Create Your Own Baking Tradition This Christmas

7 mins read

The best part of Christmas is not the Christmas dinner or the Christmas tree. It is not even the presents or the funky pyjamas. The best thing about Christmas is the biscuits and the joy of baking them.

In Slovakia, the country where I grew up, the tradition of baking Christmas biscuits is far-spread and well-beloved.

Instead of celebrating Christmas Day on 25 December, we sit down for Christmas Eve dinner on 24 December. A cabbage and sausage soup is followed by a main course of fish and potato salad. After dinner, the family sit down by the Christmas tree in the living room to unwrap presents and munch on the sweet and savoury biscuits that they have been baking for the previous few days.

I say biscuits for lack of a better term, even though the word is too narrow to describe the selection of Linzer cookies, gingerbread and ginger biscuits, crescent cookies, chocolate truffles, strudels, meringue kisses, and Swiss rolls.

In my family, we usually make at least 12 different kinds and mum swears the record is 18. It is a laborious task to produce and assemble all the biscuits. In the two weeks before Christmas, our kitchen turns into a warm, sweetly-smelling biscuit factory. After a day at work and school, we spend the evenings mixing dough, cutting out fun shapes (my favourite is a llama), and filling the oven with them. We even have to make some of the biscuits twice because they disappear before we manage to save them for the big day.

I cherish these evenings more than the actual Christmas Eve. Instead of a single day, the entirety of December turns festive with Christmas music playing and Baileys and mulled wine flowing.

It is an ever-evolving tradition connecting friends and family. Mum started baking as a little kid when she and her older sister helped my grandma with Christmas biscuits. Every year we still make recipes passed on from my grandma — like savoury cheese biscuits with poppy and flax seeds. On Christmas Eve, my great grandma would join them and bring her own sweet treats — gingerbread, Linzer cookies, and vanilla crescents. Four generations down, the recipes still live on.

Image Credit: Pixabay/Mylene

When mum moved in with my dad they both brought their own family recipes with them. Dad added his grandma’s crunchy egg white and walnut biscuits and his mum’s ginger biscuits.

Then one year a family tradition became a friend tradition. Mum and her two girlfriends decided to make eggnog and turn baking into a social event. The three of them spent whole days batch-making biscuits while their partners were watching movies, drinking, tasting the biscuits, and theatrically acting like they were the best thing they had ever eaten. So the Christmas cookbook grew by a couple of more recipes — caramel puffed rice balls and walnut stars.

This year, I decided to bring the tradition across the sea to Stirling and make it my own. I invited over a friend, put on the new edition of Sia’s Christmas album, and we drank Baileys, made mulled wine, and baked vanilla crescents.

It doesn’t have to be a social occasion either. It was a solo ride testing a recipe that I could pass on and share here. I decided it had to be the walnut stars. They are quick and easy to make and don’t require much else than a blender and a cookie cutter, yet they are visually impressive — ideal for students.

So invite your friends, your partner, or just put on a Christmas playlist and get baking!

Walnut Stars

Biscuit ingredients:

  • 170g plain flour
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 70g walnuts
  • 110g butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing ingredients:

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Handful of walnuts for decoration

Method:

  1. Take out eggs and butter so they are at room temperature and the butter softens.
  2. Ground walnuts to a fine powder in a food processor.
  3. In a big bowl mix flour, sugar, and ground walnuts.
  4. Add softened butter, two egg yolks, and vanilla extract. If the butter is not soft yet, microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds.
  5. Mix everything until a dough forms. The easiest, albeit messiest, way is to use your hands.
  6. Preheat the oven to 150C fan.
  7. Prepare a flat tray lined with baking paper.
  8. Sprinkle a bit of flour on a pastry board and roll out the dough in parts. It should be thin but shouldn’t tear. If you don’t have a pastry board or a rolling pin, you can just use a wine bottle to roll the dough out straight on your kitchen counter or table.
  9. Using a cookie cutter in the shape of a star (or any other shape you like), cut out stars and place them on the tray. Make sure they don’t touch, they will grow slightly as they bake.
  10. Bake the trays one by one on the middle rack for 13 to 16 minutes until golden brown.
  11. In the meantime, make the icing by mixing icing sugar, an egg white, and lemon juice.
  12. Quarter the remaining walnuts.
  13. While the biscuits are still warm spoon the icing on top of them and place a quarter of a walnut on top of each.

Featured Image Credit: Simi Borovska

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Fourth year journalism student at the University of Stirling and Brig's politics editor.

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