An old Tradition as Dessert – The Yule Log

I don’t know in how many you still know about this old tradition during the wintertime and especially around Christmas. Today many traditions are gone, in some countries you can’t even call an event anymore by its name because there is a slight possibility that one of 8 billion people could feel offended.

But talking about the tradition called Yule Log: This is an old Pagan tradition widely spread throughout Europe. For the winter solstice people have gone into the woods to cut a big trunk of an ash or an oak to be burned during the next days in the kitchen on the open fire place. I should bring luck, send away the bad spirits and of course help to warm the house which very often most of the time was only one room.

During the early Christendom it was of course forbidden. I guess because they didn’t know what kind of meaning they should give it that it sounds ‘from Christ’. But in the 12th century it was again an official ritual. Since then the trunk would burn from Christmas day to the Epiphany. After that the ashes would be thrown on the fields and given to feed the domestic animals to make them prosper and healthy.

Today this tradition is still very alive in England and English speaking countries. The first time it was mentioned in Germany around the 12th century.

Many countries don’t use anymore this tradition but transformed it into a… dessert. In France they call it Bûche de Noël and in Italy we call it Tronchetto di Natale. It is a dessert made of chocolate, eggs, sugar and cream and has the shape of a tree trunk. Also the surface is made with chocolate or cream that it looks like bark.

The cake is a sponge cake, thinly baked and then spread with jam or cream, rolled into a roulade and then cut slantwise into two or three pieces to form the trunk. On the top the chocolate ganache is made of chocolate buttercream or also chocolate. Who wants more decoration can put some berries, meringue or marzipan mushrooms or just icing sugar for some ‘snow’ feeling.

Enjoy this (sweet and creamy) tradition!

Yul Log
Yul Log Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
10 pieces 15 minutes
Cook Time
10-15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
10 pieces 15 minutes
Cook Time
10-15 minutes
Yul Log
Yul Log Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
10 pieces 15 minutes
Cook Time
10-15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
10 pieces 15 minutes
Cook Time
10-15 minutes
Ingredients
Sponge Mixture:
Filling
Buttercream:
Decoration:
  • handful red fruits (red currants, raspberry, ...)
Servings: pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Add the flour, starch, baking powder and Xantham in a bowl and mix.
  3. Blend the egg whites until they are stiff, add one bu one the egg yolks, vanilla paste and slowly also the sugar. Continue to blend the mixture.
  4. Incorporate the dry ingredients with a spatula.
  5. Place some baking paper on a baking sheet and pour the sponge mixture on the paper. Level a little bit to a thin, square layer.
  6. Place int he oven on the middle rack for around 10 minutes or until golden.
  7. Take the sponge out of the oven and turn it upside down on another baking paper in order to get off the attached baking paper.
  8. Turn the sponge back on the right side and - as it will be already cooling - pour the jam on the top and spread all over the sponge. Now roll the sponge to a roll, helping with the baking paper. Close the paper and let the roll cool out well.
  9. Meanwhile prepare the buttercream. In a bowl put the icing sugar, the cacao powder, the vanilla paste and the ghee. With a hand-mixer mix all well until you get a smooth, even cream.
  10. Cut the roll into two or three pieces and form a log. Now cover the Yul Log with the buttercream. Not to evenly as you want to have a more rustic look, like real bark. Decorate with some fruits and/or Christmas ornaments.
  11. Enjoy the big eyes when you serve the decorative cake!
Recipe Notes

For more decoration you can also sprinkle some icing sugar for some snow on the top.

Store in the fridge up to two or three days. Cover the cake with something, so the cake can't dry out in the fridge.

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Heath Sand – A German Christmas Cookie

In German these cookies are called Heidesand. They are traditional Christmas cookies but you can find them all year round today. This recipe is easy and perfect.

Heidesand is a short cake, a tea cookie made of short pastry. In North Germany they are traditionally served during Christmas time.

The ingredients are simple: just flour, butter and sugar. As I eat only the gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free versions of everything. I tried my own version and I liked it very much. The cookies are exactly as I remember them: very short, friable and smooth in the taste.

The key-ingredient is the butter – in this case the ghee. You need to melt and let it brown a little bit. Then let the ghee cool out and use it for the dough. That gives the cookies a special taste.

I kneaded the cookie dough with my hand as I think with the warmth of the hand the ghee incorporates better than with a cold hook. But that is something everyone has to do as he/she likes. Like all short pastry it has to be in a cool place for an hour or so before getting the shape you want and baked. I prepared in advance two sausages, so I could cut them later in slices and bake.

If you like you can roll the slices one by one in granulated sugar (I used Xylitol) before baking, or also afterwards. I didn’t do.

My cookies are three different versions: one patch with Goji berries and grounded pistachios, one with only vanilla and one half vanilla, half chocolate (I used cacao).

In an air-tide container they could survive until Christmas if you make them early. I say could because they are too good to stay long.





Let’s cookie!

Heidesand
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
40 cookies 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
40 cookies 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 1 hour
Heidesand
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
40 cookies 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
40 cookies 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
10 minutes 1 hour
Ingredients
Servings: cookies
Instructions
  1. In a pan melt the ghee, let it lightly brown and let it cool.
  2. Put all the other ingredients in a bowl, add the melted butter and combine all the together. Form two rolls/sausages of 4 cm diameter, wrap them in a plastic foil and let them cool in a cold place for around one hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F.
  4. Now take the cookie dough rolls out of the fridge, take away the plastic wrap and cut the rolls in slices of half a centimeter/0.4 inches.
  5. Place the slices on a baking tray with parchment paper and in the oven for around 10 - 12 minutes. Check the color, they have to be golden.
  6. Take them out of the oven and let them cool out on a cooling rack.
  7. Store them in an air-tide container.
Recipe Notes

You can make them also with chocolate, or nuts, or what ever you like. 

They can be stored for weeks in an air-tide container.

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River of Times (A Mystery Story)

The weather was beautiful. The sun was shining, the air felt velvety soft, butterflies danced through the air and Adelais could hardly believe that it was already October. A perfect day to go swimming. Should she? Why not.

There was a river just outside the village. She had never been there before. Young people sometimes meet along the banks in secret. But nobody ever has taken a bathe in the clean waters of the River of Times. There was a pretty strange legend about. It was said that if you would swim under water you would reappear in a different age. Adelais did not believe in such things. Nonsense, there is no such thing! So why not? At least she could sunbathe in peace and read her book.

She looked for her bag, made some sandwiches, packed a Thermos with tea, took a towel and her book. She put on light clothes, but took a sweater with her to be on the safe side. Then she got on her bike with verve and drove to the river.

The trip alone was wonderful. The trees had already put on their red and gold dress everywhere, almost shining more golden than the sun’s rays. After some time she found a place where a meadow, a little hidden, went directly to the water’s edge. The ruins of the monastery were nearby.

She leant the bike against a lime tree, spread out her towel and sat on it. Oh, what a beautiful view that was! The mountain slopes shimmered golden on the opposite side, the river flowed slowly past her with its crystal clear water. A red kite screamed flying in circles in the sky. He was looking for his lunch. A light wind was blowing, but the air was warm and gentle.

She lay down and immersed herself in her book. A thriller from the Middle Ages. It took place in the nearby monastery. Exciting, every side. Her favorite author. The protagonist was a girl whose name was just like hers. She seemed to be far ahead of her time and knew about herbs and their healing powers. Adelais identified with her well, and not just because of the name. She also knew about medicinal plants. In the novel, the girl had a monk as a friend, whom she helped to solve mysterious events and murders.

She was very absorbed in her novel when a gust of wind suddenly almost tore the book from her hand. She looked up, puzzled, but the flowers swayed only slightly under the insects approaching them. The lime tree didn’t move a branch. There was no wind. Only the river babbled. Strange.

She sat and watched the flow of water for a while. Then Adelais decided to test the temperature with her feet. Hey, that wasn’t that cold at all! Without further ado she took off her shorts and went into the water, dressed only in underwear. Whoa … that was pretty brisk, but she got used to it quickly. She swam a few strokes, turned and looked at her bike. Before she got too cold, she’d better go back. Without thinking about it she submerged the last bit and did a few swimming strokes underwater. She reappeared a little further away and looked at the lime tree Something was different. Where was her bike? She got out of the water, trembling slightly, when a voice said: “Adelais, why are you bathing in the forbidden river?” And suddenly a monk was standing in front of her.

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Another of My Favorite Antipasto – Alici Marinate

A typical dish from Campania, a southern region of Italy, the ‘alici marinate’ once were a meal of the poor people. Easy to make it is also a way to preserve ‘raw’ fish.

Antipasti in Italy, meze in Greece and tapas in Spain very are rich in taste and variety. They should be a starter, but very often they could be already a whole meal. Alici marinate, or marinated anchovy, are maybe a very simple dish, but also very rich in taste. And as a fish lover it is definitely one of my favorite antipasti.

The preparation of the fish in a certain way makes it a kind of preserved food. The raw fish, cleaned and without spine, interior and head, will be ‘cooked’ in vinegar and/or lemon juice for several hours, mostly overnight. During this time the fish’ meat gets from brown-pink to white. A little like if you would boil the fish. After the marinating or cooking time is over, the fish is placed in a deep dish together with some herbs like garlic, parsley and chili, and covered with olive oil extra virgin. Another couple of hours in the fridge before served and voilà!

If you don’t have time to prepare them right after buying the fresh fish, it is recommended to clean the fish and then leave it for 96 hours (4 days!) in the freezer. This way all bad bacteria or whatever just die and the fish is save for consuming. I always buy and prepare immediately, I never did the freezer variation.

The marinated anchovies are great alone, but best with homemade focaccia or baguette. Make bruschetta with alici marinate! Or add them to a mixed salad. How about spaghetti with marinated anchovies? Let your fantasy go crazy!

Let’s prepare a very typical yet unique dish!

Alici Marinate
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 persons 30 minutes
Passive Time
12 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 persons 30 minutes
Passive Time
12 hours
Alici Marinate
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 persons 30 minutes
Passive Time
12 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 persons 30 minutes
Passive Time
12 hours
Ingredients
Servings: persons
Instructions
  1. First clean all the fish. With a sharp knife open along the belly and take out the spine and interior and cut the head. Clean the fish filets under water and let get them a little dry on a paper towel.
  2. Transfer the opened fish filets one by one into a glass or ceramic bowl and put the vinegar and lemon juice on the top that all the sardelles are covered. Cover and set aside. Let them 'cook' for around 5 hours or overnight (best).
  3. Meanwhile you wait you can prepare the garlic, chili and the parsley.
  4. After the 'cooking time' take the anchovies out of the lemon-vinegar without washing them. Put a layer of the open fish filets in a glass or ceramic baking dish, sprinkle some parsley, garlic, salt and pepper and chili/flakes on the top, drizzle some olive oil on all, then start a second layer, exactly like the first, and if there is enough fish continue until you used all of the fish and the spices. Add the rest of the olive oil on the top in order to cover all.
  5. Leave the dish at least 4 hours, better more, in the fridge to get taste and serve with pomegranate kernels.
Recipe Notes

If you want/need to store the alice marinate transfer all in a smaller container and cover. They are perfect for several days.

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One of my favorite Antipasti – Eggplants in Olive Oil

Preserved food is one of the best ways to eat vegetables or fruits from the summer season also during the winter season when only little fresh food is growing outside. Preserved under olive oil in Italy it becomes a great antipasto. One of my favorite is eggplants in olive oil.

Today in our modern world it is possible to eat a strawberry cake in January or a dish with kale in August. Have asparagus in November and oranges in April. That is something I never liked. I am a seasonal eater. I like to eat asparagus in late spring when also the strawberries are everywhere. I like very much oranges during the winter season, like also kale and all kinds of cabbages. But of course, there is an exception: preserved food. I mean: what is better than homemade canned food? You have too many eggplants in the garden and can’t eat them all? Well, then preserve it like our ancestors did. I do that for many years.

Preserved food in olive oil is a very old technique. The Romans used this way of food preservation already. The olive oil covers the previously cooked food and this way it doesn’t get bad. Instead of olive oil you can use any other, but the taste is the best with fresh olive oil extra virgin. And super healthy. In history it was vital for survival.

One of my favorite preserved foods is eggplants in olive oil. I prepare them every year and eat them during the winter-time with just freshly made bread or with some meat. So delicious. If you look for them in Italy: they are called melanzane sott’olio.

Eggplants in olive oil need a little preparation. After the eggplants are cleaned, they have to be in salt for at least 4 hours, or overnight. They get shortly cooked in vinegar water and then cut in pieces and mixed with the other ingredients, transferred into the jars and these filled up with the olive oil. The eggplants have to be covered well. Preserved this way they are good for at least a year. If you have many jars, you always can use them as gifts for friends and family. Who doesn’t love homemade food? Or when you are invited to someone’s home for dinner: bring a jar of this yummy antipasto instead of a bottle of wine. I bet everyone would appreciate that!

Let’s prepare our antipasto!

Melanzane sott'olio - eggplants in oil
Eggplants in Oil
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 jars 45 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 minute 4 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 jars 45 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 minute 4 hours
Melanzane sott'olio - eggplants in oil
Eggplants in Oil
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 jars 45 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 minute 4 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 jars 45 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 minute 4 hours
Ingredients
Servings: jars
Instructions
  1. Peel the eggplants and cut them in slices, each about 1 inch thick.
  2. Put the eggplant slices in a colander in layers, each layer sprinkle with enough salt. The last layer should be salted as well.
  3. Put a deep dish under the colander and a breakfast dish on the top. A weight on the plate holds the eggplant layers down, that way the bitter liquid can go out with more ease.
  4. Let sit for two hours, than turn over the eggplant layers and put back the dish and the weight for another two hours. The brown liquid coming out has all the bitter parts of the eggplants. Wait another two hours.
  5. During your waiting time, prepare the garlic (clean and mince) and the parsley (clean and mince). Choose the jars and prepare to sterilize them.
  6. After the two hours, take the eggplants out of the colander, squeezing them in order to get out the last liquid. Prepare in a pot the vinegar and water, bring to a boil. Cook the eggplant slices in two rounds each for 30 seconds. Take them out, spread them on a canvas and tap them dry with a paper towel. Let them cool a little bit.
  7. While you are waiting you can sterilize the jars and lids in the still super hot vinegar water and let them dry (upside down) on the canvas as well.
  8. Now cut the eggplant slices into small filets. Transfer in a bowl, add all the spices (parsley, garlic and chili flakes) and mix well with two spoons.
  9. Now take a little of your eggplant mixture and put it on the bottom on the first jar, add a little olive oil, another layer of eggplant mixture, olive oil and so on. Press the mixture always down that the air goes out. When filled nearly to the top, fill with olive oil and put the lid. Don't close too well, you need to reopen the jars later.
  10. Proceed with the other jars until you used all the eggplant mixture.
  11. Leave the jars on the table and wait at least 4-5 hours. Then open them again and look if the olive oil is still covering all eggplant mixture. If not, add some more olive oil and close well.
  12. The eggplants in oil have to sit at least one week. The longer, the more taste they will have.
Recipe Notes

To store the 'melanzane sott'olio' you just leave them in your pantry. Don't put them in the fridge! After you opened a jar, finish it within a couple of days. 

I stored them the whole winter and longer this way without a problem. 

Try also other vegetables like zucchini, artichoke, mixed vegetables, cauliflower and the list goes on.

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