Tag Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas from Australia!

AustraliaTomorrow is Christmas – and here it is blustery and cold – but imagine if you could go to beach! In this vintage Australia Christmas video, you can!

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December 24, 2016 · 10:14 AM

Pastry Post-Doc: Lithuanian Christmas tree cake (Šakotis)

lithuaniaWe first saw these show-stopping Lithuanian Christmas tree cakes – Šakotis –  for sale by the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland at a cultural fair. Though you may see Sakotis for other special celebrations in Lithuania, they are associated with Christmas – especially since they look like Christmas trees! The cake is made by pouring batter over a rotating, horizontal spit over a heat source. The batter is simple – just sugar, eggs, flour and sour cream – and as the batter is poured over the spit, tree-like layers begin to form.

sakotis

Other cakes made on a spit are found throughout Central and Eastern Europe with different names: like the German Baumkuchen, Polish sękacz, Czech Trdelník and Hungarian Kürtőskalács. Unless you have all this special equipment, you probably won’t be able to make Sakotis at home – but you can buy them straight from the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland online.

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What to drink for a Chilean Christmas: Cola de Mono

chileLooking for a beverage to serve at your holiday feast, and wanting something a little different than Eggnog? Try some Chilean Cola de Mono – literally “Monkey Tail.” Cola de Mono is similar to a White Russian and contains milk, coffee, aguardiente, spices and and sugar – served chilled. No one is quite sure where the name “Monkey Tail” comes from, but theories abound: it will have you swinging around like a monkey, it was originally bottled in discards from the Spanish Anisette brand Anís del Mono, or another apocryphal story that it is a morphing of the name of former president Pedro Montt (who had the nickname “Monkey”). Here are simple recipes from Eat Wine Blog and All Recipes. Salud!

colademono

Cola de Mono from Restaurant Kaialde

 

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Pastry Post-Doc: Pio Quinto Christmas Cake from Nicaragua

Nicaragua_flagIt is Christmas season again, and we have cake on the brain! In Nicaragua, Christmas means Pio Quinto cake (which may or may not be named after Pope Pius the 5th). It is similar to tres leches cake, but instead of being soaked in milk, it is soaked in rum! Pio Quinto is topped with a vanilla and cinnamon custard – called atolillo (which can also be served alone) and sprinkled with raisins and other dried fruits. You can find recipes for Pio Quinto from Serious Eats (seen below) and Leaders from the Kitchen.

pioquinto

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Swedish Candy Canes – Polkagris – for the holidays

sweden_flagToday is St. Lucia Day, one of the most important holidays in Scandinavia, and Christmas is right around the corner! We have covered some Swedish holiday cakes and cookies here on the blog previously, but did you know that candy canes may in fact have their roots in Sweden? In Sweden these striped candies are called Polkagris. Polkagris was invented by a female entrepreneur, Amalia Eriksson, in 1859 in the town of Gränna, Sweden. At a time when few women were allowed to be entrepreneurs, the widowed Amalia created the candy as a way to support her family (and the recipe was kept as a secret until her death). The traditional polkagris color is red and white with peppermint flavor, much like the candy canes we know in the US. However, there are a few differences – Polkagris is made with vinegar, which makes it softer and chewier – and creates a shorter shelf life.

polkagris

 

 

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Pastry Post-Doc: Caribbean Black Christmas Cake

Jamaican_FlagtrinidadIf you live in the freezing Midwest like us, the winter holiday season may not immediately get you thinking of tropical recipes, but the Caribbean has huge tradition of delicious Christmas foods worth sampling. One emblematic Caribbean food that is a holiday staple is the simply named Black Cake (it gets its name from its rich molasses color). The cake itself is filled with figs and dried fruit soaked in wine, rum and is flavored with cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Caribbean Black Cake is a descendant of British plum pudding, and has an special stronghold in Caribbean countries that were former British colonies such as Trinidad and Jamaica. However, you will find it throughout the Caribbean and in most Caribbean-American communities around holiday time with assorted named like Christmas Cake, Black Christmas Cake, West Indian Fruit Cake, Caribbean Christmas Cake, etc. A unique ingredient that is essential to the rich taste of the cake is burnt sugar syrup, or “browning,” that is available in Caribbean markets (or you can make your own). Here is a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake from the Cooking Channel (below),  Trinidadian Black Cake from Cooking with Ria and Caribbean Black Fruitcake from Chowhound.

blackcake

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Polish Three Kings Cake: Ciasto Trzech Króli

PolishKingCakePolandJanuary 6th marks Three Kings Day (also known as 12th night or Epiphany) the official end to the Christmas holiday season. In the past, we have written about some of the most popular cakes eaten on this holiday: the French Galette des Rois and its classic Fèves, Portuguese Bolo Rei and the Spanish and Latin Amerian Rosca de Reyes. In Poland, there is also a special cake to ring in this holiday, the Ciasto Trzech Króli (Three Kings Cake). Similar to other Eurpean cakes, the Ciasto Trzech Króli is rich, filled with dried fruit, and topped with a decorative crown (recipe in English and photo from About.com here). Whoever finds the almond or coin baked into the cake gets to wear the crown!

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The holiday season isn’t over yet, make Coquito

Flag of Puerto RicoWe took a bit of an extended writing break around Christmas and New Years this year, but never fear, there are still a few more days to get in those holiday recipes before people think you are out of step (we still have our Christmas lights on!). One of the holiday recipes we enjoyed over our break, at a Puerto Rican parranda (caroling event), was coquito. Coquito is a Puerto Rican coconut eggnog, often served spiked with rum. In Puerto Rico the winter holiday season extends well into January, and coquito can be found at any holiday feast during this time. Coquito is super easy to make – and maybe it will make the transition back to work a little easier.

coquito

Coquito by Ria Field

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German Springerle Cookies for the Holidays

Springerle Molds germanyWhile at the Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago we spotted these unique rolling pins and cookie molds amidst the wooden ornaments and whistles at a German handicrafts stand. Far from just being decorative, these “Springerle” pins and molds are used for imprinting designs on traditional German cookies of the same name. Springerle cookies are easy to make, and are basically sugar cookies flavored with anise, as in this recipe. However, traditional recipes call for a more unusual ingredient – baker’s ammonia. What makes these cookies really distinct are their festive designs, which may be stars, hearts, flowers, animals, people, or anything you might imagine. Springerle pins and molds have been common across Germany for centuries, and some of the antique designs truly are artful. If you are not near a German market, you can buy a wide variety of springerle pins or molds online.

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How Candy Canes are made

Candy Cane

Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate or not, hope you are having a lovely day, and something good to eat. We know we will be stuffed with sweets today. In that holiday spirit, please enjoy this awesome video of candy canes being made at Lofty Pursuits in Florida.

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Bretzels at the Chicago Christkindlmarket

germanyOne of the great holiday traditions in Chicago is visiting the German-inspired Christkindlmarket in Daley plaza in Chicago. At the Christkindlmarket, you can get your fill of German and America treats, buy some of the famous German glass ornaments (including the famous pickle ornament), and pick up a commemorative mug of spiced wine, Glühwein. As for other food and drink, you can also get döner, sausages, roast nuts, stollen, potato pancakes, strudel and more. However, for us, the treat of choice is the Bavarian pretzel aka bretzel. When we were in Germany this was our favorite snack, and there are several varieties available at the Christkindlmarket from the Pretzel Haus stand (from Bad Oeynhausen) for less than $5 apiece. We go for the classic bretzel, though there are cheese-filled and sugary varieties as well. It is the prefect market day food- warm, filling, and portable! Christmas Eve is the last day the Christkindlmarket is open – so don’t delay in getting your holiday bretzel.

Bretzel

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Merry Christmas 2013!

Happy winter wishes from the miniature snow-covered Sphinx in Tobu World Square Theme Park in Japan.

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Holiday eats around the world: A Puerto Rican Christmas Feast

Flag of Puerto RicoIt’s Christmas Eve, and most people have their menus well-planned. But if you need some last minute inspiration, look no further than the typical Puerto Rican Christmas feast. Our favorite part? Lechon asado as the main centerpiece: a whole roast pig, which we try to get as often as we can! Other typical Christmas Eve or nochebuena dishes are pasteles (filled masa steamed in banana leaves), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas) and coquito (coconut egg nog). Though Italian food is near and dear to our heart, this kind of feast is a definitely a close second!

Christmas in Viejo San Juan

Christmas in Viejo San Juan by Gaby Maldonado

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Venezuelan Hallacas For Christmas

VenezuelaChristmas food is all about comfort, and nothing is more comforting than tamales! Venezuela has their own special Christmas dish that is a close cousin of the Mexican tamal, the hallaca. A mix of European, African and Indigenous foodways, hallacas consist of masa steamed in a plantain leaf, filled with a mixture of beef, pork, chicken and olives. If you are really planning to have a big nochebuena dinner, here is a recipe to make 50 hallacas, or a slightly more modest 25. The tradition of making hallacas at Christmastime has also spread to Trinidad and Aruba, both of which are very close to the Venezuelan coast.

Venezuelan Hallacas

Venezuelan Hallacas by Alejandro Angel

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Danish Brunede Kartofler: Caramelized Christmas Potatoes

denmark_flagWe’ve never thought of potatoes as a sweet dish, but Kalle Bergman’s post about Brunede Kartofler (Danish Caramelized Potatoes) on Honest Cooking definitely intrigued us. As opposed to the salty mashed potatoes we enjoy in the US, the Danish go the sweet route with this traditional Christmas side, which is an excellent match with heavier meat dishes. Brunede Kartofler are deceptively simple, and consist of peeled new potatoes, pan-fried in butter and sugar. In order to cut through the heavier dishes, you will often see the meat and potatoes cut with the tangy cabbage slaw, Rødkål.

Danish Caramelized Potatoes

Danish Caramelized Potatoes by Jens Rost

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The Christmas Pickle Ornament

We were at Chicago’s venerable Christkindlmarket today, perusing the holiday ornaments while enjoying bretzels and roasted cashews, when we noticed a huge basket of glass ornaments shaped like pickles. “Odd,” we both said. But then we saw them at another booth, and again at another. What gives? We were intrigued. Finally, in one of the ornament shops, in the midst of yet-again vocalizing how confused we were by the pickle ornaments, a woman behind us jumped in: in her family, one person puts/hides the pickle ornament in the tree, and the person who finds the pickle ornament gets to open presents first, or gets an extra gift. And it was not just her family: apparently the Christmas pickle is a huge tradition! Though some people claim the pickle has German origins, it is probably actually an American or German-American tradition that took root in the late 19th century, just as glass ornaments were being popularized. Even though its origins are shrouded in mystery we like the idea that it is supposed to bring good luck!

Christmas Pickle Ornament

Christmas Pickle Ornament (and Danbo friend) by Meagan

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Holiday Eats Around the World: Stollen from Germany

germanyThough everyone is probably already overtired of holiday sweets, here is one more confection for the road (though is it really possible to be completely tired of sweets?) One of the most popular European Christmas treats is the German Stollen, a type of yeast-based fruit cake chock full of nuts, candied fruits and spices, and topped with powdered sugar. The history of Stollen is very complicated, and dates back to the 14th century, when it originated during a baking contest created by the Bishop of Nauruburg. Stollen enjoyed such an exalted place in German cuisine that a church ban on butter was lifted in the 16th century just to make the holiday cake (with some of the proceeds being used to build churches). Though Stollen is found throughout Germany and Europe, the most lauded variety is found in Dresden,  a recipe that can be found here. Dresden even has an annual festival in honor of the cake. Due to our affinity of all things miniature, also check out this recipe for Mini Stollen.

Stollen

Stollen by Joana Petrova

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Merry Christmas Bacalhau!

If there is one constant in Portuguese food it is the mighty, iconic Bacalhau. This Portuguese salted cod is found nearly on every traditionl Portuguese menu – often in dozens of preparations. It is in fact rumored that over 500 canonized Balcahu recipes exist in Portuguese cuisine. Some of the most popular Bacalhau dishes are Bacalhau com Natas and Bacalhoada, but there is a Bacalhau recipe to suit nearly every taste.

Christmastime is an especially important time for the Bacalhau – as it is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve by Portuguese families. Bacalhau can be found in many forms – filleted and dried, in cans, and even frozen is gaining popularity. We were also amused to find specal  “Christmas Bacalhau” for sale. Basically these are the normal splayed, dried and salted bacalhau, but wrapped in cellophane and topped with a red bow. We thought this was a one-off, but we actually saw this festive gift-ready presentation in several Lisbon stores leading up to Christmas.

This calls to mind the Italian tradition of the feast of the seven fishes, which we have written about previously. In Italian, Bacalhau is called Baccala, and sorry to say we do not much care for that either, perhaps betraying our Italian heritage a bit. But, bacalhau is the real heart of Portuguese cuisine, and if you don’t at least try it – you are missing out! You never know when you will need that 7th fish dish for the Feast of Seven Fishes.

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Christmas in Portugal: Bolo Rei

Bolo Rei on display in Lisbon

In Portugal, one of the signals that the Christmas season has arrived is the arrival of the Bolo Rei (King Cake), a yeast-baked cake flavored with nuts and fruit and topped with a heaping helping of crystallized fruit. Eaten in Portugal until Kings Day (Jan 6), the Bolo Rei is nearly identical to the King Cake that is popular for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Like a King Cake, the Bolo Rei has a small trinket inside (traditionally a fava bean, but in more modern times, a charm), a practice which has now actually been outlawed (boo!).

The Confeiteria Nacional in Lisbon credits itself with introducing the Bolo Rei to Portugal in the 1800s. Throughout Portugal there are Bolo Rei being sold by every corner bakery, in all sizes. However, if you are not currently in Lusitania, there are many recipes available for Bolo Rei. Another Variation on the Bolo Rei is the Bolo Rainha – without crystallized fruit.

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Finer Things Club: The Last of the Julmust

norwaysweden_flagJulmust is a Scandinavian soda that is sold only around the holiday time. So – like many other Christmas items, now that the holidays are over – Julmust goes on sale.  We visited World Market on New Years Eve, where we found that  Guttsta Kalla Julmust was on sale for the bargain-basement price of $0.49!  Having never tried Julmust, we decided it was a must-buy. Two of the main ingredients in Julmust are barley and hops, similar to beer. However, Julmust is not fermented, so it is non-alcoholic. Upon tasting, we ascertained that Julmust is pretty much beer with juice. On top of the hoppy flavor, Julmust did have some holiday spiciness, but it was not necessarily our cup of tea. Though we concede that Julmust is a fine holiday tradition, it’s definitely an aquired taste.julmusttree

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