intensely trivial

Plotting my Christmas baking

In my family, every family event must have food — way too much of it. And fall signifies the beginning of the long overindulgence that officially starts at Thanksgiving. My dad’s family, all 50 or 75 or however many of us, has traditionally gathered for a day-long Thanksgiving celebration that includes at least 20 pies and a buffet table that stretches about half a mile. My male cousins have a strategy for this holiday: They purposefully start stretching out their stomachs early in the day by having a huge breakfast. This way, they can pack more in for the noon meal and the evening meal. The food is plentiful, Midwestern, homemade, and delicious. (We’re all descended from AC stock. If nothing else, ACs know how to cook.)

Now, my mom is from Germany, and in her family, Christmas is the ultimate holiday for eating. Christmas food, at least for my mom, takes on the magic of a sacrament. In her family for Christmas, there is pork roast, Knoepfle (stick-to-your ribs dumplings with hard sausage in them), green salad with a delicate herb vinaigrette, and the crusty German bread that Opa and Oma used to make together. And then there are the cookies, Old-World cookies flavored with anise, cinnamon, honey, lemon, hazelnuts. They are pretty and refined, and by that I mean no gaudy artificial food colorings, and sweetness that doesn’t blast you to the moon.

My memories of Christmas are all tied up in these flavors. As much as I’ve tried to simplify Christmas over the past few years, I just haven’t been able to give up my belief that Christmas somehow is the array of goodies. I eat myself sick every year, and make myself sick with the hurry of baking everything, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without all of it.

This year, I am inspired by a blogger who has plans to make 20-some kinds of cookies. She makes the dough ahead of time and freezes it, so that she doesn’t have as much work to do in December at the last minute. I liked her idea, so this morning Ellie and I dreamed up a list of cookies and candy that we want to make for Christmas. My list is not my mom’s, since I’ve acquired a taste for American fudge, and more chocolate and sugar than Germans would ever use in their baking. But it’s a start at bringing Christmas alive for me once more this year.

So here’s my hodge-podge of a list:

1. Peanut butter fudge

2. Cranberry fudge

3. Regular chocolate fudge (all the fudges I can make ahead of time, cut, and freeze; they’ll be just fine)

4. Springerle

5. Basler Leckerli (those two, #4 and #5, can’t be made ahead, but it’s not Christmas without them)

6. Peanut-butter balls (or buckeyes — btw, if you want to know the song for buckeyes, just ask any one of us Aberle girls; it’s really catchy)

7. Pandolce (an Italian Christmas cake that I wanted to make last year but ran out of time and candied orange peel)

And for all of these, I can make and freeze the dough ahead of time:

8. Gingerbread people

9. Cutout sugar cookies

10. Mini cookie houses (Ellie really wants to make a sort of gingerbread house — these are smaller, but the same idea)

11. Scandinavian cardamom cookies

12. Hazelnut crescents

13. Mexican wedding cakes/Russian teacakes/doughballs/pecan sandies/whatever they’re called

That’s all I’ve thought of for now. What do you think I should add to my list?


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  1. * clbeyer says:

    Wowee, Rachel! You are ambitious! I hope I get to try at least one of each of them. Are you sharing the Pandolce?

    Have you ever made fruitcake? Maybe I should try making that this year to gas things up a bit.

    Ohhhh, now you’ve convinced me I need to immediately start my own list of Christmas baking.

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  2. * maar says:

    I wanna BUCKeye!

    My list is long, too. You inspire me to get started on it rather than just drool over the list.

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  3. * Heather says:

    Our Christmas baking always includes ‘peppernuts’ or pfefferneuse in German. They are those little dog-food-sized cookies that taste of baking spices and nuts.

    Also, we always make home made licorice caramels (red for Christmas). They are a lot of work, but definitely worth it! Let me know if you want recipes!

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  4. * manhattandoula says:

    Yes, Carrie, I’ll share — I’ll try to bring some pandolce to the family thing.

    Heather, I’ve never heard of licorice caramels! They sound very intriguing! Of course I want the recipe. My list might have just gotten longer. 🙂

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  5. Okay, okay… the cranberry fudge has me completely intrigued.
    My mouth is watering!
    Do you make your own candied orange peel as well?

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  6. * Melinda says:

    You are making me hungry! 🙂

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
  7. * margarete says:

    Actually, lebkuchen can be made more than a month before Christmas. The only risk you run is that they’ll be gone before Christmas ever gets here.

    Grandma Teen’s smooth, creamy caramels are also a “must” for our holiday candy list.

    Posted 9 years, 7 months ago

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