Satisfying the senses
Traditional breads are beloved staples that add a touch of nostalgia and warmth to holiday gatherings. One of the most iconic examples is gingerbread. Its warm, comforting spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, create a sensory experience that instantly transports us into the festive season. As well as ﬂavor, traditional breads are also about tradition and culture. Many families have cherished recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Baking these breads is a way of connecting with our heritage and sharing something meaningful with loved ones. It’s a way of preserving the past while creating new memories.
Sweetness meets spices
‘Pain d’épice’ is a traditional French spice bread known for its warm and aromatic ﬂavors, featuring spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. When served alongside ‘mousse de canard,’ a creamy and luxurious duck liver pâté, the two components create a symphony of ﬂavors. The sweetness and subtle spices of the ‘pain d’épice’ balance beautifully with the rich, savory and decadent nature of the duck liver mousse. It’s this culinary harmony that makes this pairing so special and sought-after during important gatherings and, for me, the star for the festive season!
Something for everyone
First, go for a classic and simple menu. During the festive season, people often appreciate traditional and familiar ﬂavors in classic dishes that evoke a sense of nostalgia and comfort. Top quality, fresh ingredients are another must for elevating the dining experience. They not only enhance the ﬂavor and texture of dishes, but also demonstrate a commitment to offering the best to your guests.
I also suggest salty entrees and main courses since these provide balance and contrast with the sweetness often associated with holiday desserts and cakes, like the essential ‘bûche de Noël.’ Dishes like roasted meats, savory tarts and hearty soups cater to a wide range of tastes, ensuring that there’s something for everyone.
What’s hot for the holidays
One of my favorite breads for the holidays is Italian Panettone bread, a very rich, but super-light bread created in different ﬂavors with candied fruits and plain chocolate. It’s complicated and time-consuming to make, but fun to try. Another that springs to mind is pumpkin spice bread, a loaf bread which I discovered when living in America, made with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger and cloves that can be topped with frostings. Austrian stollen is also always popular over the holidays. This rich, dense bread with a layer of almond and dusted with sugar is usually made a month ahead of time and contains marinated fruits, alongside rum or brandy.
Unlike the past, the rule book has been torn up when it comes to pairing today, so the most important thing is to pair food that you enjoy. Whether it’s stollen with blue cheese or poached fruits, cream and jam, it should be all about personal taste and ﬁnding the combinations that work for you. People have always approached food differently on a cultural level, from the traditional cooked breakfast in England to parts of Europe where the continental breakfast is much lighter. The message is that there’s no right or wrong – eat what you love and try different combinations, because it should be about the food.
The ﬁrst step should be to look at who your clients are – their nationality, culture and religious beliefs. Find out what they like to eat, then look at the classics that will work from a worldwide perspective and essentially create a combination that will make everybody happy. It should be as international as possible, perhaps even fusing a variety of holiday items from different places with other ﬂavors to present something new – a baklava crème brûlée or a pumpkin ice cream, for example. The aim is to create combinations that people will enjoy and get excited about, but also evoke happy childhood memories. That’s what food should be about.