Holidays are great, In part for the traditions that they embody, but also because it is the time when you don’t need to make any excuses for working secretively on something for hours. Be it personalized gifts, or exquisite deserts it is OK. The only thing you should be worrying about though, is to avoid excess. And then again, when it comes to sweets, there is no such thing as excess! This Christmas I wanted to open my door to you and share some of my family’s Christmas traditions. Today in the sweets department.

rugelachRugelach, a traditionally Jewish pastry is one of my family’s favorite during Christmas. Yes, you can buy them in the supermarket, but once you’ve tasted the homemade version, you’ll never go back! The best recipe I’ve found is from Fűszer és Lélek. It looks complicated, but is easy to make. Once you get the hang of rollng up the little pastry triangles around the filing it is quite easy. Those who receive it as a gift always think I spent hours on end in the kitchen baking them. Shhh! Don’t tell them my secret!

gingerbread cookiesgingerbread cookiesAnother great tradition for us is gingerbread cookies. Although they are something I started baking just a couple of years ago, I can safely say that Christmas would not be the same without them. Traditionally in Hungary Christmas trees are adorned with chocolate covered sweets wrapped in decorative paper called szaloncukor. It is something that I couldn’t get enough of as a kid, and do not like much as an adult. And with this shift in taste came the idea of making gingerbread cookies. I don’t know where I found this recipe, but it is easily the easiest and tastiest of them all. It is soft and chewy right out of the oven, and it has a discreet sweetness to it that I actually prefer to the original extra sugary kind. The wonderful aroma that they give off once on the tree is heavenly!

gingerbread in jarIf you are interested, here is the recipe:

Dry ingredients: 300 g flour, 3/4 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp powdered ginger, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, the zest of a lemon or an orange and one egg

Wet ingredients: 250 g honey, 100 g unsalted butter (not margarine!)

Warm the wet ingredients until the butter starts melting. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Put the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 – 3 hours or overnight. Roll the dough to approx 4 mm on a well floured surface and cut with cookie cutters of your choice. Place on baking sheet, brush with egg yolk and bake at 180C for about 8 – 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

gingerbread bearEvery year I baked them and hung them on the tree as they were. This year however, I decided to experiment a bit and decorate them. I used egg yolk mixed with food coloring for the colors. Decorated with pumpkin seeds, rice. Here I collected some of these ideas in case you’d like some inspiration.

Hope you give them a try!