It is that time of the year again and Christmas is coming all over the world. Besides the sense of communion, shiny streets and vivid markets, Europe has a plenty of culinary delights on offer. So, forget about your diet these days because everywhere you go, you will get to enjoy the numerous traditional Christmas delicacies. Every country has its own dishes that contribute to this wonderful spirit, so we picked our favorite top 10 to help you decide where to go this season to enjoy the Christmas to the fullest!
Panettone is an Italian type of sweet bread loaf made with raisins, citron, pine nuts and anise. It originally comes from Milan but it is enjoyed on Christmas and New Year’s eve all over the Western, Southern and Southeastern Europe. Stores have a good display of Panettone, and it can be bought as a perfect gift. Panettone changed a bit through the years, mostly because of the popular trends of the markets that have exploded with various Christmas cakes. Original Panettone was dry and dense because it was dipped in coffee or wine, but as its popularity started to raise and the new flavor trends flooded the markets, it got moister.
2) Yule Log
Bûche de Noël or Yule Log is a popular French cake in the shape of a log. Many will say that the origins date back to the ancient Celtic traditions of celebrating winter solstice but the cake didn’t become popular until 20th century. It is made by baking a sponge cake, frosting it, then rolling it into a cylinder, and then frosting it again making the ridged surface that resembles a log. In the end, it can be garnished with meringue mushrooms or pine leaves. This tradition can be found in a number of countries all over the Europe.
One of the trademarks of Germany and Netherlands is a Christmas Stollen also known as Weihnachtsstollen (German version) and Kerststol (Dutch version). Basically, it is a bread with nuts, spices and dried fruits coated with powdered or icing sugar. The first stollen was made in Dresden, in 1545, but the original bread was much different from today’s one. Since the advent was a time of fasting, the bread didn’t include most of today’s ingredients and was pretty tasteless and hard. Every year in Advent, Dresden Stollen festival takes place and celebrates the tradition of making this bread. The Dutch version includes almond paste in the middle of the bread. Anyway, this unique Christmas delicacy slowly became worldwide popular and can be found in the stores as a holiday gift.
What is Christmas without crispy, spice cookies? And one of the most famous ones come from Belgium. Speculoos or speculaas are warm, spiced, crispy biscuits made with cinnamon and brown sugar. Their scent totally recalls wintertime and they go perfectly hand in hand with coffee or tea. The tradition is that children leave their shoes overnight for St. Nicholas and in the morning, they will find the cookies inside. Speculoos have been exported worldwide and can be found in most of the stores during the holidays.
5) Gingerbread house
Is there anything more exciting, especially for children, than eating house made of gingerbread topped with sweets and candies? That is exactly the biggest tradition coming from Germany where the whole family engages in making the sweetest architectural wonder. Gingerbread (similar to popular lebkuchen) originated from the Medieval European cooking but the first records of honey cakes can be traced all the way to the Ancient Rome. The popularity of gingerbread houses grew throughout the history and people are getting innovative all the time so the houses became a pure art! They can be found all over the Europe and wider, providing the unique Christmas spirit.
6) Plum pudding
Plum pudding or Christmas pudding is a traditional dessert made in England, but interestingly, it does not contain plums. The origins of a pudding can be traced in medieval England, and back then ‘plum’ stood for a raisin. Therefore, it is made of dried fruits, eggs and often a black treacle, although, the pudding changed its ingredients and form a lot throughout the history. It is often hanged and dried weeks prior to serving to enhance the flavors. A lot of superstitions were attached to the pudding including the one which says that it should be made with 13 ingredients representing Jesus and his Disciples, but also that the whole family should be involved in stirring the pudding from the East to West in honor of the Wise Men.
Visitors of Spain get to try platters of various sweets and turrón is one of them. It is a nougat made of honey, sugar, egg white, toasted almonds or some other nuts. It is said that turrón is dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, all the way to the Middle Ages, and today, it is a popular Christmas treat in the Southern Europe. Turrón comes in different sizes and consistencies which is why there are different subtypes depending in which city it became popular such as turrón de Alicante (hard variety) and turrón de Jijona (soft variety). Also, the more almond in turrón, it is considered better quality. Turrón can be found in the stores and can be bought as a nice gift.
8) Olivier salad (Russian salad)
This unique salad may also be called ‘Soviet-style salad’ because it is a favourite holiday dish to all the eastern and southeastern European countries, with the origins in Russia. There are numerous varieties from country to country, which is why you will find it under many different names (most commonly Russian salad). Main ingredients include diced boiled potatoes, carrots and eggs, chopped pickles, green peas, salt, pepper, oil and mayonnaise dressing. Some will add meat (in form of chicken, ham or sausages), onions, apples or something similar. Usually, when the salad is being made, it is made in huge portions so that it can be enjoyed for days!
Smörgåsbord or Swedish buffet with various dishes where guests pick the food themselves is popular all around the world and it is usually served for celebrations. Still, to many it is just a buffet with everyday food, but for Swedish people, it has a much stronger meaning and tradition. In Sweden, no Christmas is complete without Christmas smörgåsbord, or julbord. Things you can usually find there are cured salmon and variety of fish, bread, ham, meatballs, pork ribs, cabbage, cheese, liver pâté etc. There are, of course, rules such as in which order are meals being eaten, so if you meet some Swedish friends while there, make sure they introduce you with the proper way of eating at a julbord.
10) Mulled wine
All the delicious food has to be accompanied by something that will warm you up during the colds, and while some will pick tea, many cannot imagine the Advent without a cup of hot, mulled wine. It is an essential part of every Christmas market, all over the Europe. Mulled wine is known under different names such as Bischopswijn, Gluehwein or Gløgg and the recipes can vary depending on the country, but it is the cozy, warm feeling it provides that stays the same.