Have you ever wondered how the Holidays are celebrated in a different country? Although we always spend our Christmas close to home, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to hop a plane and immerse myself in another culture in December. After all, that would be the best time to really see, smell, and taste all of the different goodies that are truly authentic to the places they come from.

My family background is Austrian, and my Grandfather came over on a ship in the 1930’s. He brought very little with him as far as family heirlooms, but the one thing he did share with us were the authentic recipes used by his family when he was growing up. Christmas was the only time of year he really came into the kitchen other than to eat, and that’s when he would spend the day making the most amazing Glühwein, Stollen, and German Gingerbread. Looking back, I feel seriously lucky to have experienced that with him.

Sometimes certain sights and smells can take you right back to your childhood, and all it took is one stroll through the Vancouver Christmas Market and I remembered all those days with my Grandparents. And because of that, there really has never been a better time to check out Christmas in Germany and take a peek at a few great recipes on Shelly’s Friday Favourites.

Maybe you’ll be inspired to create some of your own authentic German cuisine.

Glühwein

German Christmas Markets have been a tradition in Germany since as early as 1434, and it’s nice to see them popping up in other major cities around the world. They’re full of baked treats, some serious German sausage or Bratwurst, and of course, Glühwein.

Glühwein’s literal translation is ‘Glowing Wine.’ In Canada, it’s better known as mulled wine. This spicy, hot beverage is a favourite at Holiday parties and has been the main attraction at German Christmas Markets for decades.

This recipe is fairly close to my Grandfather’s recipe.

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 bottle of dry red wine
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 oranges, sliced
  • 6 sticks of cinnamon
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3-5 anis (whole)
  • Optional ingredients: cardamom, nutmeg (to taste), 1 cup of brandy

Directions

  1. Pour the red wine into a large stock potand begin heating over low heat (do not boil).
  2. Add cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and anis (and optional ingredients to taste).
  3. Heat thoroughly, then add the sliced oranges and lemon.
  4. Simmer the mixture about 45 minutes over low heat (make sure not to boil the wine).
  5. Have a try and add more sugar if you want to; then strain and serve the drink hot in pre-warmed glasses or mugs.
  6. Garnish with orange slices or a cinnamon stick and enjoy your German mulled wine.

This recipe is very flexible – if you like your mulled wine sweeter, just add more sugar; if you want it stronger, add some brandy or rum. You can also experiment with other spices, such as bay leaves or ginger, or you can put some kumquats (mini oranges) into the glasses.

Ginger-Orange Stollen

Did you know the original Advent was invented by a German Pastor by the name of Johann Hinrich Wichern in 1833? He founded an orphanage, and the children would ask him every day when Christmas was coming. To help them with what probably felt like endless waiting, he created an Advent Wreath. Some German Advents have tiny boxes with presents on them, others have candles that are lit at the beginning of each week.

While German children are waiting patiently for Christmas, their parents are busy making German Stollen. This yeast bread is always eaten at Christmas in Germany, and is full of nuts, fruit, and spices.

Yield:  2 to 4 loaves (24 to 32 servings)

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • ⅔ cup orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
  • 1¾ cups (3½ sticks) butter
  • ⅓ cup milk, preferably not skim
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast or one ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Oil or butter for greasing the bowl and baking sheet
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Combine the raisins, cherries, crystallized ginger, almonds, and orange liqueur in a medium bowl. Stir to combine, cover, and let sit at room temperature while you make the dough or overnight if time allows.
  2. Meanwhile, put 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter and the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until the butter melts (or combine the butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until the butter melts). Combine the flour, ¼ cup of the sugar, the orange zest, the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the ground ginger, the cardamom, the salt, and the nutmeg in a large bowl. When the butter mixture cools to 100°F—about the same temperature as the inside of your wrist—add it to the flour mixture and stir with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand. Lightly beat together the eggs and vanilla and stir them into the dough.
  3. Knead the dough with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until it feels smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Grease a large bowl (it’s fine to use the same one you mixed the dough in), add the dough, and turn it over to coat it lightly with oil or butter. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the dough rise for 1½ to 2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough and add the raisin mixture. Knead the dough in the bowl with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until the fruit, nuts, and gingers are evenly incorporated. (The dough will be sticky.) Grease a baking sheet and shape the dough, as well as you can, into 2 to 4 long, oval loaves on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the loaves rise for 1 hour.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the baking sheet and bake until the loaves are golden brown, about 35 minutes (for smaller loaves) to 1 hour (for larger loaves). When the stollen is done, melt the remaining ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave). Brush the tops and sides of the stollen with the butter while the loaves are still warm. Combine the remaining ¾ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger and sprinkle over the stollen.

Cool thoroughly. Sprinkle the powdered sugar all over the stollen, pressing lightly to help it stick. Wrap each loaf in foil or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 day before serving.

German Gingerbread

For many Canadians, Christmas Eve is when Christmas is truly beginning. When my kids leave out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, it’s always a gingerbread man or two along with chocolate chip, just in case he’s sick of gingerbread or he wants to share with chocolate-loving reindeer.

In Germany, the end of the Holiday season happens on Christmas Eve. Traditionally it’s a time when children see the illuminated tree for the first time after their parents sneak around to decorate it. They give each other and open their gifts, eat a baked Goose, and partake in a few treats like German Gingerbread.

German Gingerbread is a cake, not a cookie, and it’s baked up in a floured tube or bundt pan. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds

Directions

  1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and spices.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter or margarine with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, then the honey, orange liqueur, sour cream, and orange juice. Beat the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, and then stir in the raisins and almonds. Turn batter into a greased and floured tube pan.
  3. Bake cake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 80 minutes, or until it tests done with toothpick. Transfer to a rack to cool.

It’s nice to have our own traditions, but it’s also fun to be able to look around and see how the Holidays are celebrated somewhere else. It’s also fun to take a few of those different traditions and bring them home with us.

Wishing you a very Frohe Weihnachten!