Christmas Tradition - A German Family in New Zealand
I love Christmas time. I love that the whole family comes together (no exceptions!), I love the excitement in my kids the night before Christmas and their delight on finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Of course, I love the food as well!
I also love tradition. Tradition doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or highly religious, it’s simply something that has been put in place and repeated year on year and it can be very personal or individualised to your family and circumstances, but it’s special and has significance to you.
Our family's traditions have even evolved over the years, as we have hung onto snippets of our German homeland and introduced traditions from the kiwi in-laws and of course adapted how we do things to fit in with the kids.
29 years ago (that realisation just made me feel so incredibly old!) I moved over to New Zealand along with just my mum, dad and my sister.
It was a huge shock coming from the wintery, cold, snowy Bavaria in Germany, to the hot sticky climate that Auckland had welcomed us with on an early December day.
And we still live with some of those traditions that we brought with us nearly 3 decades later.
We still celebrate on the 24th! rather than on the 25th, with a full-on meal of Turkey (always prepared by dad), potatoes, rotkohl (red cabbage), green beans and plenty of thick gravy.
For dessert, we introduced a New Zealand element (but has been the same since day 1 here in NZ), fresh strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream.
After our meal with full tummies, we all make ourselves comfortable on the couches in mum and dads lounge for ‘Bescherung’ - the handing out of presents.
Christmas baking is never far away during the Bescherung, which easily takes a couple of hours (as the family has now grown to 10 and each present is unwrapped individually, with everyone watching!).
The Christmas baking tradition has also evolved over the years. For many years, while my sister and I were young and living at home, it was completed on the morning of the 24th with dad at the helm with traditional German cookies such as Zimtsterne (Cinnamon stars, made with hazelnut meal) and Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Cresents, made with Almond meal) but as we have both had children and allergies to egg and nuts prevent these traditional morsels being made, the tradition continues, but with child friendly and allergy-safe baking and not on the 24th, but when the kids have finished school and we have finally got a moment to ourselves.
Because I wanted to keep this tradition going and wanted to share something from my past with my dearest friends and family (the kiwi side), everyone receives a small sampler plate with their Christmas card.
Two of my recipes that we baked as a family over the weekend are:
A modified version of ‘Spritzgeback’ that is able to be rolled out and decorated, which is what the kids love the most. Traditionally made with Almond or Hazelnut meal, I substitute these with Coconut flour, which I find has a similar texture and has a more coarse texture than regular flour. I also substitute egg with apple puree. The result (if the kids don’t over do it with decorations and I don’t forget them in the oven!), is delicious and you can't really taste the difference at all!
Kids Christmas Cookies
230g butter - softened
1 cup white sugar
60g apple puree (I use the Watties baby food jars)
115g coconut flour
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180° C
Cream butter and sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine to form a smooth cookie dough
Using your hands, give a it a light knead, ensuring all the dough is part of the the main dough ball.
Prepare and flour your working surface.
Roll the dough out using a rolling pin until it is about 3-4 mm thick.
Using cookie cutters, press out cookies and gently lift them onto a greased oven tray.
Either put them in the oven as they are or decorate them with anything that you may have in your pantry - my kids used, coloured and chocolate sprinkles, peanuts, chocolate buttons. To help the decorations stick, we painted on a thin layer of milk, but an egg mix will work best (if you can tolerate egg)
Bake for 10 -12 minutes until starting to become golden.
My second attempt with the kids on theweeeknd was a modified version of a tradition German shortbread like biscuit - Melt in your mouth delicious and super addictive. Again, I substituted the almond meal for coconut flour and it tastes absolutely divine.
Coconut Flour Shortbread
A few drops of vanilla essence
100g plain flour
50g coconut flour
Mix all ingredients well and leave to cool for 30 minutes in a cool place.
Shape walnut-sized balls from the dough. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper ensuring that there is plenty of room between the biscuits. Imprint stripes onto the balls with a floured fork.
Bake at 175°C for approximately 20 minutes.
Yip, I left them in the oven slightly too long!! The distraction of kids!