With Christmas just around the corner, the team at Citadines Europe are getting into the spirit by sharing their festive traditions and favourite recipes that you can make at home this Yuletide.
British Mince Pies
Nothing says Christmas quite like a traditional mince pie. The festive sweet treat is a far cry from the original mince pie, which dates back to the Middle Ages; it actually started off with a filling of meat such as mutton, beef, rabbit, pork or game. The pies were quite large, similar to a traditional British pie, and filled with a mixture of minced meat, fruit and a preserving liquid.
In their history, mince pies have also been known as ‘crib cakes’ in reference to the shape of Jesus’ crib, and Wayfarer’s pies, as they were traditionally served to travellers.
Mincemeat is traditionally made on the last Sunday before advent, also known as ‘stir-up Sunday’. It is believed that stirring the mincemeat anti-clockwise leads to bad luck and poor fortune in the coming 12 months, so make sure you stir the mixture clockwise!
If you’re in London head to Konditor Bakery on Grays Inn Road for an award-winning mince pie. The bakery is just around the corner from Citadines Holborn – Covent Garden and we can confirm the mince pies are delicious.
If you want to make your own mince pies at home, take a look at this traditional mincemeat recipe from our Area Manager UK, Billy Hughes.
Billy’s Festive Mincemeat
- 250g raisins
- 375g currants
- 100ml brandy
- zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
- 300g shredded suet
- 250g dark brown sugar
- 85g chopped mixed peel
- ½ small nutmeg, grated
- 1 large Bramley apple, peeled and grated
Soak both the raisins and currants in a mix of brandy and lemon juice for an hour until they are plump and juicy. After an hour drain the mix and add in all of the other ingredients.
Once all of the ingredients are mixed, pour in the brandy and spoon the mixture into a jar and seal. To ensure your mincemeat is perfect, leave it for at least two weeks before you want to make your mince pies, trust me it’s worth the wait!
For many Germans, the most important part of Christmas is the so-called “Bescherung” (giving presents). On Christmas Eve, German families exchange their gifts. Traditionally this would happen after Christmas mass, but the present giving was brought forward to the afternoon so younger children could be involved.
Christmas Eve is a very festive occasion; people get dressed up, the candles on the Christmas tree are lit and many families sing Christmas carols. Only then can families open their Christmas presents, which are waiting under the Christmas tree.
The world-famous Frankfurter Bethmännchen is especially popular over the Christmas season. The tradition began in 1838 in the house of Frankfurt banker family von Bethmann. This is where the little delicacy was offered after a large lunch. The family’s French cook, Jean Jacques Gautenier, formed small balls from crushed almonds, fine sugar, rose water and egg white and decorated them with four almonds. The almonds stood for the sons of the family: Moritz, Karl, Alexander and Heinrich. When Heinrich died young in 1845, the fourth almond was left out and it is still a tradition today.
The Bethmännchen became famous far beyond the borders of Frankfurt through the Fürstentag 1863. Many traditional pastry shops in Frankfurt’s old town centre sell these delicious marzipan balls.
Ingredients (30-40 pieces)
- 250g marzipan paste
- 100g powdered sugar
- 1 egg white
- 80 – 100g flour
Glazing and decoration:
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 50ml rose water
- 50g almonds without shell
- Knead the raw marzipan paste with the powdered sugar, egg white and flour into a smooth dough. Shape the mixture into 2cm thick balls and carefully press them into a cone shape. Press three halved almonds onto the balls.
- Place the Bethmännchen on a baking tray lined with baking paper and leave to dry, then bake at 160/170° in a convection oven for approx. 15-20 minutes on the middle shelf.
- For the glaze boil the sugar and water and stir in 50ml rose water.
- Coat the Bethmännchen with the hot sugar glaze.
Strasbourg’s large Christmas tree takes pride of place in Place Kléber but this year it isn’t surrounded by the traditional Christmas market. To make up for the lack of the Strasbourg Christmas market, why not make your own “Bredele”, the iconic festive biscuits from France’s Alsace region.
The Bredele tradition dates back to the 14th century and has remained ever since. Up until the 1950s, the Bredele biscuits were mainly used to decorate the Christmas tree. Since then, traditions have evolved and today they are made by the Alsatians as a sign of the arrival of Christmas with the aim of sharing moments around the tree with loved ones. Alsatian bakers are not lacking in creativity and they still use the recipes of yesteryear to the delight of young and old alike.
Citadines Kléber Strasbourg perpetuates the tradition in its own way this year and Residence Manager, Nicolas Fournet has decided to make and share his traditional “Butterbredel” recipe.
- 250g soft butter (room temperature)
- 250g sugar
- 375g all-purpose flour
- 1 sachet of vanilla sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 2 tablespoons of thick crème fraîche
- Beat the sugar with the butter and vanilla sugar. Add the egg yolks, whole egg, flour and baking powder and knead. Stir in the crème fraiche until it forms a dough.
- Roll the dough out until it is about 6mm thick and cut out the Butterbredel with a cookie cutter.
- Cover a baking tray with baking paper. Place the cookies on the tray and bake for 10 minutes at 180°C until golden brown.
- Once baked, the Butterbredel can be decorated, this is where you can get creative. You can add a few drops of brandy and/or brush the Butterbredel with icing and then decorate them with chocolate, cinnamon and Christmas spices.