Bring European treats to your table this Christmas

Why not bring a bit of Europe to your Christmas table this year? From Germany’s Stollen Christmas Cake, to England’s Mince Pies, we have some great ideas and recipes to get you started. Along the way you will also learn more about the origins of these delicious treats. Now time to get on your aprons! 
 
For the non-bakers, the good news is many of these fabulous European festive treats are available from specialist delicatessens and supermarkets. Merry Christmas!
 

1. Stollen Christmas Cake – Germany

Stollen Christmas Cake, Germany

Christmas Stollen, known in Germany as Christstollen, is a fruit bread that is baked with dried fruits, candied citrus peel, nuts and spices. Stollen are famously dusted with a thick coat of powdered sugar, reminiscent of the snowy German landscape, and baked with aromatic spices conveying the warmth of the Christmas season.
 
The first and most famous variety of stollen is the Dresden Stollen.  Some historians date its origin back to 1329 and over the centuries the stollen was refined to become what it is today.  And it has come a long way indeed because up until 1650 the stollen was a bland, hard pastry as the use of butter and milk was forbidden during Lent by the Catholic church. 
 
 

2. Gingerbread House – Germany

Gingerbread house, Germany

The tradition of decorated gingerbread houses began in Germany in the early 1800s, supposedly popularised after the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel was published. The Grimms’ original fairytale includes the line: “When they came nearer they saw that the house was built of bread, and roofed with cakes, and the window was of transparent sugar.” Inspired by the story, German bakers began to craft small decorated houses from lebkuchen, spiced honey biscuits.
 
Today the tradition of making gingerbread houses has become a family event in households across the world.
 
Here's a great recipe to make your own Gingerbread house, alternatively there are some great kits you can buy from the supermarkets. 
 
 

3. Christmas Mince Pies – England

Christmas Mince Pies, England

Christmas Mince Pies were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruits and spices mix as they are today. They were also first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. 

During the Stuart and Georgian times, in the UK, mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas. Very rich people liked to show off at their Christmas parties by having pies made in different shapes like stars, crescents, hearts, tears, & flowers. Having pies like this meant you were rich and could afford to employ the best, and most expensive, pastry cooks. Now they are normally made in a round shape and are eaten hot or cold.
 
Transport your guests to England with your Christmas Mince Pies with this easy recipe.
 

4. Chocolate Yule Log – France

Christmas Yule Cake, France

The Yule log cake (or bûche de Noël) is an elegant creation consisting of a rolled, filled sponge cake, frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like tree bark and festooned with meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly sprigs, spun sugar cobwebs and any other sort of edible decoration.

The history of the Yule log cake stretches all the way back to Europe’s Iron Age. Back then, Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end. People would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signalling the end of the winter season. To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pine cones or ivy. Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil and lightning.

Create your own Yule log cake to bring France to your table this Christmas with this great recipe.
 

5. Panettone – Italy

Christmas Panettone, Italy

Panettone is an Italian traditional cake-like bread stuffed with dried raisins and candied orange and lemon peel. 
 
One of the legends of its conception says that the person who invented panettone was the Milanese nobleman Ughetto degli Atellani who lived in the 1400s. He fell in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. To win her over, the nobleman disguised himself as a baker and invented a rich bread in which he added to the flour and yeast, butter, eggs, dried raisins, and candied peel.The duke of Milan , Ludovico il Moro Sforza, encouraged the launch of the new cake-like bread: pan del Ton (or Toni's bread). 
 
Another story says that Toni, the young helper of a cook, was the real inventor. It was Christmas and the court chef had no dessert to offer. What he had prepared wasn’t good enough to be served. So Toni prepared something using everything he had available. Hence the name panettone, “il pan de Toni” (Toni’s bread). 
 
Good news non-bakers, you can easily find Panettone in most supermarkets and delis, or you can make it yourself with this easy recipe.
 

6. Shortbread cookies – Czech Republic

Christmas Shortbread Cookies, Czech Republic
 
Vánoční Cukroví are traditional, iced shortbread Czech Christmas cookies. St Nicholas Day, which takes place on December 6 signals the beginning of Christmas baking for many Czechs. Many families work days, even weeks in advance baking all kinds of cookies. There are literally hundreds of different recipes for Vánoční Cukroví with a multitude of variations. They are baked and exchanged among friends, family and neighbours throughout the festive season. The recipes are then passed from mother to daughter through the generations. 
 
Make these traditional Czech Christmas cookies at home, using this recipe, featuring variations of the cookies.
 

If these European festive treats have inspired you take a look at our fabulous European Christmas tour programmes.

 
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Michele Zavaglia

Michele Zavaglia is the Marketing Manager at Albatross Tours.