I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Biscuits de Noël

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biscuit-de-Noel

‘Cause we need a little controversy

If you recall our Manala article, you may remember that Alsatians are fond of having various names for the very same item. These delicious Christmas biscuits are no exception!

So don’t be alarmed if you can’t find bredalas, they might be labelled as “bredele” – if you are in the north – or even “bredle” – though, this one is mostly its written form.

History

We have historical proof that bredalas have been around for quite some time. Archaeologists have found baking tins dating back from the 16th century. Another event attests of its old age: in 1570, the magistrate of Strasbourg tried to ban the Saint Nicolas market, a decision vehemently protested by the local housewives, as it was the place where they went to get the ingredients necessary to bake bredalas.

Before tin pastry cutters were invented in the 18th century, it was custom to shape bredalas as squares or diamonds with a knife. Afterwards, shapes got fancier. Nowadays, thanks to the pastry cutters, your bredalas can be shaped like stars, hearts, snowmen, Christmas trees, angels, or even reindeers.

In the 19th century, some of the ingredients become cheaper, thus allowing people to bake bredalas even more, and be more creative than ever.

Since it could get expensive to bake them, people often put bredalas on their Christmas tree, both as decoration and gifts. Indeed, they would start to bake at the end of November, and would continue all throughout December.

Bredalas perfectly embody Christmas spirit, as their baking is the ideal moment to spend time with family and share a laugh, and to offer some of this sweet spirit (and baked goods) to visiting friends and other guests.

It is tradition to bake them with your family in the weeks before Christmas, but they always taste sweeter when someone else baked them and offers them to you.

Whether it is for a snack, dessert or to go with your tea/coffee/hot cocoa, in winter, it is always the right time for bredalas.

A Bredala to match your mood

There will always be a bredala that tickles your fancy, and that is because there is such a big variety of them! In search of a classic, go for the Vanillekipferl or the Butterbredala. Looking for something real traditional? Linzerbredalas and Zimtsterne bredalas are the ones for you. Want to forget the cold of the winter? Cocosmakrenle will bring you somewhere warm and exotic.

RECIPES:

Butterbredalas

Ingredients for about 30 biscuits (triple everything for about 100 biscuits):

  • 250 g flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of milk (for gilding)
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 150 g butter

Preparation of the bredala dough:

In a bowl, pour the sifted flour and make a fountain. Put the whole eggs, sugar and pinch of salt into the fountain. Mix everything together, by hand. Incorporate the butter previously cut into small pieces while mixing by hand. Knead everything until you get a homogeneous dough. Once the Butterbredala dough is ready, let it rest for at least an hour in a cool place. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on the table with a rolling pin so that it is about 4 millimetres high. Make the shapes with the Christmas cookie cutters. Brush the little Butterbredalas with the egg yolk-milk mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes in the oven at 180°C. They should be lightly browned.

Linzerbredala

Preparation time: 30 minutes; Resting time: 1 hour; Cooking time: 8 – 10 minutes; Oven temperature: 180°C (Th 6).

Ingredients:

  • 210 g flour
  • 120 g sugar
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar
  • 80 g almond powder
  • 130 g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar for dusting

To make the Linzerbredalas:

Mix the flour, almond powder, sugar, vanilla sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the beaten egg and the softened butter cut into small pieces. Knead the mixture to obtain a smooth dough. Leave to rest for 1 hour in a cool place. Roll out the dough to 2mm thickness with a rolling pin and cut out discs and rings using filled shortbread cookie cutters. Place the Christmas biscuits on an oiled or greaseproof baking tray and bake them for 12-15 minutes at 180°C (gas mark 6). After cooling, brush the discs with jam. Sprinkle the rings with icing sugar and assemble.

Spritzbredala

Ingredients:

  • 250 g sugar
  • 375 g flour
  • 250 g butter
  • 125 g ground hazelnuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 packet of vanilla sugar
  • + a meat grinder

OR

If you don’t have a meat grinder, then you can use a piping bag BUT in this case you will make a softer dough (otherwise you won’t be able to get it through the piping bag!)

Mix everything together until it forms a nice ball that doesn’t stick to the sides, ideally let it rest and before rolling it out. Put the dough in the fridge to harden slightly (so if you don’t have a chopper, then don’t!). Then put the dough in the meat grinder on which you will have mounted the star-shaped cutter. Turn the crank (and the moped will look good), get the dough coil, you can make curves, circles or leave in a line, as you like (you can also make Ss, Cs, Js, Ls, and Is without dots). Place on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven at 180°C (gas mark 6). Watch the first baking time as you may need to adjust this time depending on your oven. That’s it! You can mess it up! At the end, if you want, you can dip them in melted chocolate.

Vanillekipferl

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 200 g wheat flour
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 100 g almond powder (white)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 125 g butter
  • 1 egg

For sprinkling:

  • 50 g icing sugar
  • 1 sachet of vanilla sugar

Line the baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. Cut the vanilla pod in half and remove the seeds with the blade of a knife (use the back of the blade). Preheat the oven (electric oven: 180°C; fan oven: 160°C).

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each piece of dough into a roll of about 30 cm long and about 1 cm thick. Cut each roll into pieces of about 6 cm long. Shrink the ends of each piece by hand (lightly flour them). Place the small pieces of dough on the baking sheet and shape them into crescent moons. Place in oven and bake each batch.

Pour the flour into a bowl. Add the other ingredients and knead. Then work the dough briefly on the lightly floured work surface until it is smooth. Form into a ball.

In a small container, mix the icing sugar with the vanilla sugar. Remove the croissants from the oven and slide them with the baking sheet onto a rack. Using a small sieve, sprinkle the still warm croissants with the sugar mixture. Allow to cool completely.

Cocosmakrenle

Preparation time: 30 minutes; Cooking time: 10 minutes; Oven temperature: 160°C (Th 5)

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 260 g grated coconut
  • A little lemon juice or a packet of vanilla sugar (according to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Th 6). Beat the egg whites until very stiff. Add the icing sugar and coconut, then the lemon juice or icing sugar. Place small piles with a teaspoon on an oiled or matted baking tray. Bake the makrenle for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 160°C. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Zimtsternebredala

Ingredients:

  • 250 g of sugar
  • 400 g of almonds
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 3 egg whites

Prepare the white mass: beat the eggs until stiff. Add the sifted icing sugar by spoonfuls, until you obtain a firm mass that does not run if you tip the pot over. Set aside 4 large tablespoons of the mixture in a bowl.

Prepare the almond/hazelnut mixture: mix the almond powder and cinnamon with the rest of the mixture to make a fairly sticky dough, but consistent enough to stay in a ball. Add almonds if necessary. Roll out the work surface with cling film and place the dough on top. Cover with more cling film and roll out with a rolling pin (0.5 to 1 cm high).

Make the stars:

Remove the top film and make stars with the cookie cutter, place them on an oven tray covered with baking paper (or aluminium foil).

Tip: To make the dough stick less to the cookie cutter, you can dip the edge of the cutter in water before making the stars. This part requires a certain amount of dexterity and should not be left to the children….

Put some of the reserved egg white/icing sugar mixture on each star and spread it with your finger to cover them.

Leave to dry for at least 3 hours. Then put the stars in the oven at about 100°C to dry them even more, until they no longer stick to the paper (this may take some time). Be careful, the white on the top must remain immaculate! As soon as it turns brown, turn down the oven temperature.

REFERENCIES

Querelle linguistique. Bredele, Bredala et autres Bredle. 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.dna.fr/culture/2013/12/25/bredele-bredala-et-autres-bredle. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Emporte-pièces et Découpoirs Noël (4). 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://bredele.boutique/17-emporte-pieces-noel?page=4. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

marmiton.org. 2021. Etoiles à la Cannelle ( Zimtsterne ) : recette de Etoiles à la Cannelle ( Zimtsterne ). [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_etoiles-a-la-cannelle-zimtsterne_33322.aspx. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Bredele.fr. 2021. Sablés Linzer à la framboise | Bredele.fr. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bredele.fr/sables-linzer-a-la-framboise. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Eric Langermann. 2021. La vraie et véritable recette des Spritzbredele gâteaux de noël d’alsace – Spritzbredala – Spritzbredla – Spretzbredle | Eric Langermann. [ONLINE] Available at: https://rimuge.com/2015/11/05/la-vraie-et-veritable-recette-des-spritzbredele-gateaux-de-noel-dalsace-spritzbredala-spritzbredla-spretzbredle/. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Butter Bredele. 2021. Recette des ButterBredalas alsaciens | Idéal pour les fêtes. [ONLINE] Available at: https://butterbredele.com/faire-des-butterbredala/. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Bredele.fr. 2021. Cocos Bredele | Bredele.fr. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bredele.fr/cocos-bredele. [Accessed 02 December 2021].

Dr. Oetker. 2021. Croissants à la vanille (vanillekipferl) Recette | Dr. Oetker. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.oetker.fr/fr-fr/nos-recettes/r/croissants-a-la-vanille-vanillekipferl. [Accessed 02 December 2021].


written by Julie Adèle Christiane Maruitte. She graduated at Paris IV-Sorbonne, with a double major in history and English and holds a master’s degree in audio-visual translation. She is now a Schuman trainee at DG TRAD Directorate.