St Nicolas

12:44 PM

Saint Nicolas day falls on the 6th of December and while I’m from a protestant Christian family and this is supposed to be mainly a Catholic festival it could be considered odd that I am celebrating.
But St Nicolas has some deeper roots in Germany and Switzerland where it is speculated that St Nick actually replaced another festival dedicated to Odin in the pre-Christian pagan time. Switzerland having many traditions in common with Germany we celebrate it too.
Saint Nicolas as we know it there is an old man, sometimes portrayed as a bishop but not necessarily, he goes around with a donkey and kids are celebrating the day by first having a Saint Nicolas meal in the evening: nuts, gingerbread biscuits and oranges all this with a few candles around, then before bedtime they place a plate of carrots and a glass of water near their shoes for the donkey to eat and drink, and if they have been good, the morning of the 7th they will find sweets and candies in their shoes, if they were bad they will find a bundle of twigs. Supermarkets even sell special saint Nicolas treats at the time, as a kid I remember getting a red stocking with a bundle of twigs decorated with chocolate and candies to commemorate the festival, and yes like all kids I did believe in St Nick coming to put yummies into my shoes and always put my carrot and water on a nice tray for him and his donkey.

Those not familiar with the festival might wonder if I am not in fact talking about Santa, and guess what you wouldn’t be completely of of base, because the name Santa Claus is a short form for the name given to Saint Nicolas in German and Dutch, it eventually got merged with the myth of Father Christmas and other legends from the north to give the all inclusive character we have now. But as a kid Santa wasn’t putting presents in my shoes in the night leading to Christmas day, Saint Nicolas did, earlier in the month. We heard of father Christmas from Christmas songs from France, but back then it wasn’t a big holiday figure in my country.

Anyway now that Ishita is eating more and enjoying food more than last year, I decided to take the tradition out of my cultural closet and adapt it here, and that is one easy one to do, nuts are widely available in India, and so are oranges (though I forgot to buy some so no oranges this year), the ingredients to bake a gingerbread are very easy to find too which makes it perfect. Now of course the gingerbread we have in Switzerland is a though hard quite dry one that is filled with marzipan, since I’ve never been a huge fan of that one and I know for a fact that DH hates dry stuff I didn’t Google for the “bieberli” bread I grew up with, I instead looked for gingerbread and it all yielded results for a thicker, moist softer bread, all recipes asked for molasse, but I used honey instead, which gives a more subtle sweet taste to it.
And this is what the result looked like:
The recipe I used is this one, as I said I replaced the molasse with honey, and instead of pouring the water in the end I poured it right after the honey and threw the butter in to melt, I also didn’t pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, when I bake I always work the other way round mixing all my wet ingredients to a batter and then add the dry and pour milk last to achieve the desired consistency, and I use baking parchment to line my tin, not butter and flour, but it is just me.
The cake turned out awesome, most and flavourful, we have a lot left though, because even though it is lighter than the Swiss version, it is still one that fills you up nicely.
I would have put a slice in Ishita’s tiffin for school today, but the school asks for strictly vegetarian snacks with no eggs allowed as the kiddos share the food and in the chance that one of the strictly vegetarian kid eats it it is better to avoid, not that the kid or parent would know, but religious sensibilities have to be respected.

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