First, let’s leap across the pond to jolly ole’ England (and the rest of the UK). Did you miss the Christmas pudding or Plum pudding as it was referred to in medieval times, itself a curiosity since the ‘plums’ are actually raisins, at your recent feast? You may want to start making it pronto since it takes a while to age and if you add enough brandy it should last you until next year’s celebration.
Next, time to light a fire as we travel north to Finland for some filling Karelian pasties. Traditionally, these rye-crusted gems were loaded with barley, potatoes or buckwheat. Now, they are replaced with rice, butter and boiled eggs and served with egg butter.
Not to worry because in nearby Switzerland, chrabeli anise cookies await us. These little branch shaped cookies that the Swiss refer to as ‘feet’ do take several weeks to soften, so don’t despair when they first appear hard to the touch.
While waiting for those cookies to soften, we travel to Romania in southeastern Europe for the grandmotherly (it’s name origin) babka a spongy yeast cake with a glazed icing popular during major holidays including Easter and referenced in an old Seinfeld episode for western cultural enthusiasts.
A little to the north, it’s time for some Polish style cheesecake called sernik. The ingredients call for farmer’s cheese, a fresh curdish cheese whose liquid is almost pressed. The version in our image features a cream cheese based filling topped with fruit and jelly.
Seeking balmier temps and lighter fare we head to Spain for a eggwhite honey sugar and almond confection known as turron or the less nutty torrone in Italy. Baked in a cake form, once the honey crystallizes and the nuts are added, get ready to make a toast (it’s alleged Latin name derivation) with either the hard crunchy or soft chewy version of this also Latin American dessert.
Still feeling the yuletide spirit? We travel to France for a Yule Log or buche de Noel, a spongy cake that is rolled into an actual log shape and filled with either a chocolate buttercream or raspberry jam and covered with a bark inspired ganache. That is, just in case you don’t have the urge, (some do by the way), to add an actual tree branch to top off the natural look of this much heralded meal topper.
About 5,000 miles Southwest, we cap off our culinary tour with a cup of Mexico’s version of a hot beverage called ponche navideno. Made with native ingredients such as dried hibiscus flowers and sugar cane sticks and crabapple like fruits called tejocotes, this aromatic fruit punch is simmered and served as part of a nine-day celebration in preparation of Christ’s birth. Incidentally, it also can be served with or without spirits. You can buy hibiscus flowers (Flor de Jamaica), tejocotes at health stores, speciality markets or online.
Zooming off to another faraway land, this time China, we find the slightly sweet Hup Toh Soh or walnut cookie celebrated for the Lunar New Year and other festive occasions, but probably not Christmas, more popularly known as the ‘Spring Festival’. While there is some dispute amongst purists about whether it’s better to use walnuts or almonds, mostly everyone seems to agree that these fragrant smelling shortening and flour based crunchy morsels are welcome at any time.
Exhausted from the tour? Maybe, you’d simply prefer to serve your loved ones a good old fashioned (and wildly popular this time of year) down home slice of apple pie.