What does Christmas dessert look and taste like all over the world? From cookies to tarts to cakes, this is a tasty trek through global holiday treats. Enjoy this bite-by-bite breakdown.
The recipe for this Austrian torte goes back to 1653. It's similar to a cookie crisp sandwich and has a cutout on the top cookie. The cutout is often circular but can be a heart, star or some other shape. Inside Linzer tortes is a filling that can range from raspberry, strawberry or apricot jam to almonds to hazelnut spreads. You can make your own Linzer cookies or buy them at local bakeries or online. Many retailers, including box stores and grocery stores, sell the delicious cookies during the holidays.
Nuremberg, Germany, is considered the mecca of gingerbread. Lebkuchen, or gingerbread cookies, have been tradition for over 600 years and have a special ingredient: local honey. Thought to be named after Elisabeth, the sick daughter of a gingerbread baker in the city, the Elisenlebkuchen were made without flour. She got well, and the cookies were a hit. Today, over 70 million are reportedly made each year. The treats are even trademarked under European law. Order them online. With amazing flavors of honey, molasses, cloves and allspice, this is a delicious treat to behold.
*Galette de Rois
This cake, which translates to "king's cake," is served on Jan. 6 to celebrate the Epiphany, or arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem. The puff pastry, filled with almond cream, traditionally contains a trinket inside, like a small charm or bean. When the galette de rois is enjoyed at a gathering, whoever gets the slice with the trinket is crowned king of the party. French bakeries often make this popular pastry throughout the month of January.
Often called lemon drops, these Italian cookies are sweet, but not too sweet. They feature lemon zest and vanilla and are topped with a confectioners' sugar icing and colorful sprinkles. They are easily made at home or can be purchased at a local Italian bakery.
A popular Spanish Christmas cookie, polvorones are also known as Mexican wedding cookies or Russian teacakes. They are dense, soft and crumbly and made from shortbread with flour, milk, sugar and nuts. The round cookies are topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Buy these cookies at local Spanish restaurants and bakeries, or make your own.
This honey cookie is "soaked in honey syrup and topped with walnuts," says Elena Paravantes, a registered dietitian and nutritionist. "It is a vegan, sweet and traditionally consumed during and before Christmas, as many people would fast from animal products for religious reasons."
You'll find these treats online and in most Greek pastry shops.
"The most traditional pastry for the entire Armenian diaspora at Christmastime is a traditional sweet, fruity, nutty Christmas pudding called Anoush Abour," says Anahid Arakelian, an Armenian living in California. This treat, made from ingredients like barley, fruits and nuts, means "sweet soup." It is served throughout the holiday season, from Christmas to New Year's Eve.
You can buy Anoush Abour ready-made at Armenian/Lebanese restaurants in the United States and Canada. Or, if you're feeling creative, head to a Middle East grocery store, buy the ingredients, and make the sweet treat yourself. Arakelian says, "If you are lucky to have an Armenian friend, you will be most definitely welcome to try it in a home at Christmastime."
Country: United Kingdom
These pies, or shortcrust pastries, are typically round or oval. Tamzin Cochrane, a Brit who now lives in Texas, describes the mincemeat filling as "a preserve made with dried fruit, apples, cherries and mixed peel." Adding brandy is a popular touch, too. Kids in the U.K. often leave a mincemeat pie out for Santa Claus, the same way American kids often leave cookies.
"Where to purchase in the USA is trickier, you can buy imported ones at World Market, Whole Foods and sometimes specialty shops," says Cochrane. She cautions consumers that locally made mincemeat pies can be mushy, and that "the concept of mincemeat has not translated over very well." So shoot for the most authentic options here.
Now that your imagination is dancing with thoughts of these wondrous treats, how about bringing one of them into your holiday celebrations? See the following recipe for Spanish polvorones.
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound butter
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter together with both sugars until very creamy and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, add baking powder and salt to flour. Then, add to cream mixture in thirds. Finally, blend in the brandy. Roll out dough on floured board to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter (smallest available). Place dough on greased cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until light gold in color. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while still hot. Enjoy.
(Recipe courtesy of Tapa Toro)