The festive season is a time for family, friends and of course lots of delicious food. As the world becomes increasingly globalised, Christmas cookies from around the world are becoming more and more popular.
In Latin America, they have Dulce de Leche gingerbread men which are perfect for dipping in hot chocolate or coffee. In Russia, they make gingerbread houses with intricate designs out of icing. And if you’re looking for something really unique this year, try Chinese New Year biscuits.
Festive baking from the UK
First up let’s remind ourselves what and why we bake what we do right here at home. The traditional baked treats we eat in this country tend to be mince pies and a traditional Christmas cake. Both of these fruit-heavy treats were baked in celebration of the twelve days of Christmas. Mince pies were traditionally eaten on each of the twelve days whereas the Christmas cake was reserved as a celebration for twelth night.
Festive baking from Eastern Europe
Now let’s move East. North Eastern Europeans have some strange traditions (to our eyes) such as opening presents on Christmas Eve and eating carp rather than turkey. When it comes to baked treats however the Poles have some rather delicious treats. One of the most popular sweet treats that Polish people eat at Christmas is pierniczki. Pierniki are small, hard cakes that have a variety of spices and dried fruit in them. They’re perfect for dunking into your tea or coffee while you watch the Queen’s speech!
Festive baking from Russia
Next up let’s take a flight to Russia where they often feast on Baked Alaska at Christmas time. A Baked Alaska, for the uninitiated, is a meringue-based dessert that has ice cream in it. The reason why this sweet treat is so popular at Christmas time over there rather than the summer months is down to a simple mistake by one of France’s most famous chefs, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord (known as Talleyrand).
The story goes that during a ball in 1806, Talleyrand’s cook put ice cream into the oven without it having been pre-frozen. When he opened up his oven to check on what was cooking, smoke billowed out and everyone panicked thinking that the palace had caught alight. In reality, this rather odd-looking creation resembled an erupting volcano so to celebrate this momentous occasion the dessert was named “Baked Alaska”.
Festive baking from Latin America
Moving along, let’s take a look at some of Latin America’s most festive baked goods. All around Central and South America, there are many different treats people make with their kids or to celebrate special events like Christmas. We all know about panettone (yes it’s from Italy but it’s made in Latin America) and the traditional Panettone cake, however, there are also other festive cakes that people bake for this time of year. In Mexico, they have a very interesting tradition around Christmas where they bake small gingerbread men with an orange stuck on top of their heads. They do this because when the Conquistadors arrived in Mexico they thought that the natives were wearing pointy hats, which was why they called them “Indians”. The Mexicans decided to poke fun at this mistake by sticking an orange on top of their gingerbread men’s heads because oranges are native to India.
Festive baking from China
Finally, let’s look across the Pacific. There is a considerable Christian community in China and much like in this country the Christmas and New Year celebrations often come together. In the case of China, however, the new year celebrations are for the lunar calendar. So traditionally sweet treats like mooncakes are eaten to celebrate this day. Some moon cakes might not be to everyone’s taste (often with baked egg as a key ingredient) but some recipes contain golden syrup which will give us more of the Christmas sugar hit we know and love.
We hope these ideas have got your festive taste buds tingling. And, if you’re looking for some more inspiration for festive baking or cake decorating ideas head on over to the guys at Anges De Sucre.