The Christmas months are all about traditional things like caroling and decorating and, of course, certain seasonal tastes. You know, like creamy striped peppermints and soft fruit cakes and sugar-coated rum balls. But that’s here in the U.S. In other parts of the world, such desserts don’t even make an appearance on holiday menus. That’s because they have traditional tastes all of their own – some that go back nearly a century.
Buon Natale! This sweet loaf is not only a symbol of Christmas in Italy but one of Milan, where it originated from. It’s made by first curing the dough then adding in candied fruits, raisins, and sometimes mascarpone or amaretto. How traditional is it? Oh, it appears to be ancient. There’s evidence that panettone was made during the Roman Empire with a mixture including sticky honey for sweetness.
What: Bûche de Noël
Literally, “bûche de Noël” means Yule log, which is no surprise given the look of this sweet roulade. Made from génoise or other sponge cake that is frosted, rolled into a cylinder, and frosted again with a thick layer of chocolate confection. To create the realistic bark, Francophones drag a fork over the exterior frosting and dust it with powdered sugar, creating snow. It’s often served with tree branches, fresh berries, and mushroom-shaped meringue.
A single bibingka is often enough to serve a few people, which is lucky, given the time-consuming process of creating them. Bibingkas are cakes made from a mixture of rice flour and coconut milk (or water). The dough is poured into a specially-made terra cotta container lined with a banana leaf that is then placed over preheated coals. Another banana leaf is placed over the top along with more warm coals to create a cake that’s ever-so-slightly charred on both sides.
As early as 1296, German bakers were preparing these traditional cookies made of honey, spices, nuts, and candied fruits. They’re fairly large, incredibly soft, and a favorite of children. That’s because today these gingerbread-esque cookies are often baked in heart-shapes and decorated with brightly colored frosting.
What: Christmas Pudding
Some families in Britain have their own special, super-secret recipes for this Christmas dessert that can be traced back to the 1420s. (So yeah, it’s a tradition all right.) The medieval custom is to make the dessert on the 25th Sunday after Trinity with 13 ingredients (representing Christ and the 12 apostles) and have everyone in the family take a turn stirring the mixture (either to honor the Magi or to make a wish). Back in the day, it was also common practice to throw coins into the mixture too (either a three or six pence piece). Whoever got it in their serving was said to receive luck. (Other tokens such as a wishbones, thimbles, and small anchors have also made appearances inside the pudding.) To dress up their exteriors, the holiday treats are often topped with a sweet glaze and adorned with a sprig of holly.
About the Author:
"Katie Straw" is the writer at Cheesecake.com, which provides an epic cheesecake experience, and currently resides in Manchester, New Hampshire.