Christmas baking continues… One recipe to share (Biscômes), and one I’m still working on (Etoiles á la cannelle).
Since I wrote about Swiss gingerbread or “biscômes” last week, I’ve cleaned up the recipe so it’s ready to share. My third batch more closely resembles the store-bought gingerbread we’ve seen around town—a little thinner, a little browner. I just ate one for breakfast! Biscômes date back to the 16th century in Switzerland, and I’m loving the smell of homemade gingerbread in my kitchen at Christmastime.
Pains d’épice biscômes
Adapted from the recipe in Croqu’menus (2005).
425 grams all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons “pain d’épice” spice mix (i.e., gingerbread spice mix with cinnamon, coriander, anise, cloves and mace; if you can’t find a pre-mixed version like this, here’s a do-it-yourself recipe).
3 teaspoons baking powder
100 grams dairy-free margarine
125 grams honey
3 tablespoons sugar
200 ml rice milk
100 ml warm water
50 grams sugar
2-3 teaspoons rice milk
75 grams powdered sugar
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients: flour, spices, baking powder and salt until well-blended. In a separate bowl, beat together the margarine, sugar and honey.
2. Stir together the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in 2-3 batches, alternating with the rice milk, just until blended; do not overbeat. Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/3 inches (8-9 mm) thick; you may need some flour on the rolling pin too. Cut out desired shapes, such as rectangles, hearts or gingerbread men. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 200°C/400°F until browned, but not burned.
4. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, whisk together the glaze mixture and brush over the biscômes. Let them set for another hour or two at room temperature until the glaze has soaked in and dried.
5. Whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth. Use a pastry bag (or a plastic bag with a small corner cut off) to decorate the biscômes.
Etoiles á la Cannelle
I see “Etoiles á la cannelle” (cinnamon stars) everywhere this time of year. This popular Swiss cookie usually contains almonds, one of my son’s allergens we’re currently avoiding. I noticed these cookies last year, and decided to finally tackle them in my home kitchen over the weekend.
In my copy of Croqu’menus, the recipe for “Etoiles á la cannelle” says you can use almonds or “noisettes” (hazelnuts). Last year at this time, we were avoiding hazelnuts for my son. This year, I’m free to use them in holiday recipes, and it’s opened up some new options, like these little cinnamon cookies.
From what I’ve seen, recipes for “Etoiles á la cannelle” typically call for eggs in both the cookie and the glaze. I made a few modifications, and my 2-year old loves my homemade version, but my recipe still needs perfecting (see the photo below for proof). My appreciation for the professionals who do this kind of baking grows with each failed attempt! Maybe next year…
Happy St. Nicholas Day! Today is December 6th, when Swiss children receive treats from Saint Nicholas—the patron saint of children. He typically hands out peanuts, chocolates, mandarin oranges and rectangular Swiss gingerbread (“biscômes” in French and “lebkuchen” in German). When my son arrived at school this morning, Saint Nicholas had left a bag of goodies in his slippers that he wears for class.
At this time of year, our local boulangeries, grocery stores and farmers’ markets are filled with different kinds of gingerbread for Saint Nicholas Day. I typically see biscômes in rectangular shapes, decorated with white icing or with a paper drawing of Saint Nicholas.
Bear-decorated, Bernese-style biscômes (and a grand bonhomme de pâte!)
I made two batches of biscômes this week—sans dairy, eggs and nuts—using a recipe I modified from my copy of Croqu’menus. We ate them for breakfast this morning to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. They’re good with a strong cup of coffee!
At the moment, I am baking a large bonhomme de pâte for dinner, as a final reminder of Saint Nicholas Day. Bon week-end, everyone!
With Bundt Day and Thanksgiving behind us, I’ll be focusing on Swiss Christmas treats from now until the end of 2013. To kick off the holiday baking bonanza, I’m starting with yet another Swiss bread: Grittibänz (German) or Bonshommes de Pâte (French). These little bread men are made primarily for Saint Nicholas Day, and likely date back to the 16th century, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse. Very loosely translated, “Grittibänz” apparently means something like “old frail man walking with his legs spread apart.”
From what I’ve heard, the celebration of Saint Nicholas on December 6th occurs more in the German-speaking and Catholic-leaning cantons of Switzerland. However, I’ve been learning about celebrations happening here in French-speaking Suisse-Romande as well, particularly in the canton of Fribourg.
My 6-year old has been helping to teach me about this Swiss holiday, as he and his classmates were singing about Saint Nicholas and his donkey yesterday. Today, he came home and told me how Saint Nicholas travels with a sidekick, le Père Fouettard (or “Schmutzli” in German), who hits badly-behaved children with a broom (!). He also heard that Saint Nicholas hands out Bonshommes de Pâte, so it looks like I’ll be making these again this week…
Bonshommes de Pâte (Grittibänz)
Adapted from the recipe in Croqu’menus (2005).
350 ml rice milk, room temperature
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
60 grams of dairy-free margarine
500 grams bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
canola oil, for greasing the bowl
1 egg, beaten (or melted dairy-free margarine)
Toppings: pumpkin seeds (almonds are more traditional, but we’re avoiding them), dried raisins or cranberries, coarse grains of sugar
1. Add the rice milk, yeast and sugar to a large bowl. Let the yeast dissolve for a few minutes on its own and then whisk together. Add flour, margarine and salt to the yeast mixture and stir together until dough forms.
2. Knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but be patient. Add a little flour, if necessary. Once the dough is smooth and elastic (when you press the dough with your finger, it bounces back), place in a greased bowl and turn greased side up. Let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Shape the dough into about 1-4 bread men. Here’s a quick video (in German) from Swiss Milk that gives an overview of how to shape the dough (it also features other small bread shapes for Christmas; skip to 2:50 for the section on Grittibänz).
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Let the bread rise while the oven preheats. Just before placing in the oven, brush the top of the bread with some of the beaten egg (or melted margarine). Decorate with pumpkin seeds (or almonds) and other dried fruit and coarse grains of sugar.
5. Bake for 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Finally, a big “thank you” to the Food Librarian for including my Vegan Chocolate Bundt Cake with Speculoos Glaze in her National Bundt Day 2013 Round-Up.
Yesterday marked our second Thanksgiving in Switzerland. I know some expats wait until the weekend to celebrate when they’re not working or in school, but for some reason I have this steadfast rule about celebrating holidays (and birthdays) on the actual day they occur. Last night, after we finished up our Thanksgiving-themed playdate with eight rambunctious children, I quickly pulled together a turkey dinner for our immediate family.
Rather than preparing the whole bird, I just cooked up some turkey breasts with fresh sage. We also had stuffing, potatoes with red onions from the Zibelemärit, arugula salad, chestnut rolls and pumpkin pie. My pie-baking husband made the pumpkin pie, which we also served during the playdate to some non-American friends who had never tried it before. He used an excellent pumpkin pie recipe I found from Kids with Food Allergies (dairy/egg/soy-free).
Even though we weren’t with our family in the United States yesterday (although Skype certainly helped), cooking and eating these Thanksgiving foods somehow made me feel more connected to them. These traditional foods and our memories of past Thanksgivings also help teach our boys about this very American holiday, even though we’re celebrating in Switzerland. We have so much to be thankful for, and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I also wanted to say a big thank you to Hansine Johnston at World Radio Switzerland for letting me talk briefly on-air about Dairy-Free Switzerland yesterday. While I rambled on a bit during my first radio interview, I really appreciated this opportunity. Bon week-end!
The smell of onions was in the air yesterday in Bern. I somehow talked two friends into taking an early morning train with me to visit the “Zibelemärit”—an annual onion market that’s one of Switzerland’s oldest fairs. I’m always searching for opportunities to learn about Swiss foods, and the onion market introduced me to some specialties for the autumn/winter seasons. We spent about 1 1/2 hours there, during which we sampled “glühwein” (hot mulled wine), “zwiebelkuchen” (onion tart), brötli (small breads) and more.
Bern’s autumn market dates back to the 15th century, but the focus on onions apparently began in the mid-19th century. It’s always held on the fourth Monday in November, much like Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in the United States. Like Thanksgiving, the Zibelemärit seems to celebrate the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Of course, the Swiss version includes loads of confetti, squeaking plastic hammers and most importantly, a focus on onions (I particularly like author Diccon Bewes’ description of the atmosphere).
While I knew the onion market would draw a huge crowd, I was still surprised by the tremendous number of people there at 6:00 in the morning. At times, my friends and I were walking shoulder-to-shoulder past countless booths of braided onions. In contrast, I talked to several Swiss and non-Swiss folks living in our small French-speaking city who had neither attended, nor even heard of the onion market before.
In the coming weeks, I’ll work on sharing a few Zibelemärit-inspired recipes (sans dairy, raw/undercooked egg and almonds). However, I think it’s nearly impossible to recreate the delicious onion tart full of eggs, cheese and cream. In the meantime, I’ll use the onions I bought in my homemade stuffing and other dishes for our Thanksgiving feast this Thursday. What’s left of our pretty onion braid will serve as our Thanksgiving centerpiece!
For those who celebrate this very American holiday, I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!
The list of 30 Swiss agricultural products protected by the government includes cheese—which my son can’t safely eat—but what else appears on the list? I got my answer after (finally) reading a beautiful magazine about Switzerland’s La Semaine du Goût—a weeklong celebration of traditional Swiss foods (I attended Festin Neuchâtelois in September 2013 as part of this event).
To give you some background, the Swiss government uses two special designations for agricultural products other than wine:
- “Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP)” or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
- “Indication Géographique Protégée” (IGP) or Protected Geographic Indication (PGI)
You may have seen similar designations for wine before (e.g., AOC), which means the product was prepared in a certain way and from a particular geographic region. Designations like the two listed above can be applied to other agricultural food products, such as cheese or sausage.
The purpose of the AOP/IGP designation is both to protect consumers and the products. For consumers, the designation stands for a quality product produced in the traditional way. Also, this designation prohibits companies from using a traditional name for a protected food product, like Gruyère cheese, if they can’t meet certain production standards.
The complete list of Swiss AOP/IGP products appears below (there’s also a map). I consider it one of my new “to-do” lists, as I personally want to try all of these foods. When I can, I’ll also share these products with my son—when they’re free of dairy, eggs (raw or undercooked) and almonds.
- Abricotine: Apricot-flavored liqueur
- Eau-de-vie de poire du Valais: Pear-flavored liqueur
- Damassine: Plum-flavored liqueur
- Zuger Kirsch/Rigi Kirsch: Cherry-flavored liqueur
- Recipe: Basel Läkerli with pumpkin seeds (dairy/egg/nut-free)
Bread and cereals
- Rheintaler Ribelmais: A ground corn product from Switzerland’s Rhine valley.
- Pain de seigle valaisan: I bought a loaf of this rye bread when we stayed in Grimentz and tried making my own with rye flour from the local mill.
- Berner Alpkäse and Berner Hobelkäse
- Emmentaler: In the United States, this is what we know as “Swiss cheese.”
- Formaggio d’Alpe Ticinese
- Raclette du Valais
- Tête de Moine
- Vacherin Fribourgeois
- Vacherin Mont-d’Or
Fruit, vegetables and spices
- Cardon épineux genevois: It apparently resembles a thistle, but tastes like an artichoke.
- Munder Safran: Saffron from the mountain village of Mund in the canton of Valais.
- Poire à Botzi: A type of pear sold fresh or canned.
- Bündnerfleisch: Thinly-sliced, air-dried beef from the canton of Graubünden. We use this for quick sandwiches at lunchtime, and when we’re traveling in Switzerland.
- Glarner Kalberwurst*: A sausage from the canton of Glarus.
- Longeole: A pork and fennel sausage from Geneva.
- Saucisse d’Ajoie: A pork sausage with cumin from the canton of Jura.
- Saucisson Neuchâtelois: A sausage made with two-thirds pork, one-third bacon from the canton of Neuchâtel.
- Saucisse aux Choux Vaudoise: Cabbage sausage from the canton of Vaud.
- Saucisse Vaudoise: Pork sausage from the canton of Vaud.
- St. Galler Bratwurst / St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst*: From St. Gallen, this sausage is made from veal and pork.
- Viande Séchée du Valais: Thinly-sliced air-dried beef from the canton of Valais.
As I discover allergy-friendly recipes using these products, I’ll continue to update this post. And as a reminder, please check labels every time to determine if any of these products contain or may contain ingredients you are currently avoiding because of food allergies.
*Not dairy-free, based on my initial research.
**“Café de Colombia” (coffee from Colombia) is the only non-Swiss product to appear on this list, and it has an IGP designation.
On Monday, I’m heading to Bern for an early morning festival. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Bon week-end!
Another Bundt Day is behind us, but we still have an “abundtance” of leftover cake. One of my favorite discoveries from the Minnesota-born holiday is the butternut squash Bundt. I started searching for a recipe after seeing butternut squash used in vegetable cakes on The Great British Bake-Off.
Thankfully, one of my favorite Bundt bakers, The Food Librarian, had already made a butternut squash Bundt with a recipe from Fine Cooking (I’m a huge fan of her “I Like Big Bundts” series, which has provided much inspiration for my Bundt-baking over the years). After three attempts at adapting this recipe—including one with roasted and pureed butternut—I’m wanted to share my version, made without dairy and eggs.
Butternut Squash Bundt Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing and Candied Ginger
Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 97
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free yogurt (I used soy yogurt)
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup rice milk
2 1/4 cups grated butternut squash
Heat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, mix the dairy-free margarine, oil and sugar until well combined. Then, add the yogurt, vinegar and vanilla sugar and mix well. Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg.
Next, add half of the dry ingredients to the yogurt mixture and stir together until just combined. Add half of the rice milk and gently stir until combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and rice milk. Stir the grated squash into the batter and transfer to the prepared Bundt pan, making sure to spread the top of the batter evenly.
Bake until a cake tester (e.g., toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Then, carefully invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. Cool cake completely before adding the icing and candied ginger topping.
Icing and topping ingredients:
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tbs. rice milk; more as needed
1 tsp. vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
Whisk the powdered sugar, rice milk, vanilla sugar, nutmeg, and salt until smooth. Add more rice milk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until the icing is pourable but still quite thick. Pour the icing back and forth in thick ribbons over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the ginger on top. Let the icing set at room temperature.
Please note: This recipe makes a generous amount of icing (more than I usually use).
Now that Bundt Day is over, I’m starting to plan for Thanksgiving. If you have a good recipe for dairy/egg-free pumpkin pie, please let me know. Merci!