Holiday treats from around the world

Sampling local cuisine is a central part of most travel itineraries, but on Christmas, most travelers retreat to their respective places of origin to eat familiar holiday treats. While Americans eat sugar cookies and peppermint candy, in France, Greece, Colombia and Australia different holiday treats rule supreme.

In France, la B’ÛÎŽche de No’Ûl(Yule Log) mimics a traditional practice which most likely dates from the pre-Christian era in Europe. In his book “The Professional Pastry Chef,” Bo Friberg explained that during the transition into Christianity, French Christians continued the Winter Solstice tradition of burning a log from a fruit tree during the darkest days of the year by reframing it as a Christmas tradition.

Today, because many homes do not have a fireplace, the B’ÛÎŽche de No’Ûl cake has for the most part taken the place of the actual log. Shaped like a log, this Christmas treat is made out of chocolate sponge cake and buttercream frosting, often flavored with spices or citrus and dusted with powdered sugar on top to represent snow. Some French bakers garnish the cake with mushroom-shaped marzipan to add to the effect.

See a recipe for B’ÛÎŽche de No’Ûl with Marzipan Mushrooms from Bon App’ÛΩtit Magazine here.

If you stop by Chicago’s Greektown bakeries during the month of December, you’re likely to encounter plenty of Melomakarona. The primary flavors in Melomakarona are honey, orange, clove and cinnamon, crowned by crushed walnuts sprinkled on top.

These sweet nutty cookies are favorite treats for both Christmas and Easter. The word melomakarona is derived from ‘meli’ which means honey and ‘makaroni’ which refers dough and is also the root word for French macaroons.

If you’re looking for a chance to sample these flavorful cookies yourself, the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop will be serving samples at ‘It’s a Greek Christmas’ Dec. 15 at the Pan Hellenic Museum on Halstead in Greektown.

See a recipe for Melomakarona from the Polka Dot Bride here.

Bu’Ûαuelos are small deep-fried sweet cheese pastries reminiscent of donut holes which are popular throughout South and Central American. However, they are especially popular in Colombia as a Christmas treat.

Bu’Ûαuelos are often accompanied by natilla, a dish that is often compared to both rice pudding and dulche de leche but made with coconut and sweetened with panela, a cane sugar product. The recipe included here is a slightly modified version using ingredients that can be easily found in U.S. grocery stores.

See a recipe for Bu’Ûαuelos and Natilla from the blog My Colombian Recipes here and here.

Dec. 25 is a midsummer holiday down under. Australians often spend the day at the beach. According to the Australian government, up to 40,000 people visit Bondi Beach in Sydney each year on Christmas Day. Instead of an evergreen, Australians decorate a ‘Christmas bush’, using a native plant.

Despite the heat, the Northern hemisphere traditions of Australia’s British ancestors and colonizers permeate the celebration. The traditional meal still includes a heavy turkey dinner, with a Christmas pudding being the traditional dessert. In the years of the Australian gold rush, a gold nugget would often be hidden in the Christmas pudding for a lucky guest to find. Today, Australian cooks still sneak in a small toy or trinket.

See a recipe for Australian Christmas Pudding from the Australian Broadcast Company here.