(Courtesy of Tom Fitzmorris @ The New Orleans Menu Daily)
This is Bûche de Noël Day.
Or, if you insist on speaking English Yule Log Day.
It's a French creation, however. Its origins were in a decree from Napoleon that people keep their chimneys closed to keep the cold air from coming in. That meant that the fireplaces could not be lit. To take the place of the burning logs, patisseries made these cakes in the shape of logs. The story is suspicious, but the cake does seem to date back to the time of Napoleon.
The bûche de Noël is a fairly difficult cake to make, the hard part being making a cake light and thin enough to be able to be rolled up. Genoise (sponge cake) is the usual formula used. The rolled-up cake is then covered with light-brown frosting, etched to resemble tree bark. Powdered sugar sprinkled on the top is the snow. An artfully-made bûche de Noël will have a stump of a branch sticking out of it, and marzipan decorations that resemble mushrooms or lichen. It's more impressive to see than to eat, but it's an essential dessert for the Christmas holidays.
Somebody who probably has a German heritage says that it's National Pfefferneusse Day.
Pfefferneusse literally means "pepper nut." It's is a hard, powdered-sugar-coated cookie made with a lot of baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and even a little bit of pepper). The spice gives it a holiday feeling, and I think it is traditional to serve them this time of year.
Here's a good recipe:
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 27 Minutes
Cook Time: 12 Minutes
"Family recipe for German peppernuts. Small, dense spice cookies that are tantalizing when dipped in coffee, or great on their own. This is the traditional version with molasses."
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 drops anise oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon hot water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in molasses, anise oil, and egg. Dissolve baking soda in hot water, and stir into the mixture. Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and white pepper; blend into the molasses mixture until uniform. Knead for a minute until easy to work with. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, and place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2011 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 12/23/2011
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until slightly browned on the bottom. Do not over bake, or they will be very hard. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
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