I love to bake at this time of year. Home-baked goodies make lovely, personal gifts for people, I find, and nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like a house filled with the scent of baking delights.
Usually, I spend Christmas in England, and so of course traditional English treats are always on the list, but given my history of travelling and my heritage, I also love to experiment in the kitchen with recipes from farther afield.
Today, I’m sharing with you just a few Christmas bakes from around the world. I hope they inspire you to get creative in the kitchen, or take a look at the ‘world foods’ section in your supermarket. You never know, you may discover a new favourite treat.
And if you do enjoy a range of Christmas sweets, why not embrace the ‘thirteen desserts’ tradition from the region of Provence, France? The thirteen desserts, representing Jesus and the twelve apostles, are set out on the table on Christmas Eve and eaten over the course of the holiday period. Frankly, you had me at ‘thirteen desserts’…
Panettone – Italy
Light and fluffy with a unique flavour, this sweet bread can have a range of flavourings, from orange and lemon zest to chocolate and raisins. Serve with crema di mascarpone – mascarpone, eggs and amaretto.
Bûche de Noël (Yule log) – France
A sweet roulade cake, like a Swiss roll, made with sponge cake and lashings of chocolate buttercream. I once made one with espresso-infused icing which went down a treat.
Æbleskiver – Denmark
These round, light, fluffy pancakes are sprinkled with icing sugar and served with pots of jam for dipping. Perfect served with hot mulled wine.
Stollen – Germany
A sweet, dense bread containing nuts, fruits, spices and marzipan and coated with icing sugar. One piece is never enough!
Turrón – Spain
This popular type of nougat is made with honey, sugar and egg whites, and usually almonds. I especially love the chocolate-coated variety.
Mince pies – Britain
Puff or shortcrust, lattice-topped or closed, simple mincemeat or with a dash of rum or sherry… mince pies are a staple in the British cuisine come December. Delicious. Also try the traditional British Christmas cake, a rich fruit cake topped with marzipan and white icing.
Makowiec – Poland
Another roll bake, but this one is more of a bread and the filling is poppy seeds. A great treat to try if you think you’re not a dessert person; it’s not too sweet.
Roscón de reyes (Cake of the Kings) – Spain
This sweet brioche-like bread is designed to resemble a crown, and is studded with fruit and nuts to represent the gems. It’s usually eaten on 6th January for the Fiesta de Los Tres Reyes Mages (Day of the Three Magi Kings) to celebrate the arrival of the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
Kahk – Egypt
These shortbread biscuits are traditionally eaten across the Arab world to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Easter, but Coptic Christians in Egypt like to give them to family and friends at Christmas time. These treats can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt: wall art in the ruins of temples at Memphis and Thebes depicts people making kahk. These days, the traditional recipe incorporates dates, pistachios or walnuts, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, with a sprinkling of icing sugar – the closest we usually get to snow in Egypt!
1) Magdalena Kucova/Shutterstock; 2) Kisoulou/Unsplash; 3) Jennifer Pallian/Unsplash; 4) Jonathan Farber/Unsplash.