Christmas is my favorite time of year. I really look forward to baking Christmas cookies again. Here at our bakery when we make stollen* or other traditional German holiday specialties like macaroons, the sweet aroma takes me right back to my childhood and my great-grandmother’s kitchen.
I grew up in East Germany, and the German tradition is to open gifts on December 24. To me, that is Christmas. In the afternoon, our whole family would go to church where we’d enjoy singing Christmas music. Afterwards my grandparents would come to our house for a simple supper of sausages and potato salad, and of course, just about everyone enjoys a little glühwein—what you call mulled wine. Then we’d gather around to open presents. This could take hours because presents were opened one at a time and each gift admired.
The next day, we all went to my grandmother’s for a traditional mid-day dinner of goose or duck that she served with red cabbage, kale and round potato dumplings called kloesse. Dessert was always a baked apple served with ice cream or with vanilla sauce. Later in the afternoon, we’d have coffee and sweets, usually stollen and Christmas cookies. In the evening, if anyone was hungry, we’d eat leftovers.
I remember how we always had a fresh-cut Christmas tree. My mother liked to choose a theme and I remember one year when our tree was covered with red decorations and ornaments.
Since I got married, my husband and I open our gifts on December 25. Although I have to say that—like children—we often can’t wait and each opens one gift the night before.
*Christmas stollen is a sweet, yeast-risen bread filled with raisins and candied citrus peel.
[Sarah and her husband Errol Flynn live in Kenoza Lake, NY and operate the Brandenburg Bakery in Jeffersonville, NY where they sell stolen, macaroons, Christmas cookies, chocolate truffles and more during the holidays. Orders taken up to two days before Christmas. Contact: 845/482-2537.]
2 Tbsp raisins
3½ ounces of almond paste (marzipan)
3 Tbsp chopped almonds
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 liter rum
4 large Honey Crisp apples
Hollow out the apples to remove the core, but don’t peel. Combine all the other ingredients well, making a kind of marzipan “dough.” Divide this into four equal parts and fill the apples.
Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or more as needed.
Serve apples hot with vanilla ice cream of vanilla sauce.
In a heavy pot, whisk together: ½ cup light brown sugar, 1 Tbsp flour, a pinch cinnamon, 1 egg yolk, 2 Tbsp melted butter, 1¼ cups of milk and 1 pinch of salt. Whisk constantoy over medium heat until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 10 minutes. Add vanilla extract. Serve over hot apples.
Glühwein (Mulled wine)
2 liters red wine
¾ liter rum (80 proof)
1 cup sugar (can adjust for taste)
5 whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 pinch ground ginger
1 star anise
Slice the oranges and place all the ingredients in a pot. Warm up over low heat; don’t let it boil.