I don’t know about you, but I consider the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to be an official part of the Holidays. Which means, of course, that we can make merry with food and drink without feeling guilty. (Time enough in January to be strict and make resolutions to cut back on the treats.)
I try to be good right up until Christmas Eve. And then, well, I confess, I have a great fondness for butterfat and sugar. Chocolate? Yup, that too. So, I warmed up for the Big Day by serving blondies with chocolate chips and walnuts along with some traditional Swiss cookies, whose recipes were passed down to me and my brothers from my mother. (In all modesty, I will say they were all a big hit.)
For Christmas Day, things get really serious. I usually drive up to visit my brother and his family, and as they all love to cook, the day is spent in the kitchen, with everyone preparing a special dish. Naturally, such hard work requires sustenance, so one counter is always set up with snacks—like Brie topped with cranberry pepper jam (to die for) bowls of nuts and dried fruit, savory crackers, smoked salmon, and chocolate bonbons. (No one ever faints from hunger in their house. Nor do they suffer from thirst. Pinot Noir, prosecco, pinot grigio . . . )
This year, my contribution to the feast was a Guinness chocolate cake topped with cream cheese frosting (it’s meant to look like a glass of Guinness—dark with a creamy white head.) Other dishes on the table included a goat cheese ricotta torte and wild mushroom risotto, while my sister-in-law whipped up white lasagna made with cheese and creamy béchamel sauce—oh, don’t even ask about the calories. Remember, they don’t count this week. My nephew, following his mother’s illustrious example, is very at home in the kitchen too and made baklava from scratch! And of course there were more cookies!
We all have a favorite among my mother’s Swiss classics. It’s called Hasselnus Stengeli, and no matter what else is on the groaning board for Christmas, it’s always included in the selections. So, in the spirit of sweet indulgences, I’d like to share the recipe. (My brother has made his own variation using whole wheat flour instead of white flour, but I stick to the original)
2 C sugar
½ lb. butter
2 C ground hazelnuts (or walnuts if you prefer)
4 C flour
1 T lemon extract
1. Cream butter. Add sugar and beat until mixture is very light.
2. Add eggs and beat well. Add nuts and beat well. Add extract and beat well.
3. Gradually add flour, beating after each addition.
4. Chill dough for an hour in refrigerator.
5. Roll out “fingers” of the dough (around 1 inch in diameter) and cut into thumb-sized bars.
6. Place bars on buttered and floured baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
What about you? What’s your favorite food indulgence for the holidays?