Every year come September, a large package would arrive from my great-great Uncle Ernest in Switzerland. It remained unopened until Christmas day. Then the decorative tin inside would remain sealed until we all wrote our thank-you notes. When the gorgeous Lebkuchen was finally opened, it was quite stale, but what flavors!
I grew up with the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. As a young girl I would rather bake a spice cake from Duncan Hines with my Mom’s cream cheese frosting than a chocolate cake. There’s a specialty store about a mile from here that carries Lebkuchen during the holidays. It’s very fresh and since I pay for it I don’t need to write anyone a thank-you note! I bought it as gifts one year and my husband and his family all hated it and gave it back to me – it was too spicy for them. It all depends on what you grew up with.
Mom started out doing turkey for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, then early on she decided to go back to her British traditions with prime rib and gravy, Yorkshire pudding and the whole spread. Sometimes we had trifle for dessert but usually several multi-hour baking sessions with all the girls yielded our favorites: mincemeat tarts (one year Mom and her sister Lorna made their own mincemeat but it’s been Crosse & Blackwell ever since); date squares; Scandinavian cookies with strawberry jam; Snickerdoodles; and apple shortbreads. One year I researched and found a recipe for chocolate-hazelnut panforte and made six of them, most mailed off as gifts. That recipe I can find by Googling and is a keeper.
Christmas morning began with Hungarian Coffee Cake, a pull-apart yeast bread with sugar and cinnamon and nuts that is incredibly delicious. I really don’t bake but the other women in my family do, and I may be able to unearth some recipes in the months that remain before the hectic holiday season.