The time to be merry and joyous is here! Ever wondered about figgy pudding, roasted chestnuts, gumdrops, fruity cakes, cookies, mince pies and eggnog, among others, being indispensable Christmas essentials. These classic foods are innate in Yuletide culture. Despite varied names and used in different ways at diverse latitudes, Noel is incomplete without these flavoursome goodies.
And don’t forget to leave a glass of milk and a cookie platter for Pere Noel fondly known as Santa Claus!
Gingerbread and other cookies
pic: Gingerbread House Sofitel BKC
No confection represents Christmas quite like gingerbread in its many avatars —cookie-walled houses, candy-speckled men, spiced bread loaves. With its origin in ancient Greece, it lends credit to Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel’s tryst with the witch when they stumbled upon a house of treats. Amaretti or almond cookies from Italy, Peanut butter blossoms from the US, Choco chip/pinwheel/sugar cookies from the world over are sought after this season.
pic: Love and Cheesecake
With its roots in medieval England, it was primarily prepared as a method to preserve meat. In the Victorian age, it began to be called plum pudding though it does not contain plums. Made a month before Christmas, it has plenty of raisins, egg, treacle and spices to lend a tantalising flavour.
Christmas plum cake
Baked in the early Middle Ages in Europe, also called fruitcake, it does not contain plum. Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, a porridge was prepared with oats, dried fruits, honey and spices. This was savoured to “line the stomach” for the approaching feast. Packed with spices, dried fruits and rounded off with festive flavours of orange juice and rum or brandy, it is a dense cake, having soaked in spirits for many weeks.
With its origin in medieval Britain, it is a foamy brew of eggs, milk, and sugar spiked with rum or bourbon, served hot. If raw eggs are not your thing, substitute it with tofu, ripe bananas, or peanut butter.
pic: Pondichery Cafe, Sofitel BKC
Originally they were oblong in shape to depict the manger where baby Jesus slept. Baby Jesus was carved into the pastry. In medieval times, an assortment of chopped meat (mutton, pork or beef) mixed with dried fruits, sugar, and spices was adopted to expand a meat source and run through food leftovers. In due course, meat was dropped and it has only fruit stuffing.
This statuesque, eye-pleasing dome-shaped Christmas dessert (it is considered more a bread than a cake) stemmed in Italy and gathered fans around the world. Light and airy in texture it is sprinkled with raisins and candied fruits with a rich and creamy mouth-feel.
It is a classic sweet fruity bread, stuffed with marzipan. Baked like a sourdough, with a white top layer, it is symbolic of baby Jesus shrouded in sheath. Served by the slice, it is enjoyed with butter or honey.
Wonderfully delicious, this meringue-based cake sports a crisp outer case, soft and aerated centre with fruit, and whipped cream topping. Though it has its origins in New Zealand, it is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Quite popular in Australia too, this Christmas dessert is light and airy.
Though relished all year round, it’s a Christmas specialty. This customary winter solstice festive cake, dates back to German or Scandinavian paganism where they burned yule log to fend off evil spirits. This became popular in France as a rich and decadent sponge roll with frosting in bark-like shapes to resemble a drift wood.
Goan sweets take centre-stage in India during Christmas. According to Mumbai-based food enthusiast Mansi Zaveri, “Deep-fried kulkuls, rose cookies, a glass of warm mulled apple cider and other yummy goodies make the festivity merrier.”
Chef Sanket More of Eve Restaurant, Powai, throws light on other specialties, “Nevris are deep-fried coconut dumplings similar to karanji or gujjiyas. Bebinca — a multi-layered cake made of egg, coconut milk, flour and sugar is a perennial favourite. Perad puts to use the seasonal availability of guava to optimum.”
Half-cooked perad is used as jam spread while when fully cooked, can be consumed as a dessert. Made of semolina, bathed in subtle flavours of coconut milk, Baath, is a dense Portuguese cake akin to Middle-eastern basboosa. Dodol is another Goan favourite prepared with rice, coconut and jaggery.
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