A German guide to a spicy Christmas!

Alfons Schuhbeck, author of The German Cookbook, picks out five of his favourite spices for the festive season
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Dresden-style Christmas stollen from The German Cookbook
Dresden-style Christmas stollen from The German Cookbook

We may think of Germany as the home of the hearty sausage and the decadent chocolate cake, yet it’s also a nation of spice lovers. Star chef Alfons Schuhbeck, author of The German Cookbook and says that, "as a cook nothing has influenced me as much as spices." Here’s how he uses five of his favourite Christmas spices.

 

Bremen-style Christmas fruit bread as featured in The German Cookbook
Bremen-style Christmas fruit bread as featured in The German Cookbook
 

Cinnamon It’s the classic Christmas seasoning according to Schuhbeck, and the only one needed for one of the chef’s Christmas biscuits: cinnamon stars. However, it’s also a healthy addition to our otherwise rich Christmas diets, Schuhbeck argues. “Several clinical studies over the past decade have shown that cinnamon, as an extract as well as a powder, can lower blood sugar levels and blood lipid levels,” he writes.

Cardamom This eastern spice is often added to tea in India, but plays its part in European gingerbread recipes too, and, if you taste a little, you’ll understand why. “Once you chew up the seeds you know why it belongs to the family of ginger family,” explains Schuhbeck. “A fruity, refreshing taste opens up, with notes of camphor and a eucalyptus-like sharpness.”

Anise Stuck for something to add to your Christmas cookies? Then try this. It is a highly versatile spice, Schuhbeck says. “It not only harmonizes with cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, star anise and cinnamon,” he says, “but also with honey, almonds, orange and chocolate - there could hardly be anything better for sweet as well as for salty pastries.”

 

Aachener Printen as featured in The German Cookbook
Aachener Printen as featured in The German Cookbook

Allspice Schuhbeck says not all cooks will be familiar with this tropical spice, the flavours of which are similar to cloves and pepper, yet it certainly is a necessary ingredient in festive cookies such as Aachener Printen, a German variation on gingerbread from the city of Aachen, “and so certainly is one of the typical Christmas spices.”

Ginger This is, Schuhbeck writes, his favourite Christmas spice, since it works well in cookies, and also in festive drinks. “It makes the heart beat faster during the pre-Christmas season!” the chef says. And can also ward off coughs and sneezes, says the chef. “Try a hot ginger tea,” he says, “simply cut up fresh ginger, pour hot water over it and let it steep for ten minutes. Such ginger tea can even prevent the onset of a cold if you drink it in time, at the first sign of a cold - the ideal hot drink for the cold season!” It certainly sounds like it. 

 

The German Cookbook

For more on these spices, as well as many of the recipes Schuhbeck mentions, order a copy of The German Cookbook.


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