When we think of Christmas, what are the first things that pop to mind? Friends and family, christmas trees, lights, gifts... and an endless stream of sweets, treats and desserts. Let’s face it, no matter how healthy we keep ourselves all year round, no Christmas season is truly complete without those special delights that just seem to be made to perfectly fit the mood and atmosphere of this most magical and charming time of the year. And although you may have your yearly favorites that you simply cannot pass up on, each country has their own delicious concoctions and holiday sweets they take pride in. So on your travels with Renfe-SNCF en Coopération’s trains between France and Spain, be sure not to miss out on these blissful Christmas treats.
Turrón de Navidad
Turrón de Navidad
Although it is undeniably delicious and available any time of the year, no Spanish Christmas is truly complete without digging into this scrumptious sweet. Turrón de Navidad (Christmas Turrón) is considered to be one of Spain’s most Christmas-y treats, and holds a true place in their hearts and traditions. And do not be fooled into thinking it is just one sweet that you have to try - there are all kinds or turróns to sweeten up your holiday season. Originally Turrón is made up of only three ingredients: almonds, honey and egg whites. Although this may seem quite limiting as to variations, this could not be further from the truth: depending on the quantities of each component and the consistency (ground vs. whole almonds for example), turrón ranges from hard and crunchy to soft and malleable. Other alternative recipes are also available and very popular, such as with chocolates, other types of nuts and many more.
Rosca de Reyes
Rosca de Reyes
Another Christmas goody that any Spanish christmas can simply not go without. The truth is that Spaniards take Christmas to a whole other level - celebrating the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December, but stretching the festivities right up into the new year. Until the 6th of January, to be more precise. Although the 6th of January is internationally recognized as Three King’s Day, in most western cultures, it represents the end of the holiday season, when one takes down their Christmas trees, for example. In Spain however, three King’s day, or Dia de Reyes, is considered the most prominent of the winter holidays, and in many households continues to be the day on which gifts are exchanged. Large, incredible parades are held in every city around Spain, with huge floats and people dressed up as the kings and other nativity scene characters, throwing candy, sweets and small presents into the crowds below, with eager children jumping and scrambling to catch them. The celebration is not complete, however, without the Roscón de Reyes, a typical, donut shaped, brioche type cake with crystallized fruits, nuts, and a large variation of other additions baked in. Both a small King figurine and a hard, raw bean are hidden and baked into the cake. Whoever finds the figurine is named King or Queen of the party, and will experience particularly good fortune that year, whilst he who finds the bean must pay for the party and the cake.
Polvorones are a beloved Spanish Christmas cookie which resembles a kind of Spanish shortbread. They are rich and delicious, made mainly of flour, butter, sugar and ground nuts, with a crumbly consistency that simply melts in your mouth. Made in many different festive shapes, they are typically covered in white powdered sugar, and will leave you begging for more. The word Polvorón comes from polvo, meaning dust, due to its soft and crumbly texture.
Again, the world famous and unmissable french macarons are a must-try treat any time of the year - but come Christmas time they just get that much more colorful and festive. Whether shaped into adorable little snowmen or christmas ornaments, dusted in coconut flavored “snow” or frosted with beautifully drawn snowflakes, they will brighten and liven up your Christmas days as well as your tastebuds. These totally delicious and surprisingly light desserts are extremely versatile - serving perfectly as a light dessert after a big Christmas dinner, as a small snack with a warm cup of tea or coffee, or beautifully packaged in a pretty box and given as a gift. Their only limit is the baker’s imagination, and you are able to find flavors of all kinds, ranging from your go-to chocolate or vanilla, to fruity raspberry or passionfruit, all the way to creme brulée, salted caramel, blueberry cheesecake, lavender coconut, and everything in between. Since you won’t be able to resist eating more than one or two, try a combination between classic, beloved flavors, and a few somewhat more adventurous experiments. Find out here where to buy the best Macarons in Paris!
Bûche de Noël
Bûche de Noël
The Bûche de Noël, which literally translates to the Christmas Log, more commonly known in English as the Yule Log, is one of France’s most popular and adored Christmas desserts. Although it can be found in other places in Europe, this is mainly a French tradition, though of unknown origin, and can be found decorating the window exposition of pretty much every French Patisserie or bakery (and there are a lot of them!). It is made of sponge cake and surrounded in a creamy chocolate exterior (some come filled with chocolate as well) and made to resemble a log - a yule log in particular, a common christmas symbol. They can be simple, with a standard cylindric shape, with the end cut off and placed on top or the side (to resemble a cutoff branch), fork marks on the chocolate to make the bark and powdered sugar on top as snow, to the most immaculately formed logs, complete with marzipan mushrooms, berries and twigs.
It seems almost a competition to who can make the most impressive masterpiece, and they are an absolute must on any French Christmas table.
Calissons from the Provence
Traditionally from the Provence area of France, this mouthwatering French treats somewhat resemble the more commonly known Marzipan, imitating its consistency and many of its ingredients, but with an added fruity twist. Most often flavored with melon or orange (or other citrus fruits), they are made up mainly of candied fruits and almond meal or flour, and topped with a layer of icing. They make for perfect gifts to take back home after your trip, as they can be wonderfully packaged, and hold well. Just don’t forget to buy a few extra as you most likely won’t be able to resist the temptation of making a few disappear before you get home! Looking for some other gifts to take back home to your loved ones? Check out the best local products to buy as gifts from france and Spain.
So stop staring longingly through bakery windows and counting down the days to Christmas. Start making your plans now and book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train tickets today!