Every country has its own Christmas traditions, Christmas foods and desserts. Travelling through different countries I have had the opportunity to experience different traditions and try different Christmas menus. It is difficult to choose between them as each has its own charm. That is one of the reasons why I like the French Provencal tradition of the 13 Christmas desserts. And although I do not follow the tradition on the desserts that should be eaten, I take that as an excuse to indulge in my favourite Christmas puddings.
My Favourite Christmas Cakes
For me, Christmas is engraved in my memory with the smell of hot thick chocolate and the flavour of the panettone that we use to have in Lima when I was a child. So wherever I am at Christmas time I try to find a panettone as it brings so many nice childhood memories to me. Later on, when I moved to Spain, Christmas always had an almond smell around it. The polvorones and turrones –made with almonds- were on every table at this time of the year and so I came to link the smell of almonds and cinnamon with Christmas. In Scotland it was the extremely rich taste of the hot Christmas pudding with a soft rum sauce that became the Christmas souvenir. In France it is the delicate moussy flavour of the buche de Noel that makes Christmas.
I have managed to find recipes for most of my favourite Christmas cakes, except for the French buche de Noel which remains a mystery to me; and perhaps it is better that way. Just ordering my buche from my local pattisiere keeps the mystery of Christmas on my table.
Panettone In Italy And Peru
Christmas lasts 3 days in Italy, from the 24th to the 26th December. But even in the same country the menu varies from region to region and so do the traditional ways of celebrating. The only thing that remains the same in the whole of Italy is the panettone. A cake made with crystallized fruits. A traditional desert dating back to 1490 in Milan which quickly expanded not only through Italy but also reached South America. In Lima, the panettone is the official Christmas desert and the Limeños have adopted it as a national Christmas cake.
There are a multitude of recipes and variations of panettone, from the basic “bread” recipe to the fancy ones with chocolate, mascarpone and creams.
For 8 people:
150 gr. raisins
100 g. sugar
100 g. crystallized fruit
200 g; butter
12 cl. Milk
1 grated lemon
30 g. yeast
Heat up the milk without letting it boil. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk with a pinch of salt and 250g; of flour and leave for about half an hour.
Meantime, put the rest of the flour in a big bowl and add the melted butter, the sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add the milk and yeast mixture and mix with your hands until you have a lovely dough. Once your dough looks supple, add the raisins and the crystallized fruit. Form a big ball and put it in a bowl, draw a cross with a knife on top of your dough, cover it with a damp muslin and leave in a warm place for at least 3 hours. After some time, you should see your panettone rising voluptuously under the damp muslin. This means that you have done a good job.
Put some melted butter in your hands and “cream” you panettone carefully. Put it in a hot oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes.
Once ready you can sprinkle some glazing sugar on top or you can cut you pannetone in slices and eat them buttered with a cup of hot thick chocolate.
Polvorones In Spain
In Spain Christmas is not Christmas without the polvorones. A polvoron is a powdery cake-biscuit that is basically made using finely ground almonds, shortening and sugar, so the biscuit literally crumbles in your mouth. You can find different flavour polvorones like cinnamon, lemon, olive oil, chocolate and coffee. The best polvorones are the ones made artisanally. We used to buy ours from a little town in Malaga called Casabermeja. An unassuming factory where a family made the best polvorones on the coast.
Personally, I find polvorones a bit dry but they are very tasty and excellent accompaniment for a Malaga dulce wine or any other sweet wine. I used to buy them by kilos as they are an excellent shut-up solution for angry drivers (read this as my husband). Just try to put a polvoron in your mouth and say “Pamplona” it is impossible! So if you want a quiet drive without listening to your husband sounding off at the other drivers, just keep a stock of polvorones in your car. Not only will they keep your husband quiet but they will sweeten his day.
Polvorones recipe: For a 1 kilo of biscuits:
500 g. flour
250 g. sugar
20 cl. Oil
Malaga wine or any other sweet wine like a Moscatel.
Put the flour in a big frying pan and grill it under a medium heat. When the flour has a golden colour take it off the fire and add the sugar, cinnamon and oil. Mix well with your hands until you obtain a workable paste.
Roll your paste and cut it to form small biscuits of about one centimetre thick.
Place the biscuits in a buttered baking tin and bake for about 20 minutes at 150°C
Once you take them out of the oven, sprinkle some glazing sugar on top.
Now you just need to sit in a calm place and enjoy your polvorones with a glass of sweet wine.
British Christmas Pudding
- Christmas Pudding
A Christmas pudding is a traditional desert served on Christmas day in Britain. Basically, it is a steamed pudding, with lots of dried fruit, nuts and suet. Made with black sugar and black treacle it has a dark appearance. It is served warm...