these dome-shaped cakes are made in Milan, beginning in September and ending before Christmas. Regulations state that you can’t call it panettone unless you use only butter. Recently, Milan bakers have taken the first steps toward controlling the recipe with that would guarantee traditional baking methods requiring shops to carry a multi-colored logo and a certificate of authenticity.

Holiday traditions around the world

Whole Foods Panettone French Toast

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