Switzerland, like much of Europe, celebrates December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas, with the coming of Santa Claus, or Samichlaus.
Swiss Samichlaus, while still clad in red and white, is dressed like St Nicholas—a bishop with a bishop's staff—rather than a jolly old elf. He doesn't come down your chimney in the middle of the night, or ride on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, but instead he emerges from the forest with a donkey or two, and his trusty companion Schmutzli.
There's a much greater incentive for children to be good in Switzerland, because Schmutzli brandishes a big sack that he uses to to carry away the naughty ones.
And you don't just benignly receive your treats, you have to work for them.
Children must regale Samichlaus with the careful recital of a memorised poem before he presents them with a sack of peanuts, chocolates, gingerbread, and oranges.
Now here's the best part: prior to the children meeting Samichlaus, the parents provide him with some information about their kids—things that they have done wrong, or things that they could do better. Then, when they meet him he checks his list and gives them personalised advice or chastisement. He can tell them to play nice with their little sister, or to stop pulling Büsi's tail.
He really does know if you've been bad or good.
Really the whole thing is an exercise in Swiss values: working hard for a reward and behaving correctly at all costs, lest you be publicly shamed.
The Samichlaus sack is usually a little burlap bag filled with the aforementioned goodies. They are for sale, prepackaged or make your own, at most supermarkets.
However, these days it isn't just children that receive them—sometimes Samichlaus can be seen around office buildings and factories giving employees their treats (I don't think they have to recite a poem, but it's altogether possible that their general work performance is taken into account before they receive their goodies).
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.
160 g brown sugar
115 g butter
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
zest of one orange
1 tsp salt
shot of booze
125 g flour
peanuts, roughly chopped (see note below)
chocolate, roughly chopped (see note below)
a sprinkling of salt
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / gas mark 4.
You will need a long tart pan with removable bottom, or 8 inch by 8 inch square pan.
Measure the sugar out into a medium sized bowl.
Now you'll need to brown the butter. In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. After it melts, keeps swirling the pan as it turns golden, then brown. It will smell nutty. Pour directly into the bowl with sugar, scraping out any brown residue in the bottom of the pan. Whisk well and let cool for a few minutes.
Add the egg and whisk well.
Whisk in the orange zest, vanilla, salt, and booze.
Using a spatula, fold in the flour, then half of the peanuts and chocolate.
Spread the batter into your pan, then scatter the remaining chocolate and peanuts on top, as well as the sprinkling of salt.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
- The amount of chopped peanuts and chocolate is variable. You can have peanuts and chocolate in the batter and on top, or just in the batter, or just on top. A little less or more is no problem. I used approximately 150 g each peanuts and chocolate.
- The batter may look split when you whisk together the browned butter and sugar, but this should even out with the addition of the egg.
- The best booze would probably be something orange based like Grand Marnier or Cointreau. I didn't have either, so a nice Scotch worked just as well.
- These taste brilliant right out of the freezer.