This weekend I was introduced to one of hubby’s family traditions – Weihnachten Kekse backen! The recipes have been in the family for generations and are passed down via the women. I’m so honored to have been taught and intend to continue the tradition with my own children.
As I joined my Schwägerin (sister-in-law), Oma (grandmom) in the Küche (kitchen) I was greeted by a sight I’ve only ever seen on television. On the kitchen counter was a mound of dry ingredients (flour, salt, etc) surrounded by butter and in the middle sat a few eggs – it was like something from an edition of Food Network by Ina Garten or Giada De Laurentiis. My Schwägerin, who’s very aware of my love for travel and food, created this special introduction to the family traditions just for me. From that moment, I felt transported and spellbound by the atmosphere that surrounded me – Christmas songs playing on the radio, the kitchen being warmed by the pre-heating oven, the low-blare of the television and laughter of hubby & Opa (granddad) wafted from the livingroom, and the warm, loving smiles and tender instructions provided by my Schwägerin and Oma. What a perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit.
Oma slowly taught me measurements in German which are really hard and, honestly, I was not doing so well. Luckily, my Schwägerin taught me the shortcuts. Making the mound is a lot harder than it looks, as is combining all the ingredients into a nice smooth dough. Oma and my Schwägerin made it look so easy but my mound was a bit messy; thank goodness my own grandmother had taught me how to knead dough as a child so my dough also came out smoothly.
We made two types of cookies that night, Vanillekipferl (a vanilla, hazelnut, & almond flavored cookie) and Butterkeks (butter cookies). Vanillekipferl are shaped like tiny croissants and are made by hand. Oma and my Schwägerin sped through entire rolls of them, each perfectly shaped; mine on the other hand were misshapen or ‘unique’ as hubby managed to say just before being thrown out of the kitchen by his sister. 😀
As we baked, they shared stories of the past; like how my Schwägerin would sit on the counter as a little girl and her younger sister would stand on a chair and help make cookies. And how Opa always gets the first cookie made as he is the official family tester, lol. Now, we have a new story to add to the list for our kids – how when ‘Mutti’ (Mom) first learned to make Vanillekipferl, and ‘Papa’ commented on their unique shape, ‘Tante’ (Aunt) threw him out the kitchen! Truly what Weihnacten is about – family and food!