Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Christmas has arrived. It had lost its taste, its pleasure, its magic. Christmas had become for me the moment when Santa was not called Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas but Mastercard.

Until I became a father and I rediscovered the pleasure of decorating the tree together with my family, and preparing the biscuits for that gentleman who comes a long way and comes from the North Pole.

With the school children of San Casciano we have made the “magic” biscuits for Father Christmas, because he only eats cookies made by children, and only they can make them magical….

The family and its traditions are sadly neglected in modern times, just think of the difficulty of explaining where Santa Claus comes in, first there were fireplaces in our houses and now? Shall I say that he comes through the gas pipe?

Without the fireplace we’ve also lost a great and beautiful tradition, the lighting of the log. The log is the base of the tree, from which the roots spread into the soil and which holds the trunk that looks up at the sky.

The trunk was carefully selected by the head of the family, the largest and most beautiful log was left to dry and then burned on the night of Christmas Eve. This ritual is as old as man and had many legends and propitiatory rites attached to it. People used to believe that the sparks emanating from the burning wood, would go up the chimney to bless the surrounding area.

The log symbolizes the family, the ancestors are the roots that are connected with the present and the trunk, rising up towards Eternity, represents the future.

This tradition has always fascinated me because I have the impression that we have completely forgotten where we come from. Too often we grow up without any roots, and so we become wood, perhaps excellent wood, but we’re not as steady as trees.

To pay homage to the tradition of the log, I’d like to suggest a recipe that shows how deeply it is embedded in our customs even if we no longer remember, the Christmas ‘tronchetto’ roll cake (tronchetto means ‘log’ in Italian):

Prepare the dough with 140 grams of 00 flour, 120 grams of sugar and 350 grams of eggs (first whisk the eggs with the sugar, then slowly add the flour). Leave a little dough aside and make it dark by adding some cocoa powder (20 grams) – this will be used, with the aid of a specific tool, to create the coating that looks like bark. Put it in the freezer and spread it over the white dough.

Bake at 180 degrees for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 100 grams of cream, when hot add 150 grams of gianduja chocolate and 300 grams of boiled and mashed chestnuts, put the mixture the fridge – when cold add 200 grams of whipped cream and let it rest for at least an hour.

Then make the small logs, adding the side branches and garnishing with some holly. So you will have your Christmas Tronchetto of “Fake Wood” with Chestnuts and Gianduja chocolate.

Dear Babbo Natale,

I’ve got a feeling that you are from Florence, like the besciamella, crepes and forks, while I think the Befana comes from Pisa…

I would like to ask you for peace on earth, but maybe it’s too much to ask for 2018 .

I ask you to bring a few aprons to every home instead, and to give families an hour a week to cook together, simple things like cookies, pizza or bruschetta. I hope that everyone, dads, moms, kids, friends find the time to switch off the internet and turn on life. The kitchen and the table are the real social media.

But dear Father Christmas, it’s not that you’re planning to go on Celebrity Master Chef!

With love, Matia Merry Christmas to everyone, even to people from Pisa!

Matia Barciulli, chef, Technical coordinator Antinori’s restaurants… and father of Brando