Monday, December 12, 2011

[HOT LIST] Holiday foods

From Avalon Bread's email newsletter: the Stollen fit for a king...or a Bing.

The holidays are a time for celebration in cultures all around the world. While we here in America have certain holiday food traditions we hold dear (fruit cake, anyone?), so too does the rest of the world. This holiday season, make your dinner table a smörgåsbord of metro Detroit's multi-culturalism with traditional holiday global cuisine from some of our favorite area restaurants and bakeries.

Photo from Mae's website.
#1 Abelskievers, Mae's (Pleasant Ridge)
Abelskievers (able-skeevers) are a traditional Danish dish served during Christmastime. While you wouldn't be too far off to refer to them as "pancake balls," abelskievers are similar to American pancakes and are cooked in oil in special abelskiever pans to give them their shape. So, basically, they're pancake doughnuts. Jessica McCarthy, co-owner of Mae's along with her husband Sean, remembers growing up with these as a kid and decided to put them on their menu at Mae's so more people can experience the glory that is the abelskiever. Served with fresh whipped cream and your choice of strawberries or raspberries, these things fall somewhere between breakfast and dessert and are absolutely delightful.

#2 Sufganiyot,
Zingerman's Deli (Ann Arbor)
Available on December 20th only, "sufganiyot" (soof-gah-nee-YAH) is Hebrew for "Mmmm, doughnuts." Zingerman's, the place that really needs no introduction (and is making it's third appearance as a top 5 Hot Lister in the past two months because YES THEY ARE THAT GOOD), is introducing this traditional Hanukkah pastry for the first time this year for one day only. The sufganiyot is a fresh fried doughnut with sweet fillings; they'll be making rich chocolate, red raspberry, sweetened ricotta cheese, and apricot preserve (the favorite in Hungary). Only a limited amount are available, so pre-order yours by emailing Reina at

#3 Stollen, Avalon International Breads
(Midtown Detroit)
A traditional German cake eaten during Christmas, stollen (or Christstollen) is  made with dried or candied fruit and covered with powdered sugar or icing. The stollen at Avalon (another place that needs no introduction) has been a holiday tradition of 15 years, and much like the 600-year-old tradition in Dresden, Germany (when the village bakers present a giant stollen to the King), every year Avalon presents the Detroit Mayor (Bing/King - close enough) with a 15-pound stollen wreath. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, Avalon will go through 24 gallons of brandy; 15 pounds of nutmeg; 300 pounds of dried pineapple, cranberries, raisins and cherries; 5 pounds of fresh lemon zest and LOTS of icing for their holiday stollen, available in three-pound wreaths, one-pound loafs and 5-oz. mini-loafs.

#4 Roscas de Reyes, Mexicantown Bakery
(Southwest Detroit)
Roscas de Reyes is a cake made to celebrate the Epiphany, a Christian feast day which falls two weeks after Christmas on January 6 (also known as Día de Reyes, or "King's Day"), honoring the Biblical story of the Three Wise Men. It is an oval-shaped Spanish king's cake (other "king's cakes" include the Portuguese Bolo Rei and the Gâteau des Rois in French-speaking countries, also made to celebrate Christmas and the Epiphany), made with candied fruits and spiced with cinnamon and anise seed. A plastic baby Jesus is hidden within the cake, representing the danger the newborn babe was in and his need to remain hidden (since, according to one Bible story, King Herod wanted him dead ... and bear in mind Mexico and Spain are super-duper Catholic countries, and really big into liturgical symbolism). Whoever gets the piece with the plastic Jesus inside throws the next party, or at least brings the tamales.

#5 Mincemeat pie, Hermann's Bakery
(Royal Oak)
Basically, it's a sweet meat pie. (Leave it to the British.) Also known as the "Christmas pie," this pie is typically served during the Christmas season (shut up!) and is made with minced meat, mutton fat, fruit, and warm, wintry spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. The family-owned Hermann's Bakery in Royal Oak is one of the last remaining original Royal Oak bakeries, but it has maintained its superior quality over the decades and continues to be one of the highest-quality, most affordable bakeries in the area. And it is also one of the only places in metro Detroit that makes traditional mincemeat pie.

Bubbling under
Egg nog - America, Canada (Calder Dairy); Tamales - Mexico (Evie's Tamales); Christmas ales - America, Belgium (Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza); pierogi - Poland (Polish Yacht Club); pasteles - Central America, Caribbean (Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño); Swedish meatballs (julbord) - Sweden (IKEA Cafe)

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