Even the jolliest man cannot live on milk and cookies alone. Switch up the sweets under your tree with some of these festive international desserts.
1. Puto bumbong
During the nine days leading up to Christmas in the Philippines, street vendors sell these purple sticky-rice sweets (pronounced puto bong bong) to the gathering crowds. They are chewy, coconut-coated, and traditionally made with purple yam, though these days, dye is used to add colour. The tubular shape comes from the treat’s special steamer: a watering can–shaped metal contraption with bamboo tubes sticking out of the top to mold the rice.
$17.50 for 15 (or $35 for 30). FV Foods, 2085 Lawrence Ave. E., 416-751-5555.
2. Galette des rois
Eaten on the twelfth night of Christmas to celebrate Epiphany, this French cake pays homage to the three bblical kings who greeted the newborn Jesus. The buttery dessert is made with almond paste, and hidden inside is a bean or charm. Find the bean in your slice, and you win the honour of being king (or queen) for the day. To prevent cheating, stash the youngest child under the table and have her decide who gets the next piece.
$17. Bonjour Brioche, 812 Queen St. E., 416-406-1250.
In Italian, panforte means strong bread, but you could also think of it as a souped-up biscotti. It’s made with a small amount of flour, a good amount of honey, and plenty of nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, and spices like pepper. The recipe is Tuscan in origin—specifically, from Sienna—and dates back to the Middle Ages, when honey was the main sweetener. Once carried by the crusaders because of its long shelf life, panforte is now a common Christmas treat.
$40 per kg. Forno Cultura, 609 King St. W., 416-603-8305.
4. Lucia buns
On December 13, Swedes eat these serpentine-shaped buns in honour of Saint Lucia’s Day. The tradition is for the oldest girl in the family to dress up as Saint Lucia, wearing symbols of light (like a white dress and crown of candles), and serve her parents a breakfast of these saffron-flavoured sweet buns. Throughout the day—in schools, hospitals, hotels, even offices—people put on Saint Lucia pageants, singing songs and enjoying the buns.
$3 each. Beaches Bakeshop and Cafe, 900 Kingston Rd., 416-686-2391.
There are many versions of buñuelos—from Cuba’s figure eight–shaped fritters to Colombia’s cheese-and-yucca balls—served for the holidays. In Mexico, though, a buñuelo is a thin circle of sweet fried dough, about the size of a dinner plate. Depending on the region, some buñuelos are flavoured with honey, others just sugar, but all over Mexico City at this time of year, you can find them cooked in the streets in giant pots of bubbling oil.
$30. Rebozos, 424 College St., 647-748-5558. Call to pre-order.