How to Bake Traditional Christmas Treats From Across Europe
No holiday travel plans this year? Take a culinary journey instead, by way of a smorgasbord of festive treats from across Europe.
We reached out to chefs, bakers, and mixologists from all over Europe and asked them to share recipes for some of their favorite local Christmas treats.
Finland: Spiced Apple Glögi
Helsinki-based chef Richard McCormick recommends a Finnish Christmas drink sure to keep you warm on a cold winter night.
2 cups organic apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
4 cardamom cloves
½ tsp powdered ginger
1 orange peel
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups red wine
Pour the apple juice in a large pot, add in all the spices and then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and slowly simmer the mixture for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the spiced apple juice from the heat, add the red wine and then heat up once more, but do not boil.
Serve the hot glögi traditionally with almonds and raisins or add some dehydrated orange for an extra twist.
Switzerland: Brunsli Cookies
Baker Adrian Knobel has been making these traditional almond, chocolate, and spice cookies for years at Knobel Bäckerei.
Ingredients for about 45 cookies:
8 oz. ground almonds, raw
1 1⁄2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Mix almonds and sugar in a food processor. Add chocolate; pulse until finely ground. Add cinnamon, and egg whites; pulse until a fairly stiff dough forms.
Sprinkle a large piece of parchment paper with sugar; transfer dough to paper; roll dough to 1⁄8 inch thickness, and sprinkle surface with sugar. Use a table fork, held tines up and away from you, and touch the surface of the dough at approximately a 60-degree angle, streaking the surface of the dough: Pull the fork across the dough toward you in a series on parallel vertical lines about 1/16-inch deep.
Cut out cookies, using heart-, star-, or cloverleaf-shaped cutters; transfer to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 1" apart. Re-roll scraps and repeat. Let cookies dry for 6 hours or overnight, uncovered, in a dry place, at room temperature.
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 °F. Place sheets in oven and bake the Brunsli about 5 minutes, until they are slightly firm. Let them cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
German gingerbread is quite different from what is used in the U.S. to build houses, and the traditional recipe dates back as far as the 14th century. At Christmas, Walter Heiselbetz bakes batches of these spicy, chewy treat at Lebkuchen-Schmidt in Nuremberg.
- Ingredients for approximately 20 small gingerbread cakes:
- 7 2/3 cups sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp honey
- 2 tbsp apricot jam
- 3 tbsp and 1 tsp marzipan
- 1 cup and 1 1⁄2 tbsp hazelnuts, ground and roasted
- 3 tbsp and 1 tsp candied lemon peel
- 3 tbsp and 1 tsp candied orange peel
- 2 tsp gingerbread spice mix
- A pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup wheat flour
- 1 tsp ammonium carbonate (also called baker’s ammonia)
- 1 tsp warm water
- 20 Oblaten wafer (3.5 inches in diameter) (You can buy on Amazon)
Slowly warm the sugar, egg whites, honey, and apricot jam to 104 ° F
Mix the marzipan, candied lemon and orange peels, gingerbread spice mix, and salt together, then add the pre-warmed ingredients from step 1 and mix with a handheld electric mixer for two minutes.
Mix the flour and ammonium carbonate into warm water, add to the mixture and mix for 30 seconds.
Spread the mix onto the Oblaten wafers (about 3 tbsp and 1 tsp per wafer), decorate with halved almonds and a thin layer of powdered sugar.
Let dry for about 24 hours in a warm room. Then, bake for about 11 minutes in an oven set to 355 ° F.
Mix a glaze of 1 cup and one 1⁄2 tbsp powdered sugar, 3 tbsp and 1 tsp of water, and a few drops of lemon juice. Use a brush to coat the still-warm gingerbread.
Mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, who was named International Bartender of the Year at 2015’s Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards, shared a recipe for wassail, which he describes “very old skool English.” For more cocktail ideas, pick up his book, Good Things to Drink with Friends—or just use his bottled cocktails.
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1 sliced lemon
1 sliced orange
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
Sliced thumb of ginger
300 g demerara sugar
500 ml apple brandy
500 ml hard cider
1000 ml cloudy apple juice
6 eggs (Optional)
In a large pan gently warm, but do not boil all ingredients except the eggs.
When enough spice is achieved, strain out the spices. Add a touch of honey if required.
If using the eggs, whisk them with a touch of sugar and a pinch of salt, then slowly add the heated mix, whisking constantly. Sounds weird, tastes great.
Serve in warmed cups with spiced bread, or cake!
1 cup wheat berries or kamut berries, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
The zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup plumped raisins
1/2 cup ground walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely ground blanched almonds (optional)
5 plumped figs, chopped (optional)
5 plumped dates, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup half-and-half
Place rinsed wheat berries in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water by about 5 inches. Stir, cover, and let stand overnight. When ready to cook, drain the wheat berries, rinse, drain again, and place back in the pot. Add 6 cups cold water and salt, bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender (anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours). Drain and set aside to cool.
Prepare poppy seeds by placing them in a saucepan with water to cover by several inches. Stir and let stand 20 minutes. Pour off any impurities that rise to the surface, then drain through a sieve. Rinse under cold water and drain again. Return poppy seeds to the saucepan and scald with boiling water to cover by an inch. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.
Place the saucepan with seeds on burner, bring to a boil for a second time, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Poppy seeds are ready when they can be pulverized between the fingers. Drain and grind once in a poppy seed grinder or 3 times in a regular grinder.
In a large bowl, combine cooled, cooked wheat, ground poppy seeds, confectioners sugar, honey, vanilla, zest, raisins and some or all of the optional ingredients: walnuts, almonds, figs and dates. Mix well and add half-and-half, incorporating thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
France: Bûche De Noël
Eric Kayser, the master pâtissier and baker behind the bread-and-chocolate paradise, Maison Eric Kayser, provided his recipe for a traditional French bûche de noel. The recipe is not for the faint of heart, but fear not. If you lose faith, you can always stop by his shop and pick one up.
Chocolate Sweet Dough:
250g of all-purpose flour
100g of butter
100g confectioners sugar
1 pinch of salt
30g of chocolate powder
Quarter of a tablespoon of vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, mix and combine together the butter and the sugar with a spatula. Add the yolk and the vanilla. Put the flour and the salt in the batter and mix until you obtain an homogeneous dough. Put in the fridge for a minimum of an hour before lining the dough in a square pan. Bake at 350 °F for about 30 min.
60g of egg whites (about 2 whites)
80g of sugar
60g of egg yolks (about 4 yolks)
60g of flour
15g of cacao powder
35g of melted butter
Whip the egg whites and add 15 g of sugar. Whip the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar. Add the cold melted butter. Mix the two preparations. Sieve the flour and cacao powder and add to the preparation. Pour 600g on a tray measuring about 23.5 x 15 inches covered with baking sheet. Bake 12 min at 350 °F.
320g of heavy cream
100g of egg yolks (about 5 yolks)
100g of sugar
40g of gelatin
Quarter of a tablespoon of vanilla extract
Boil the cream, cover and allow to set for 15 minutes. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar, pour cream slowly over the mixtures stirring continuously. Bake in a bain-marie at 350 °F for 40 to 45 minutes until the crème brûlée is set but still trembling in the center. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Place over the baked chocolate biscuit. Cut stripes of 4 cm.
350g of whole milk
80g of sugar
200g of egg yolk (about 10 yolks)
40g of gelatin
350g of chocolate 61%
350g of heavy cream
Place chocolate in a large bowl, set over a bain-marie or in a double boiler at a low simmer. Stir chocolate until melted. Turn off the heat and let stand. Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Mix the milk with the sugar and the eggs and slowly cook in a pan until boiling. Remove from heat. Add the gelatin and the chocolate 61%. Gently fold mixture into the whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate until set (about one hour).
50g of chocolate 61%
50g of sugar
25g of heavy cream
20g of milk powder
4g of agar agar
Bring cream to a boil. Pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Put in the fridge overnight.
Assemble the Bûche:
Place half of the chocolate mousse in a bûche mold. Place the crème brûlée and chocolate biscuit stripes on top of the chocolate mousse. Align stripes so that they are at the center of the bûche. Cover with the rest of the chocolate mousse. Put in a freezer for a few minutes before unmolding. Reheat your glaze at 93 °F (use a candy thermometer) and glaze the top of the bûche. Delicately place your bûche on top of the chocolate sweet dough. Decorate with chocolate pieces and/or mini vanilla or chocolate almond macarons.