Bredele are Christmas cookies from the Alsace region of France. The original ones are butter cookies. Today there are many varieties on the theme.
Photo by Federique Vosin-Demery
Alsace does Christmas in a big beautiful way. So it’s not a surprise they have this Christmas dessert tradition dating back to the fourteenth century.
Depending where you are in Alsace the name changes. It’s bredala in the Haut-Rhine (north), bredele in the Bas-Rhin (south), and bredle in Strasbourg. I'll use the names interchangeably. They are also called weinachtsbred which means, from what I can detect, Christmas cookies.
The base dough consists of butter, granulated sugar, eggs, and flour to which are added various ingredients to create different varieties.
The classic are:
photo by Bartosch Salmanski
And the beautiful coquins with strawberry jelly peaking out, the marbré with marbled chocolate, the star cinnamon brunsli, and many others.
Traditionally bredala is made at home with the family using old family recipes. This is done in November and the cookies are stored in tin boxes (the bredelode) to keep them fresh. Each variety has it’s own box because some cookies have more water content than others. If they were stored together the drier cookies would rob the moist cookies of water and dry them out. This way of storing has been going on for centuries.
The cookies are not eaten until the evening of Christmas eve and then served throughout the holidays with coffee, tea or Alsacian wine like Gewuztraminer and Muscat.
Marbré by Yellowrider
In the winter when the sun sets and the sky turns red it’s because the elves are stoking the furnace for Mrs. Claus as she makes the bredala. ...Children in Alsace grow up with this enchanting tale.
It’s difficult to find the exact history. These recipes were orally passed down from generation to generation within the family and a closely guarded secret thus hard to trace. Some sources indicate that the first recipes date back to the 14th century in Strausbourg in Alsace. They were cut with a knife in triangles, squares and diamonds.
Metal cookie cutters are found in Alsace dating back to the 15th century but it’s not sure if they were used only for Christmas. Commercially bredle shows itself in the 16 century when the guild of professional bakers split into separate groups. The patissier now with its own guild makes and sells them.
By the 19th century more modern molds appear in heart, star and moon shapes.
You can buy bredle during the Christmas season at the Christmas markets in Alsace. Many of the stalls sell them. If you're not in Alace at Christmas don't worry you won't miss out. Many of the bakeries sell these cookies throughout the year using the theme of the current holiday.
photos courtesy Creative Commons