Winter Traditions: Desserts Around the World

Sasha Numazu-Fisher, Opinions and Blogs Editor

  The holidays are a time filled with joy, family, friends, gatherings and, most importantly, food. No matter where you are from or what you believe in, the power that a delicious dessert brings is like no other; not only does it satisfy people, but it also brings them together. There is a certain level of personality that goes into any good homemade dessert, which is why food is so personal and unique to each person and culture. When enjoying Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s or any other holiday tradition, it is clear that food truly does set the tone and can warm the hearts of anyone. Eating is the world’s universal language. Although the traditions that everyone celebrates may not be the same, the enjoyment that comes from eating a tasty treat with your loved ones is a feeling known to everyone. 


Haupia (Hawaiian)

    The highlight of any holiday Hawaiian luau is haupia. It is the finishing touch and lasting dessert that completes any party or holiday gathering. When prepared traditionally, the dish has a fairly simple recipe to follow. Its soft and light flavors can be complemented with the addition of a crunchy crust, macadamia nuts and coconut shavings. 



2 cups of coconut milk

1 & ½ cups of water

½ cup of sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

½ cup cornstarch

A pinch of salt



  1. Combine ingredients in saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Cook until mixture thickens and comes to a full boil.
  3. Pour into an 8 inch square pan.
  4. Chill until firm.
  5. Cut into 9 squares. Sprinkle with coconut when serving.


Lokma (Jewish/Turkish)

     During Hanukkah, the sweet and tasty treat, lokma, is a necessity at the table. This Turkish fried sweet dough covered in syrup is served as a dessert during the Jewish holiday season. The deep-fried puffs represent the cakes that the Maccabees ate and are specifically made during Hanukkah since the dish is cooked with oil


Dough Ingredients

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 & ¼  cup water (warm)

2 cups all-purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon salt

vegetable oil 


Syrup Ingredients 

3 cups sugar

1 & ⅓  cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice



  1. Mix sugar and water in a pot then bring it to a boil.

Let it boil for about 15 minutes until it gets a little sticky.

  1. Add lemon juice and boil for 5 minutes longer.
  2. Let it cool.
  3. Mix lukewarm water, sugar and yeast in a cup.
  4. Sift flour in a large bowl.
  5. Pour yeast mixture in it and mix with an electric mixer. Then add egg and salt and mix
  6. Cover the bowl and wait for about an hour until it doubles in size.
  7. Heat oil in a deep pot until boiling point.
  8. Take some dough in your hand and squeeze it so that you see a small amount between your thumb and forefinger.
  9. Dip a teaspoon into a little oil and use it to drop that rounded bit of dough into boiling oil.
  10. Fry it until golden for about a minute.
  11. Repeat the same steps until you finish the dough.
  12. Transfer fried dough balls immediately into cold syrup and leave them in it

as long as you want. 

  1. Take them from syrup when they absorb enough of it and serve warm.


Pumpkin Pie (American)

     With the winter spirit in the air and savory smells swarming one’s senses, the classic pumpkin pie is all that is required of an American holiday feast. The sweet and crunchy pie is always the grand finale to any Thanksgiving or holiday dinner, and the presence of such a delightful dessert is the epitome of the American holiday season. 


Twisted Anpan (Japanese)

     Anpan is an azuki bean bread that is enjoyed year-round, but is a must-have in any  Japanese holiday feast. The warm and sweet roll is most commonly filled with red bean paste, and is one of the easiest breads to make at home. Its satisfying flavors are light yet filling; it is a perfect dessert to enjoy during the winter season.



250 grams bread flour

25 grams unsalted butter

3 grams salt

25 grams sugar

3 grams dry yeast

90 ml milk

90 ml water

150 grams koshi-an



  1. Put all ingredients for the dough in a bread machine. Put the yeast in the yeast compartment and start the bread machine.
  2. Divide the koshi-an into 10 portions. Bring egg to room temperature and beat it.
  3. When the dough is ready, gently press the air out with your hands. Divide the dough into 10 portions using a card. Shape the dough in a round shape and then cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough to about 10 to 11 cm square. Spread koshi-an on the dough leaving some space around the edges.
  5. Fold the dough into thirds. Press gently with your hands and blend the dough and koshi-an blend.

Roll out the dough a little at a time using a rolling pin.

  1. After rolling the dough out to about 15 cm long, make 2 cuts vertically leaving about 1 cm space on the sides.
  2. Twist the dough into a rope and shape the dough into a spiral shape.
  3. Let the dough sit for the second proofing in a warm place for about 30 minutes until the bread doubles in size.
  4. Brush beaten egg on the dough and bake in an oven preheated to 180 °C for 15 minutes.
  5. When done baking, let the bread cool.


Mexican Hot Chocolate (Mexican)

     With the winter season creeping up and the cold winds whisking past us, it is clear that the holiday season has arrived. There is no better way to welcome a true Mexican Christmas than a classic, bittersweet Mexican hot chocolate. The drink is best served during the holidays or during the Mexican celebration Las Posadas, which commemorates Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay before the birth of Jesus.