Christmas is a time for sharing. Giving gifts, sure, but also food—and the more the better! However, Christmas is also a time for traditions and we all know few traditions trigger people’s emotions quite like food.
If you tend to be the one taking charge of Christmas dinner then you already know that experimenting with it can be a risky business. Your loved ones surely have their favorite seasonal dishes and, in some cases, Christmas might the only time of year they have to enjoy them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try new things, but does the new dish risk disappointing people by replacing something else? Or do you simply take on the additional workload, despite such a busy cooking schedule already looming?
Fortunately, dessert is the one area where there’s plenty of room for your creativity to roam free! Your guests will often be full by the final course anyway, but something new and interesting might just be all it takes for them to keep eating. And if not, then people can always return to the table for dessert after enjoying the Christmas movie together!
So show your friends and family how much you care by presenting them with one of these delectable closers at the end of your Christmas meal—each with a twist of festive European tradition.
Now that’s Amore
If you really want to show some love this holiday season, Italy is a great place to start for inspiration. Their traditional Christmas desserts are easy to make some extra room for—even after a second plate of turkey and potatoes. (Although if you want to keep things traditionally Italian throughout, substitute your bird for fish.)
Panettone keeps for a while, which makes it easy to find in stores—especially around the Christmas season. That means they also have a reputation as a lazy gift in some quarters, but try making your own and you’ll understand why they’re the toast of Italy at this time of year.
You won’t need a Panettone tin to make these mini Italian Panettones. They’re filled with vanilla cream to make the dessert extra decadent! But if you do have an appropriate baking tin, and are set on a more traditional presentation, go for this Drunken Panettone instead. Of course, you’ll need to soak up some booze with it make it a real “drunken” one. You can’t go wrong with most Italian liqueurs—such as an Amaretto or Limoncello—but you can also try making your own syrup by mixing a small bottle of your favorite dessert wine with 100g of sugar over a low heat. Don’t let the syrup boil to preserve the alcohol content. It is Christmas after all!
You could also try making the famous Neapolitan classic, Struffoli. These are generally much easier to make than the Panettones, but you could also make both if you’re feeling daring. Struffoli also make a great sweet snack to serve between meals, or as part of a Christmas brunch.
Take note of the fact you’ll need to be equipped to deep fry them. If you do have a home deep-fryer, then you won’t find a better reason to use it than making these fried balls of sweet dough. Nail this recipe and if any of your guests don’t like your Struffoli then remind them how special that makes them. They’re truly one in a million!
A Habsburg favorite
To Austria now—home of the strudel. Wherever you are in the world, you’re probably familiar with the famous apple strudel, but the humble Mohnstrudel (or poppyseed strudel) is just as beloved in the Germanic world, where you’re as likely to find it in cafes and bakeries over winter as you are in the home of your hosts.
Poppyseed strudel is a relatively easy dessert to make, and a pretty eye-catching one too—if done right. The secret is simple in theory: you really need to nail the dough in order to roll it perfectly around the poppyseed filling. As all amateur bakers know, however, that’s a lot more difficult in practice.
If you’re not confident in your baking abilities, just remember to put plenty of time aside and be patient kneading the dough. If it’s too wet, keep kneading. If it’s still too wet, add just a tiny bit of extra flour at a time. The less you have to re-add water, the easier it’ll be to get your dough to the required smoothness.
Alternatively, you could use puff pastry instead. It’s readily available in most good grocery stores and you’ll need to keep an eye on it as it bakes, as cooking times may vary.
The queen of chocolate cakes
How better to end than with the queen of all chocolate cakes? It may come as no surprise to hear that it hails from France.
Making a Cotillon Christmas cake is not for the faint of heart. Be warned that you won’t be able to throw this together on Christmas morning! It takes some commitment, but any daring baker who succeeds really will be the star of the dinner table. This spectacular Christmas show-stopper requires several steps and involves multiple layers of sponge, mousse and icing, garnished with stunning chocolate loops. Resistance is futile!