Travel the World with these Holiday Desserts

Story by Meredith S. Jensen

In the United States the “holiday season” is loosely considered to be the merry-making time of year between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. Between those holidays fall dozens of religious or cultural holidays celebrated in countries around the world. And while they may differ from one another, they have something in common—bringing people together.

Many of our holidays focus on festivities surrounding food. Cooking brings friends and family around the heart of the home, wrapping them in the warm embrace of kitchens and cook fires dating back generations to the beginning of time.

Of course, no holiday is complete without little bit of sugar. Check out these desserts from right next door and across the pond.

 

 

Norway: Krumkake

Recipe by the Jensen Women, “Could This Be the Best Cookbook Ever?!”  Jensen Family Cookbook

If I may break the fourth wall for a moment, this recipe for Norwegian krumkake has been handed down through my family through generations. Every year when we gather for the holidays, there is sure to be a pile of these cone-shaped waffle cookies in the center of it all.

NOTE: For this recipe, you’ll need a krumkake or pizzelle iron, and a wooden cone form. Expand your kitchen gadget horizons this holiday season and enjoy this Nordic delight!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 scant cup of milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, butter, and cardamom and mix until incorporated
  2. Add flour and milk alternately and mix well again
  3. Heat iron on medium heat until water sizzles off the surface
  4. Grease with butter or nonstick spray for the first krumkake only
  5. Add 1 tablespoon batter into the middle of the iron, close and squeeze handle. Cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook another 30 seconds
  6. Open iron and remove krumkake quickly and roll onto cone form
  7. Gently remove and cool seam-side down on a towel

Recommended: Serve with whipped cream filling

 

 

Mexico: Beñuelos

Recipe by Mely Martínez, Mexico in My Kitchen

Buñuelos are a popular fried dough treat served throughout Latin America, Spain, and beyond. They can be ball shaped, or as in Mexico, flat like a tortilla. They resemble an American county fair favorite, the elephant ear, and often are served at Christmastime.

INGREDIENTS

Mexican Buñuelos:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of butter melted and cooled
  • About ¾ cup of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • About 2 cups of vegetable oil for frying
  • Sugar to sprinkle

Piloncillo syrup:

  • 3 ½ cups of water
  • 1 large piloncillo stick (about 12 oz.)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 6 guavas chopped or cut in quarters
  • 1/3 teaspoon anise seed
  • ¼ of an orange peel

INSTRUCTIONS

Mexican Buñuelos:

  1. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  2. Form a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter and vanilla. Mix until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add the water a tablespoon at a time, mixing and kneading until you have a soft and smooth dough — about 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  3. While the dough is resting prepare your working area with a rolling pin, a large dish with paper towel or open paper bags, extra flour for rolling the circles, a large frying pan with the vegetable oil ready for the moment you start frying the buñuelos.
  4. Divide the dough in 12 small balls and cover. Heat 3/4 inch of oil the large frying pan.
  5. Place one of the dough balls in your already floured working surface and stretch with your rolling pin. Roll out each ball to form a circle as thin as possible without breaking the dough.
  6. To give that extra stretching to the buñuelo, place on the inverted bowl or clay pot covered with the pastry towel and pull the edges gently. The buñuelo should be thin — almost transparent. Before cooking, some people like to place all the already formed buñuelos over a clean tablecloth, in a large table, making sure they don’t touch each other. This step will dry the dough, the buñuelos will be even crispier, and absorb less oil while cooking.
  7. Fry the buñuelos in very hot oil until they are golden and crispy. This step will take a few seconds. Place the buñuelos on a plate covered with paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve warm or at room temperature and sprinkle with sugar.

 

Piloncillo syrup:

  1. Place the 1 cup of water and the piloncillo in a medium-size saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the piloncillo dissolves and it looks like liquid caramel.
  2. Carefully add the rest of the water, cinnamon stick, guavas, aniseed and orange peel and bring to a boil. Cook for about 6 minutes, stir and boil for 4 more minutes. Set aside to use as a topping for the buñuelos.
  3. If you want a thicker consistency, simmer until desired thickness.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The syrup keeps well refrigerated for up to 1 week. Can’t get piloncillo? Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar, then serve.

 

 

Chile: Pan de Pascua

Recipe by Marian Blazes, The Spruce Eats

Although “Pascua” usually refers to Passover and Easter, this Chilean fruitcake is traditionally served for Christmas and Epiphany. And although “pan” usually refers to bread, this dessert is made from a batter, like a cake, rather than dough. Pan de Pascua takes elements from German Stollen fruitcake (Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen during the holidays) and Italian Pandoro bread.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Zest of one orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup brandy, pisco, or rum
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons anise-flavor liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 cup nuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, finely chopped

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine butter with the sugars until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Stir the fruit zests into the dry ingredients.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the coffee, brandy or rum, evaporated milk, anise flavoring, vanilla, and vinegar together.
  6. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/egg mixture, blending well.
  7. Fold in the nuts and the dried fruit.
  8. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a circle of wax paper.
  9. Spread the batter evenly into the pan.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes. Without removing the cake from the oven, carefully sprinkle some sifted powdered sugar over the top of the cake, then bake the cake for 15 minutes more.
  11. Check cake for doneness: a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. If the cake is not yet done, return it to the oven and check it again every 5 or 10 minutes until done.
  12. Let cake cool 15 minutes in the pan on a rack.
  13. Remove cake from pan and serve.

Cake keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic.

 

Great Britain: Orange Spice Cake

Recipe courtesy of Mary Berry, Christmas Collection

A bit lighter than heavy fruitcakes, this orange spice cake is quite the treat for a Boxing Day feast. The fresh citrus and warm cinnamon recipe comes from the legendary baker Mary Berry, best known to Americans audiences as a judge on the Great British Bake Off.

INGREDIENTS

Cake

  • 1 small thin-skinned orange
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 3 level teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

 

Icing

  • 1/4 butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted, plus a little extra for dusting
  • 2 level tablespoons orange pulp, reserved from the cake

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and base-line two 8-inch tins with greased greaseproof paper.
2. Place the whole orange in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. When the orange is soft and cold, cut in half and remove any pips. Chop the whole orange, including the skin, in a food processor until medium chunky. Reserve 2 level tablespoons of the orange pulp for the icing, and put the rest back in the processor.
4. Add the remaining cake ingredients and blend until smooth. Avoid overmixing. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes.
6. Leave to cool in the tins for a few moments, then turn out, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.
7. To make the orange filling, cream the soft butter, then add the sifted icing sugar and reserved orange pulp. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing, and sift icing sugar over the top of the cake.

France: Galette des Rois

Recipe by Nadine Bezard, Food Network

Crisp, delicate layers of puff pastry and sweet almond cream hide a surprise in the galette des rois. This dessert is eaten on Epiphany—the 12th day of Christmas—and symbolizes the arrival of the Three Kings to visit the baby Jesus. Some regions in France feature galettes with different fillings like raspberry, or chocolate and pear, while Southern France serves a gâteau des rois similar to the New Orleans Mardi Gras king cake. But in Northern France, it’s the galette des rois that rules the closing of the holiday season.

The galette is decorated with a paper crown. Traditionally, a fève, or dried fava been, was baked into the galettes, granting the lucky recipient the power to be king or queen for the day and sport the golden crown. Today, the fève is more likely to be an almond (or small toy added after baking) than a bean.

NOTE: This recipe makes two galettes. Take one to the office! One lucky coworker will get to be royalty for the day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages (17.3-ounce) store bought puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 1 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 almond
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. With an electric beater, mix all the ingredients except the puff pastry just until blended.
3. On a slightly floured cold surface, cut 2 circles the size of dinner plates out of the puff pastry. Put one of them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush one inch around the edge of the circle with egg wash (beaten egg yolk).
4. Spread half of the frangipane cream on the center and add the almond.
5. Place the second pastry circle on top matching the edges of the circles. Press all around the edges to glue them together.
6. Press softly in the center to evenly spread the filling. If making two galettes, use remaining cream and follow the same method for preparation.
7. Decorate the galette with a fork by pressing the edges together all around. Be careful not to pop holes in the pastry with the fork.
8. With the point of a knife, make any kind of design, again being careful not to go all the way through the puff pastry. Brush the surface with egg wash being careful no to get any on the sides.
9. Bake the galette in the center of a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. For the last 5 minutes, sprinkle with powdered sugar and bake until golden brown.
10. Serve warm and decorated with the paper crown.

 

 

Hungary: Beigli

Recipe courtesy of Eszter Tokai, Zserbo

The Hungarian beigli (or bejgli) is a sweet walnut or poppy seed yeast roll sliced and served at Christmas and Easter, as well as Jewish holidays.

Often, both the mákos (poppy seed) and diós (walnut) rolls are served at the same time. A beigli is a great way to use extra bread dough to make a special family treat.

Note: This recipe makes four rolls. They’re perfect for giving away as delicious gifts or taking to a holiday potluck

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH (for 4 rolls):

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup castor sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons lukewarm milk
  • Pinch of salt

POPPY SEED FILLING (for 2 rolls):

  • 2 1/4 cups ground poppy seeds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup semolina
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup raisins soaked in water or quince paste cut into small pieces

WALNUT FILLING (for 2 rolls):

  • 3 1/2 cups ground walnuts
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup semolina
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup raisins soaked in water or quince paste cut into small pieces

EGG WASH

  • 2 eggs

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare the two fillings one after the other because they must be cooled before you fill the dough. Bring the milk with the sugar to the boil, then add the other ingredients. Cook and stir until poppy seeds and walnut soak up the liquid. Set aside and let them cool.
  2. Dissolve yeast with a little sugar in lukewarm milk.
  3. For the dough, mix the butter with the flour in a bowl until the large butter pieces vanish and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add castor sugar, salt, egg yolks and activated yeast and knead it until you get a soft, smooth, but not wet dough. If you prepare the rolls later, put the dough in the fridge to prevent butter from melting.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal balls. Roll the first ball out to a rectangular shape on a floured pastry board. Take the half of the poppy seed filling and spread it on the dough while leaving approximately ½ inch empty edges on each side.
  5. Fold in the edges, then roll up the dough.
  6. Place it in a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Now prepare the second poppy seed roll in the same way.
  7. Repeat the above-mentioned procedure in case of the 2 walnut rolls. Place them into another baking pan lined with parchment paper.
  8. For the egg wash, separate the eggs. Set the egg whites aside.
  9. Gently whisk the egg yolks by using a fork and smear the top of the 4 rolls. Put them in a cool place for at least 5 hours to let the egg yolk dry and let the dough rise.
  10. After the egg yolk has dried, gently whisk the egg whites and smear the top of the rolls.
  11. Prick the rolls on the top and on the sides by using a skewer in order to let off steam during baking.
  12. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes.
  13. Let it cool completely before slicing and serving

Israel: Sufganiyot

Recipe by Biscotti Bakery, Bnei Brak, Israel (via Jamie Geller, Joy of Kosher)

Sufganiyot are a classic Hanukkah treat! These deep-fried jelly-filled doughnuts have their roots in a Jewish tradition of eating fried fritters or cakes, dating all the way back to folklore about Adam and Eve. The oil they are cooked in serves as a way to honor the oil in the temple lasting not for one night, but eight.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup warm water
  • Thin strips orange zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or vodka
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted or ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups extra virgin olive oil, for frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Jelly

For pareve doughnuts: use 1 cup of warm water in place of ½ cup of warm milk and ½ cup of warm water; swap out extra virgin olive oil in place of butter.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to make a well or hole in the center. Pour yeast into the well and mix. Stir in milk and water. (See above for pareve preparation.)
  2. Add orange zest, vanilla extract, egg and brandy. Stir until the dough forms.
  3. Mix in melted butter (or extra virgin olive oil.) Transfer dough to a stand mixer or knead by hand for 10 minutes, until you get a nice, firm dough.
  4. Cover dough with a plastic bag or a towel and rest for 1 to 2 hours, until it doubles in size.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out dough to ½-inch thick. Use a 1-inch cookie cutter or ring and cut the dough into 20 balls roughly the size of a ping pong ball
  7. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet 1 to 2 inches apart. Cover with a towel and rise for 1 to 2 hours, until they double in size.
  8. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place a cooling rack inside or over the pan.
  9. Heat 3 cups extra virgin olive oil in a heavy gauge frying pan to 350 degrees. Add sufganiyah, a few at a time. Fry for 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.
  10. Transfer to prepared pan and cooling rack. Once cool, use a baker’s syringe to fill with jelly or other filling, and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Russia/Ukraine: Pryaniki

Recipe by Barbara Rolek, The Spruce Eats

Pryaniki are spiced tea cakes with a thin glaze that are served all year long, but are a reliable staple at celebrations. The combination of cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger render them perfect for bite-sized taste of Christmas. Dense like cake, pryaniki are traditionally known as “honey bread,” and date back to the 9th century.

INGREDIENTS

Cookie Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cloves (or to taste)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ounces butter, unsalted, melted
  • 3/4 cup honey

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves (be careful with the cloves — too much can produce a bitter taste), nutmeg and allspice, if using, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate large bowl, beat together 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, melted butter, and honey.
  3. Mix in the dry ingredients until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment paper the size of your cookie sheets on a clean surface. Using a cookie scoop, portion out mounds of dough and roll them in your hands until they are a completely smooth ball. Place on the prepared cookie sheets leaving 2 inches between each cookie. They will flatten out, but retain a domed shape.
  5. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, or until just golden, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks to finish cooling.
  6. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and enough water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to form a thin icing. Spread on cooled cookies with a pastry brush.