The lead-up to Christmas really is a special time to be in Switzerland. There’s a little bit of magic in the air when Christmas trees start appearing in town squares and twinkling lights are strung up and the aromas of roasting chestnuts, gingerbread and mulled wine can be savoured at Christmas markets.
We heard a little about Switzerland’s Christmas markets in episode 55 but today I wanted to dive a little deeper and hear about the customs and traditions of Christmas that are so important to the Swiss. Of course, they include Christmas markets but there’s so much more.
As in many nations, food plays a big role in Christmas celebrations and cookies are a major part of Switzerland’s Christmas cuisine. In fact, there are four main cookies that no Swiss household would be without at Christmas.
To tell us more about Swiss Christmas traditions and cookies, I’ve invited Andie Pilot, a Swiss-Canadian pastry chef and cookbook author back to the podcast. One of Andie’s books is dedicated to Swiss cookies and of course it has a section on Christmas cookies.
I bought a copy of Andie’s Swiss Cookies book last year and baked a couple of varieties before Christmas – and they were a big hit.
As well as sharing her love of Swiss Christmas cookies with us, Andie is going to give us an insight into how the Swiss prepare for and celebrate Christmas, what they eat for Christmas dinner (you might be surprised!) and how they do on Christmas Day.
[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]
As always, to say a big thank you to the team from Switzerland Tourism for sponsoring the podcast. There’s lots of info about visiting Switzerland at Christmas time on their website myswitzerland.com, so do take a look.
If you are planning a visit to Switzerland at Christmas time – whether it’s to try all the delicious cookies or immerse yourself in the magic of a Christmas market, remember to take your camera. Because, if you need the perfect shot, you need Switzerland.
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In this episode you’ll learn about:
- Swiss Christmas traditions and customs
- How and when the Swiss celebrate Christmas
- What can you expect at Switzerland’s Christmas Markets
- The four main Christmas cookies you’ll find in Switzerland, plus two other delicious varieties
- Andie’s favourite Swiss Christmas cookie
- Andie’s Swiss cook books and where to buy them
Swiss Christmas cookies mentioned in this episode
>> Mailänderli – you’ll find this buttery cookie in almost every bakery and every household at Christmas time. Flavoured with a hint of lemon, they bring back fond childhood memories for many Swiss people.
>> Basler Brunsli – thought to have originated in Basel, these tasty chocolate cookies can be made with a choice of ground nuts. Andie has made them with almonds, hazelnuts, and even walnuts.
>> Zimsterne – shaped like stars, these cinnamon-flavoured cookies are another gluten-free cookie as they are made from ground almonds rather than flour.
>> Spitzbuben – translated as ‘mischevious boy’, these delicious jam-filled cookies were originally made with cut outs resembling two eyes and a cheeky grin. They are sold all year round in Switzerland but home baked Spitzbuben are especially appreciated at Christmas time.
>> Vanillegipfeli – these crescent-shaped beauties are another buttery cookie. Sprinkled with icing sugar they are too tempting not to eat but they can be a little tricky to make as the dough must be kept very cold.
>> Lebkuchen – traditionally lebkuchen are brought by Samichlaus on 6 December but they are readily available in shops and at Christmas markets before then. This version of gingerbread also contains fragrant spices, and honey instead of molasses.
>> Änisbrötli – these aniseed-flavoured cookies are no ordinary biscuit. Once the dough is prepared and rested, it is pressed into a wooden form with an intricate pattern such as a nativity scene. The form is then removed before the cookie is baked.
All images courtesy of Andie Pilot, Helvetic Kitchen.
It’s possible to visit the workshop of Anise Paradise in Basel and see their incredible range of wooden cookie forms. If you can’t visit personally, they can be ordered online and shipped internationally.h
If you’d like to know more about some of Switzerland’s most popular Christmas markets, be sure to listen to Episode 34 where we chatted about the Basel, Bern and Montreux Christmas markets.
The following articles might also be helpful:
Andie’s Swiss cook books
Andie’s books can be purchased through the publisher Bergli Books.
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This episode is sponsored by Switzerland Tourism
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