The Best of Beirut
on Dec 22, 2014 By Danielle Issa
Over the last few decades, Lebanon has become a vibrant blend of tastes, flavors, and cuisines. Thanks to the lingering effects of French imperialism from the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the repatriation of many Lebanese since the end of the civil war, you can find virtually every corner of the globe represented in Lebanon in gastronomic fashion. And nowhere is this better seen than around Christmastime, when novelties from the world over start gracing grocery store shelves and pastry shop windows.
From the German stollen to the Italian panettone, every country’s got its own edible way of saying merry Christmas. Here’s the bona fide guide to abide by for a very Happy Christmas/Joyeux Noël/BuonNatale/FroheWeihnachten!
Photo via Tumblr
Stollen (or more formally “Christstollen”) is a traditional German cake packed with dried fruit and nut morsels and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Its peculiar shape is intended to resemble baby Jesus wrapped in a blanket, or in biblical words, “swaddling clothes.” Dense and packed with nutritional value—it’s a powerhouse of fruit, after all!—some stollen even incorporates rum or brandy for that extra zing of euphoria. Prost to that!
Pick yours up from Al Chayeb Bakery.
Al Chayeb Bakery
+9619914874 | +9613216874
Why'd You Eat That Blog
A distant relative of the German sweet bread would be the British fruitcake, prepared two months in advance and regularly imbued with brandy during that time to help mature its taste and texture. The list of ingredients would frighten even the most ambitious of pastry chefs: currants, sultanas, candied orange peel, cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, brandy and much more. Unfortunately fruitcake doesn’t enjoy a very popular following outside of the UK—royal icing or not, it’s a heavy meal in its own right!
You can locate English fruitcake in almost any gourmet supermarket like O&C and TSC Signature.
O&C - The Fresh Market
Taste and Flavours
Italy rings in Christmas with a type of sweet bread loaf originally hailing from Milan: it’s called panettone, and it’s quickly become a popular addition to the holiday spread in countries as far away as South America. Formed into a cupola shape, the dough is cured to give the cake its distinctive fluffiness. Candied orange, lemon, and raisins are all added dry, and panettone is enjoyed with either a sweet wine likemoscato or a cheek-flushing liqueur such as amaretto.
Lebanese supermarkets—check out TSC Signature—are littered with these cutely-boxed loaves in several varieties, including profiteroles.
*Other locations across Lebanon.
The French seem to reject the category of fruitcake altogether and instead go for a more artistic bûche de Noël carved to resemble a Yule log. Sponge cake slathered with buttercream is rolled into a log before getting slicked with more buttercream. The final result is striated to mimic tree bark and is then powdered with either sugar or coconut shavings to complete the forest-evoking montage. Besides chocolate, other flavors characteristic of bûche include crème de marrons (candied chestnut) and café (coffee).
Almost every bakery in Lebanon features bûches during this season, but you have to try The Garden’s Mont Blanc edition. A-mazing!
Beirut Souks - Jewelry Souk
Why'd You Eat That Blog
If you’re in the USA, the iconic Christmas treat has got to be the gingerbread cookie. Aromatic with ginger and typically infused with honey or molasses, gingerbread biscuits are shaped like cute chubby men and decorated with vanilla icing and edible colored dots. There are also marvelous gingerbread houses studded with candies like jelly beans, red-and-white peppermint twists, and jelly fruit slices. You’ll be pained to sink your teeth into one of these model homes, but alas, what’s a Christmas reveler like you ought to do? Traditions are traditions!
Pick yours at Wesley’s Wholesale in Jnah or Jal el Dib.
Near Iranian Embassy
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
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