For the end of the year we have a special Memory Suitcase for you. It is filled with cookies, cakes and personal stories from all over Europe. We hope some stories will make you laugh, and that some will keep you warm during the cold winter days. Have a go, fill these recipes with life and test your baking skills. And if you’re proud of your results, share the photos of your Christmas baking with us!
Finland: Grandmother’s lost and found cookie recipe
Recipe by Anna Sievälä, Finland
Anna is celebrating Christmas at home with her mother and her two dogs. Of course some traditions need to be kept: eating rice porridge in the morning and watching Christmas cartoons, for instance.
“My grandmother was born in a big family – she was one of seven sisters and brothers. Therefore, all the recipes were huge as they were meant to feed nine mouths. This also goes for her gingerbread recipe, called “Ukkolan piparkakut” (Ukkola’s gingerbread).
When we have made gingerbread dough ourselves in our family, instead of buying it frozen from the store, we have always made it according to my grandmother’s recipe – always, until my grandmother passed away in 2009. Unfortunately the recipe passed away with her, as the paper on which the recipe had been written on got lost.
For a few years, my mother and I tested several gingerbread recipes to find the “real” one. We couldn’t find anything on the name of “Ukkolan piparkakut” so we had to randomly try different recipes. None of them tasted right. In 2013 I wrote a story about the history of gingerbread cookies for the newspaper I am working at. In the story I also tested eight different gingerbread recipes – none of them tasted as good as my grandmother’s. I wrote a comment to on the article and told I was looking for my grandmother’s recipe, hoping, that someone who read the article might have it.
I was lucky – I received about ten responses which were all similar: Apparently the recipe is traditional in Eastern Finland where my grandmother was also from, as many readers had the same recipe – all were of them hand- written. It cannot be found online (until now) or in any cooking -books. It seems to be a tradition that is only passed on within families. So this is an exception, here it is for all of you to enjoy:”
Ukkola’s gingerbread cookies
400 grams butter
400 grams sugar
6 tbsp syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
1tsp ground cardamom
3 tsp baking soda
900 grams wheat flour
First whisk the butter and the sugar together. Add the eggs and the syrup. In a separate bowl mix the spices, soda and flour together and add little by little the other ingredients. Now knead the dough well. Afterwards roll the dough thin and make the cookies in the shapes you prefer. Bake them in an oven by Heat the oven to 200200 °C forand bake them for about 7 minutes until they look light brown.
Happy food from Israel or the The Cohen-Latkes
Recipe by Shir Cohen, Israel
Shir is celebrating Hanukkah with her family and friends – some of them she has not seen for a long time. Because of this the feast is very important to her.
“In my family, Hanukkah is the happiest holiday of the year. It is a time to invite over family friends, light up a bunch of beautiful handmade Hanukkias and sing all the traditional songs together. We prepare our Latkes and try to make them as creative as possible. Because of this, Hanukkah-Latkes are always a memory of sweet smells, pretty lights and a cosy time with loved ones for me.”
Orange Hanukkah Latkes recipe by the Cohen family
Ingredients (make about 20 Latkes):
1 big potato
2 mid-size sweet potatoes
1 big onion
3 tbsp flour Pinch cinnamon
At your choice: pepper and salt / sugar
For serving: sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, honey/ dates-honey (Silan)
First peel all the vegetables, including the onion (only the outer peel). Using a grater, grind all vegetables into a big bowl to make them thin stripes. Squeeze the mixture and get rid of the extra liquids.
In a smaller bowl, mix whisk the eggs up completely. Add flour and the spices of your choice (we make some of them salty and add pepper, and the rest we prepare sweet. It is quite nice to have different flavours). Cinnamon is recommendable as well.
Add the eggs mixture into the bigger bowl and stir well. In a large frying pan, heat a flat layer of oil. Make sure that the oil is boiling, before you start to fry: put a pinch of the mixture into the pan, it should make some nice sizzling noise right away.
Before you begin, prepare all frying tools: a large plate covered with a paper towel, on which you will put the ready finished Latkes. Another plate should cover the whole thing to keep them warm until serving. You will need a fork and a spatula.
Preparation of the Latkes: using your clean hands, take a spoonful of the mixture and compress between your hands. Slightly flatten, and carefully pure into the oil. You can fill the pan with Latkes, but make sure, that you know which came in first and that you have enough place to turn them around. Each Latkes should get a dark, nice colour on both sides. Also, check that it is cooked on the inside. Maybe you have to form them more flat. Keep adding oil so that the oil-level always remains the same. Put the finished ones on the plate with the paper towel and cover. Repeat until the mixture is used up.
For serving: Serve all toppings in small bowls and put the ones you like on top of each Latkes. It is fun to try a different topping with each Latkes. They are warm and delicious, take note that it is impossible to eat less than three per person… Feel more than free to be creative, try different mixes of cookable vegetables (pumpkin, beet, squash etc.) and your favourite spices!
Slovenia, Habsburg or Mary had a little … CAKE
Recipe by Tamara Čakič, Slovenia
Tamara is celebrating her Christmas in a mysterious, yet royal manner.
“I come from the small hen-shaped and internationally not very significant country of Slovenia. However, once upon a time Slovenia was a part of a much more significant and influential Habsburg Monarchy.
I am sure that we all remember at least one – for the majority of pupils quite unpopular – ruler of the Empire named Maria Theresia. Still, this famous ruler was in the category of unpopularity severely defeated by one of her own daughters, – Marie Antoinette, who actually happens to be my great-great-great-grandmother. I am not particularly proud of this branch of my family tree so I do not often talk about it – but you know what they say: you cannot choose your family. Thus, let me just say and admit that I am extremely happy that »granny« walked roamed the Empire centuries before me and that we do not sit at the same table for Christmas dinner. Even though I am sure that this would create one particularly interesting and heated political debate.
However, let me now get to the gist and purpose of this post – namely, the recipe. The legacy of my granny is well known and so is (allegedly) her infamous statement »Let them eat cake«. By now I bet that you already know what the content of my recipe contribution might be and you are absolutely right – I am going to unveil the long-hidden and well-kept secret family recipe of the very cake (which would nowadays, as you will see, qualify more as a bread than a cake – some things tend to change in the span of centuries) granny Mary had in mind back in the 18th century. Here it goes:”
Cake of Revolution
150 grams raisins
100 grams dried apples
100 grams dried pears
100 grams dried apricots
100 grams dried plums
250 grams dried figs
100 grams cranberries
125 grams almonds/hazelnuts/both
125 grams walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
2 dl rum
Chop the dried fruits and nuts into chunks of desirable size, put them into a bowl, add rum and spices (and everything nice) and let it soak for at least 30 minutes (if the mixture is not well covered with rum, add water).
750 grams flour
40 grams fresh yeast (one cube)
2 packages (25 grams) baking soda
2 tbsp of sugar + 1 package (10 grams) vanilla sugar
2 – 3 dl milk
100 grams butter (soft)
peel of 1 lemon
0,5 tsp salt
First, put the yeast into a smaller bowl, add two spoons of sugar, a spoon of flour and 0,5 dl – 1 dl of lukewarm milk. Let the yeast mixture rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile take a big bowl and put inadd flour, baking soda, vanilla sugar, butter, lemon peel, salt and eggs. Mix them well and add the well-rested yeast mixture. Now knead the dough well. Cover the bowl of dough, put it into a warm place and let it rest and rise for one hour.
After an hour, take the dough and knead it again, add the fruity-nutty mixture (drain it, if necessary) and knead the – now enriched – dough again. Form the dough into a loaf and let it rest for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 °C. After the 30-minute-rest, put the loaf on a baking tray covered with a layer of flour or a sheet of baking paper. Bake it for one hour or until it turns light brown. After it has cooled, enjoy the historically infamous cake 😉
“P. S.: I am sure that everyone, who at least briefly knows me also knows that I am definitely not ancestor of Marie Antoinette and that my roots go much more southwards and even eastwards than Austria or France. But to fulfil the legal requirements I hereby declare that this entire post is nothing more than a joint outcome of the pure lack of traditionally used and passed-through-generations family recipe and my (overly) vivid imagination, as well as a firm belief that we need fairytales at all ages.
P. P. S.: StillHowever, this recipe was contributed by my grandmother, who happens to share the name with the imaginary grandma introduced in this post …”
The perfect duo for a traditional Slovakian Christmas feast
Recipes by Petra Krňanová, Slovakia
Petra is celebrating Christmas with her family. Religion has an important role for their feast: Before they begin eating, they pray the “Lord’s Prayer” and her mum sprinkles holy water over the table.
“For me, these honey cookies and the Christmas waffles mean warmth and the atmosphere of a Christmas spent with my family. Both of these recipes are really traditional and unique in Slovakia. No one can imagine Christmas without them here. I usually prepare them with my grandma. Manly Mainly they are prepared throughout the advent, but in many families it is not very usual unusual to already start already throughout the year. After all, they are mostly eaten during Christmas feast, especially the waffles, which are part of our traditional Christmas dinner. But what do they taste like?! Mostly like honey – but you can taste a bit of honey- cookie -spice. And our waffles? They are slightly sweet, but during Christmas dinner we eat them with honey and garlic.”
Christmas honey cookies
140 grams caster sugar
400 grams smooth flour
100 grams margarine
2 tbsp of honey
1 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of conditioner for dough of honey cookies
First mix sifted sugar with conditioner dough for honey cookies, baking soda and dissolved margarine. Add now two eggs and honey – afterwards mix them all. After that, add sifted flour and mix the dough well. This sticky dough should be letrest in the fridge for a few hours. Roll out the dough to have 3-4 mm and core cut out honey cookies. Before eating, bBake them at 180°C until they are golden. After baking, touch them with whisked egg. NOW Now you can have some.
200 grams butter
200 grams caster sugar
2 tbsp of honey
1 egg yolk
500 grams mixed flour
1 liter milk
For serving: some honey and garlic
For starting scrambleMix butter with sugar and the egg yolk to have a smooth-cream. Add now Now add flour by teaspoons and slowly replenish lukewarm milk. Please pPlace the resulting dough into fridge.
After having waited for a few hours, pour the dough with a teaspoon into the hot forms of a waffle iron, touched with butter or other fatwax, and bake your Christmas waffles. If you like, you can add honey and garlic for the perfect Slovakian touch of your Christmas dinner dish.
Germany: Christmas memories casted in Macaroons
Recipe by Louis Kniefs, Germany
Louis is celebrating his Christmas with his family. His grandparents are joining them for dinner on Christmas Eve. The next day all aunts, uncles and cousins meet at his grandma’s house. The food is delicious and a lotplenty, but changes each year.
“Years ago, my great grandmother made those these cookies. We were literally flooded with them. Every year, I knew, the more cookies were on the table, the closer Christmas camemoved. Today they still remind me of my great grandmother: tasting, eating, even seeing them. They are still some of my favorite ones and I always enjoy having some of them. This quite easy recipe became one of my favorites. I hope you will like them!”
200 grams margarine
200 grams flour
200 grams desiccated coconut
First mix all of the ingredients. Afterwards you have to mix a bit of milk with 2 teaspoons of baking sodapowder stir it in. Having prepared the dough, you can form your macaroons! Then you are ready to bake them in a 175 °C preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Have tasty days!
Serbian Christmas smells like tangerines
Recipe by Milan Vukašinović, Serbia/France
Milan celebrates, whenever he can.
“My Christmas Eve dessert recipe is fairly simple. You take a tangerine. Not any tangerine. You should choose the most beautiful one. You put it inside the bowl, and you do not take your eyes of it throughout the whole dinner. Then, when everybody has finished, you take it and peel of its skin. You let the smell fill the room. You savour that sweet, exotic smell, a breath of Sun in a snowy night. Then you take the peeled fruit and you eat it as fast as possible, as if you were afraid that it might disappear. If you’re lucky, it will be really ripe and sweet.
What’s the trick?
Firstly, Christmas comes to my family on the 7th of January, and the day before Christmas people usually fast. Anyways, everybody’s already stuffed from copious New Years’ meals, so a day brake comes in handy. That is one of the reasons I cannot recall any presentable holiday sweet. But my Christmas Eve childhood memories are connected with to tangerines. While When I was growing up, during the inflation in Yugoslavia, we could seldom rarely find and afford such an exotic fruit. Unluckily, it was my favourite one. However, since you are meant to buy some happiness for Christmas, no matter how much it costs, my parents always made sure to have at least a couple of tangerines on our Christmas table.
Nowadays I can eat a kilo a day. Yet, they often still smell like Christmas.”
Kissed by an Italian Donna
Recipe by Camilla Crovella, Italy
Camilla is celebrating Christmas at home with her family. This year is quite special because she will be able to see her family again after starting to study in Germany again.
“This is a perfect little treat to offer someone your love, but you can also prepare and eat them, when you are not fallen in love … These cookies are an Italian specialty from my hometown Turin, from where the best hazelnuts come. In my family, we usually make them as a gift to the people we love – whether they are lovers, relatives or friends – as a way to let them know we always remember them and are willing to dedicate some of our time to them. They are also backed around S. Valentine’s – so if you have enough recipes by now, you can try them later, too.”
Lady’s Kisses – Baci di dama
200 grams toasted hazelnut, finely ground
200 grams sugar
200 grams unsalted butter, softened
250 grams flour
Spreadable chocolate cream (like Nutella)
My personal touch: 1tsp cocoa powder, 1tsp ground coffee
First put the ground hazelnut meal, sugar, flour, coffee and cocoa in a bowl together. Add the softened butter for quickly preparing the cookie dough. Now knead the dough well. Wrap it in a cling film and preserve leave in the fridge for one hour at least.
After the rest, shape little balls. The cookie dough will feel a bit wet but do not worry about that. Bake the little Baci for 30 minutes,at oven 200 °C. You need to check from time to time. When they are done, take them out and let them cool on a tray. (Note: During the baking- process the ball will flatten on one side.) When cooled, take two pieces and stick them together with a bit of chocolate cream in the middle. And there you have them. Now it’s left to you to start kissing!!