Though not quite as delicious as the Festive Special, these pretzel adorned Swiss Chalets are delightful to look at and fun to make.
All in Swiss Christmas
There is a persistent rumour that the dish is indeed named for the disease Cholera, after a particularly bad outbreak in the 1830. People in the Wallis stayed home to avoid contamination and were forced to use things they already had in their larder and gardens to feed their families.
More likely, however, is that it's named after the glowing coal in the fireplace where the pan would have sat to bake.
I didn't intend it when I made it, but there is something deliciously noggy about this cake. It brings back numerous Christmas tree decorating sessions, nog in one hand, rum bottle in the other.
It might be the four eggs in the cake batter. Or the dashes of cinnamon. Or the lashings of rum.
Whatever it is, it's Christmas.
Vanillegipfeli are tender, buttery, sweet, baby croissant-shaped cookies, dredged in vanilla-y icing sugar.
A lot of icing sugar.
Polar bears (Eisbär, "ice bear" in German) are majestic creatures that deserve more than just the classic 80s New Wave song by the Swiss band Grauzone (no matter how awesome that song is).
They deserve to be Christmas cookies.
Grittibänz, sweet doughy bread boys, are the featured baked good to go along with the visit from Samichlaus.
Josy, my mother-in-law, makes the very best pork tenderloin. She studs it with prunes, then wraps it in bacon and puff pastry. It's divine.
In Switzerland there typically isn't a set food to eat during the holidays, but somewhere between Christmas and New Year most Swiss families eat a fondue. Whether Cheese or Chinoise, forks are dipped.
Gingerbread for all!
These boozy balls are ones you'll actually want to eat.
Often rum balls are made with leftovers—stale cake and cookies—but these are purpose built, using ground nuts as the base. And why ever limit yourself to just rum?
You can make them gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, even booze-free—the variety is endless.
Nothing says festive quite like a shot of booze...
The result of all these Samichlaus sacks is that you sometimes end up with a glut of peanuts, chocolate, and oranges. If you get tired of eating them, don't despair, chop them up and make this easy recipe with the leftovers.
Fondue seems like a pretty easy way to seduce a mate. I know, I know, how will you be able to make your move when you can hardly button your pants? That's where the generous pouring of kirsch comes in handy...
In mid December, I took in the Strasbourg Christmas market with my buddies Lauren and Emily. The highlight was lovely steaming cups of warm, spiced white wine that went right to our heads.
A couple of sips and our eyes got glassy, our speech emotional, and the cobblestones became difficult to negotiate.
It was some good mulled wine.
In November I did a hike in the beautiful Simmental. There is a trail called the Obersimmentaler Hausweg that leads to the most notable historic farmhouses and buildings in the valley. This hike inspired me to make these chocolatey Bauernhäuser or farmhouses.
These are Sam's favourite Christmas cookies. Actually, they might be Sam's favourite cookies period. Josy, his mum, always keeps a big tin at the ready over the holidays. If you need to do some last minute baking, or baking with children, this is a great choice.
The jewel of the Swiss Christmas cookie tray is surely the Spitzbuben, with its elegant dusting of powdered sugar and bright ruby centre. According to the Kulinarisches Erbe, Spitzbuben are a relatively modern cookie in Switzerland, and were likely developed and named in the 20th century. The term Spitzbub refers to a mischievous boy, and the cookies may be so named because jammy faces were originally cut into the dough.
There is no one standard Brunsli recipe. Historically, the most luxurious and expensive part of the cookie was the ground nuts. It was only during lean times that the nuts were replaced with flour. There is debate over which nuts to use, whether almonds, hazelnuts, or even walnuts. Some recipes call for grated or melted chocolate, while others depend on cocoa (and some use both). Finally, some recipes suggest the cookies are baked low in the oven and some forego baking completely and just leave them out to dry.
There is nothing that tastes more like Christmas to me than my mum's buttery, lemony Mailänderlis. She would carefully stack the little yellow Christmas trees, bells, hearts, and stars—the best because they were the biggest—between wax paper, in golden tins. Hers were always the best, that perfect mix of lemon and butter, and really crisp and golden. Perfect flat edges. Try as I might I never get mine quite as good.
Starting from the first crisp autumn days, the city of Bern is filled with the wafting aroma of chestnut vendors selling bags of the roasted nuts. For farmers, chestnut season is typically from October to December, but the street vendors stretch this time out as long as possible, selling them well into the new year (I don't mind).