Thursday, December 3, 2020

ICSC Member Blog: Festivals of India

Written by ICSC member Divyani Paul: Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Biological Chemistry

India is home to 1.3 billion people speaking 780 different languages with various religious beliefs. It’s rich history dates back to 2500-1500 BC and in due course of time civilizations have engendered an extraordinary blend of stories and events which are celebrated as festivals in India even up to this day.

(image: Rath Yatra Celebrations)

The beginning of the Hindu new year is celebrated by Makar Sankranti at the beginning of spring by praying to God for a forthcoming bountiful harvest. Similarly, the Sikhs celebrate Lohri and Baishakhi in Northern India and Pongal in southern India thank nature for generous harvest. People draw floral patterns in the house and make sweets as well as light a bonfire to celebrate these festivals.

(image: Diety of Beautiful Goddess Durga)

As we move further into spring, the festival of color-Holi is celebrated widely across the country and in recent times it has gained popularity in the western culture as well. Holi is filled with fun and frolic, people spraying colors at each other and engaging in dance and music but the festival signifies the love between Lord Krishna and Radha. As we move to the summer, the east Indian states celebrate world’s largest chariot festival-Rath Yatra.

Towards the end of the year, the Muslim community celebrates Eid after fasting for a month and they invite friends and family to an ostentatious spread of delicious food. Soon after Eid, Goddess Durga is welcomed to earth after defeating the evil in a four-day long celebration. As per the Hindu mythology Lord Ram and his wife Sita were exiled for 14 years when Sita was abducted by Ravan. The last day of Durga puja also remarks the victory of Lord Ram over Ravan to rescue his wife and after fourteen days they return to their home which is celebrated as the Diwali-“festival of lights.”

The year ends with cities embellished in Christmas decorations followed by the New Year Celebration parties. Hence, all year around India is celebrating an eclectic mix of cultures and their festivals.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

ICSC Member Blog: German Christmas Bread – Christstollen

Christstollen is a very popular sweet in Germany during the Holiday season. It is a type of sweet bread with lots of dried fruits and spices that pairs perfectly with a glass of mulled (spiced) wine, cider or tea!

Below you can find an authentic German recipe for Christstollen. Some of the ingredients might be a little hard to find but if you put in the extra effort, you will be rewarded with a delicious German Christmas bread!

quark christstollen

Recipe for German Christstollen:

  • 200 g raisins

  • 75 ml milk

  • 500 g flour

  • 14 g dry yeast

  • 150 g sugar

  • 175 g soft butter

  • 125 g quark (low fat soft cheese, can be found at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 egg

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp each of cardamom, cinnamon and gloves

  • 100 g candied orange peel

  • 100 g candied lemon peel

  • 200 g ground almonds

To make the yeasted dough, heat up the milk first. Mix flour with yeast and 1 tsp of sugar, then add the warm milk. Use a fork to mix all the ingredients together and let the dough sit at room temperature for 15 min. Mix in all the remaining ingredients (other than raisins, dried fruit and almonds) using a hand or stand mixer. Let the dough rise at a warm place for ~1h. Heat up the oven to 220 °C / 430 °F.

Mix the dough with the raisins, dried fruit and almonds and form it into an oval loaf. Put the loaf onto a backing sheet lined with parchment paper and let it rise for another 30-60 min. Cool the oven down to 180 °C / 350 °F and place the baking sheet in the lower third of the oven. Bake the loaf for ~1h.

Right after you take the loaf out of the oven, glaze it with some melted butter (~75 g). After the bread is cooled completely, some powered sugar can be sprinkled on top. Wrapped in foil, this Christmas bread will last for a few weeks.

Enjoy your Christstollen!!

This post was written by ICSC member Fabienne Birkle