Happy 12-12-12 Day!
And in just 12 days, Christmas Eve will be here.
While with my parents this month in Sarasota, Fla. visiting my dad's two older sisters, my Auntie Lottie, 89, and Auntie Loretta, 85, we were talking about family Polish Christmas traditions.
I shared with them something I learned earlier this month from my Purdue North Central student Jackie Ruchti.
Jackie, 17, of Valparaiso, is a senior at Wheeler High School, getting an early start on her college credits by taking the Purdue public speaking class course I teach. For her recent informative speech, she talked about the holiday traditions in Switzerland. She is the daughter of Lori and Marc Ruchti and her father's family is from Swiss heritage.
In the summer of 2002, when Jackie was just 7-years-old old, she had her first visit to Switzerland.
She reminded that Switzerland includes a blend of German, French and Italian traditions. And instead of seeing Santa Claus with his reindeer, it's Father Christmas with his trusted donkey loaded with gifts for good boys and girls. While American culture often refers to Mrs. Santa Claus, in Swiss lore, the wife of Father Christmas is Lucy.
Flickering candles and of course, the famous Swiss bells are favorite Christmas symbols.
In addition to fish like herring, and the favored velvety melted cheese dip called fondue, Jackie said a favorite sweet of Christmas in Switzerland are Swiss Cocoa Brownies called "Brunsli," a recipe she's sharing with Times readers this week just in time to include on holiday sweets trays.
It includes the special ingredient Kirsch or "Kirschwasser," which is German for "cherry water," a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from a double distillation of morello cherries, a dark-colored sour cherry. If not available, use any brandy or replace with water.
Swiss Cocoa Brownies aka "Brunsli"
2/3 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of powdered cloves
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons flour
2 egg whites
1/3 cup bitter chocolate (Jackie likes Nestle bitter morsels)
2 teaspoons Kirsch (optional)
DIRECTIONS: In a bowl, mix sugar, salt, ground almonds, cinnamon, clove powder and flour. (A little more sugar can be added if desired for a sweeter batter.) Add in egg whites and stir. Melt bitter chocolate, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in chocolate mixture to the batter. Add Kirsch. Work into a soft doughy batter and spread on a greased or sprayed cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. (Dough can also be cut into shapes and baked on a cookie sheet, but adjust baking time to 10 minutes.) Makes 2 dozen brownies.