Saturday, December 24

Countdown to Christmas: Day 24 The Evolution of Christmas realized: make your own family traditions today on Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas Eve 

Check out this interesting video of the evolution of Christmas
and how the holiday has changed over the years.
It's all about celebrating in the home now --

Let's talk about Christmas Eve traditions... 

It seems all families I know celebrate this holiday with a completely different set of traditions.  Many of my Latin American friends ring in Christmas Eve as the big event.  The entire evening is filled with exchanging gifts, eating a big meal with a large family gathering, whereas Christmas day itself is a smaller affair.  Many of my NYC friends are a combination of Jewish and Christian faiths, and I have seen a myriad of traditions melding together.  Some have a tree and a Menorah, while others only celebrate one faith.  It does seem there is a great deal of inclusion of religions these days, at least in our world of the melting pot surrounding New York City.  Christmas has become more of a celebration of family and friends to many, rather than a true religious holiday. 

My own Irish-Catholic grandmother took on Christmas with religious fervor, while my Presbyterian grandmother of German descent celebrated in a seemingly less religious tone heavily laced with her family's traditions going back to Darmstadt, Germany.  I will always remember Gammy baking her German Laced cookies.  When Gammy's son (my uncle) was in World War II, it was a dark time for my mother's family, and I remember seeing the trinkets Henry sent back from Germany:  advent calendars and tree ornaments.  My very own brother was in the first Gulf War and my own immediate family was laden with the perils of war and worry.  It seems Christmas marks important points in our lives, punctuating the good and the bad.  It's a time to get together, talk, laugh, play board games, sometimes squabble and raise a glass to each other in union.  In my family (a combination of European cultures -- Irish, Spanish, German and English) as long as I can remember on Christmas Eve we stay home, invite friends and family over for hors dourves, sometimes trim the tree, and always exchange one special gift before midnight, then we attend a midnight church service.  
Gabby's homemade pierogi
Christmas morning we happily eat a casual  breakfast while exchanging our stockings filled with small and inexpensive gifts.  When I was small my mom laid out small bites to eat -  fruit, tea and cheeses on the table while we opened our stockings.  I still carry this tradition with me, and we relax at home spending time together as a family.  A fairly new tradition is we spend the late afternoon making homemade pierogi (my Ukrainian mother in-law taught Gabby how to make this from scratch when she was only 9 years old).  Pierogi are small dumplings and we fill them with potato, sauerkraut and top with carmelized onions.  They are not easy to make and you must roll out the dough and hand cut each dumpling, but they are delicious.  Because they are time consuming to make and quite heavy, we only eat them once a year.  Christmas dinner is our formal dinner and we sit down to a roast, a green salad and Gabby's homemade pierogi. 

photograph from Pinterest
This year for dessert I'm adding my friend Barbara Mangini's English Trifle to our Holiday table.  You may remember I introduced Barbara's Trifle last year during my bloggy trading party.  I made this for my family and they've been asking for it ever since. 

Authoring a blog has been a fabulous experience for me and my business, but some of the most rewarding experiences have been connecting with some special people in a way that I had not anticipated.  Barbara and I have shared quite a bit, and I am tapped into much about her life.  Her blog -- My Dog Eared Pages -- is a poignant look at art, culture, poetry, fashion and design.  One read of her posts it is plain to see she is quite a talent, and her warmth and generous spirit shine through on the screen. 

I am making it this year in individual sized champagne glasses since we are a smaller group. This dessert calls for a special occasion, and Christmas is the perfect time to bestow this upon your friends and family. This is rich, delicious and pretty. 

Have a Very Merry Christmas Eve
may I suggest you add something new to your Christmas Eve tradition today!
Barbara offers up her version of
John Clancy’s English Trifle
Barbara Mangini -- author of
My Dog Eared Pages

Barbara Mangini's 
Christmas Eve English Trifle recipe: 
Serves 8-10

Barbara wrote:
"I’ve had this recipe for so long it’s on faded fax paper! It was originally published in Gourmet magazine {I’m not sure of the issue date}. I absolutely love English Trifle for a holiday dessert! It’s clean and fresh with an elegant sherry twist."

Note: Instead of making the Genoise*, I usually shop in Boston’s Italian North End for freshly baked Lady Fingers or my local gourmet food store for Madeleines. Buy enough to roughly equal three layers of a10-inch layer cake.

6 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cornstarch

2 egg yolks
2 ¼ cups of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Fillings & Whipped Cream
Fillings & Decorations {fresh raspberries, strawberries, if available}
1 cup of good raspberry preserves
1 cup of dry sherry
1 cup of toasted slivered almonds
2 cups of chilled heavy cream {whipped & flavored with 2 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar}
To make Genoise
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Generously butter and flour 10-inch layer cake pan.
2. In saucepan, whisk 6 eggs and 1 cup of sugar over low heat until warm.
3. Pour into large mixing bowl, beat with ½ teaspoon of vanilla at the highest speed of electric mixture, triples in size and runs off the beater in thick ribbons.
4. Add 1/3 cup of flour at a time, sifting evenly over the egg mixture, and then folding in with a large, rubber spatula. Watch carefully for any pockets of dry flour and then fold in.

5. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Drizzle over egg mixture and fold i
6. Pour into prepared pan. Drop pan gently on counter to release any air.
7. Bake on the middle rack of 350° F oven 30 to 35 minutes or until the cake is a light golden brown, shrinks slightly from sides of pan, and springs back when gently touched in center.

8. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rackTo make Custard
1. Combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and cornstarch in small, heavy saucepan {not aluminum}. Mix well.
2. With a small whisk beat in egg yolks to form a smooth yellow paste.
3. Gradually whisk in milk in thin stream to avoid lumps. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and thickens.
4. Remove from heat, whisk in ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Pour into storage container and place plastic-wrap directly on surface of sauce. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours.
To assemble Trifle
1. Slice the cake in three layers and let them dry out for a few hours. Or slice the
Lady Fingers or Madeleines through the middle to create two layers. Spread the layers with raspberry preserves, and reassemble them, gently pressing layers together. Cut the filled layers into large cubes and place in a deep glass-serving bowl.
2. Sprinkle cubes with half of the sherry, then toss and sprinkle with remaining sherry.
3. Fold in the toasted slivered almonds then the custard.
4. Decorate the top with the whipped cream and strawberries, raspberries, and almonds.
Serves 8-10