This blog post was updated on December 9, 2022.
One of the best parts of the winter holidays is all the sweet treats you see and sample, whether you’re visiting local friends or traveling internationally. Every culture seems to have its own holiday traditions, and thankfully that includes holiday cookies.
You probably have your own favorite holiday cookies from growing up celebrating with your family. But one of the great things about traveling during the holidays is getting the chance to experience other cultures…especially their sweet holidays specialty bakes!
So, here’s a guide to some of the most delectable cookies you might encounter along your holiday travels.
Pizzelle – Italy
The delicate pizzelle cookie is an Italian favorite. With a history dating back to the 8th century BCE, pizzelle are said to be the oldest cookies in the world. You can make pizzelle cookies using a waffle iron. Traditional batter flavors include anise, almond, vanilla, chocolate, or citrus zest. Reminiscent of small lace doilies, pizzelle can also shape them into a bowl shape when they are hot and then stuff them with fruit, custard, or other fun fillings.
Krumkake – Norway
The Scandinavians pull out all of the stops when it comes to the holidays. In addition to the traditional fish, fruits, and other delicious foods, a Norwegian Christmas table also features the famous Krumkake cookies. These gorgeous treats are prepared using a specially designed circular cookie iron. The finished product is then rolled into its distinctive cone shape. The light and crispy texture of these cookies are more like that of a sweet-tasting cracker.
Speculaas, Stroopwafel – Netherlands
No Dutch holiday is complete without an assortment of speculaas and stroopwafel treats. Speculaas are a spiced flat short crust biscuit prepared using the distinctive speculaas spices. It is common to indulge in speculaas during the feast of St. Nicholas. Stroopwafels are classic Dutch cookies that you may find sold by street vendors during the holidays. The thin waffle cookies are layered with gooey caramel and served warm and toasty. What could be better on a cold winter day?
Linzer Tarts – Austria
The ultimate European holiday cookie is the Austrian Linzer tart or Linzer cookie. Brown sugar and toasted pecans are combined to make a light dough that is filled with different types of flavored jam. A dusting of powdered sugar makes the perfect finishing touch. These beautiful cookies will be a lovely centerpiece for your spread of holiday treats. Distinguished by the delicate lattice design, the cookie originates from the city of Linzer, Austria.
Alfajores – Peru and Argentina
The alfajores treat is a mainstay throughout South America during the holiday season. Countries such as Peru and Argentina each put a slightly different spin on the cookie, making it fun to sample the regional differences. The base of the alfajores features two butter-sugar cookies that contain a spread of creamy dulce de leche in the middle. The flavoring of the cookies varies by region, with popular choices being different types of brandy.
Polvorones – Spain and Mexico
Commonly known as Mexican wedding cookies, polvorones got their start during the Spanish Inquisition. The cookies are crumbly in texture and are flavored with sweet almonds. While the cookies were traditionally made using pork fat, bakers now typically use butter, margarine, or shortening to bind all the flavors together. If making your own polvorones, you can customize the recipe using flavoring such as chocolate, ground cinnamon, or vanilla extract. The end result is sure to be delicious!
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Rugelach, Sufganiot – Israel
Israel boasts two treats that are equally popular during Hanukkah meals. Rugelach consists of a flaky dough made with cream cheese that is wrapped around a fruit filling and nuts. You can easily use a food processor to make the dough, which is similar to a pie crust. Sufganiots are round jelly doughnuts that are deep-fried in oil and filled with jam or sweet custard. The doughnuts are then topped with powdered sugar. The recipe dates back to 16th century Europe, making this a treat that has stood the test of time.
What holiday cookies did you grow up munching on? Let us know in the comments below!
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