I’m not quite sure why, but this year I decided I’d make a lot of edible Christmas gifts for people. So since the end of November I have been busy each weekend baking a range of things, and then being inspired to dig out more recipes when I had ‘spare’ ingredients (bananas; chocolate; egg yolks…). I’ve had classicfm on in the background – their christmas playlist is lovely – and even had a request read out one morning as I was making carrot cakes.
Many of the recipes came from my Scandinavian Christmas book – I think the guaranteed snow in most of Scandinavia and the fact that Father Christmas probably comes from Lapland (as opposed to the North Pole, where of course there is only ice and no land) somehow makes the Scandinavians the experts in ‘christmas’, or at least in ‘winter food’. And of course there’s lagom, and fika, and hyyge…
So without any further ado, here is a pictorial list of what I made, with some comments I’ve tried to keep brief.
These first few did not come from the Scandinavian book; the Clementine and Mustard Seed chutney was in the Waitrose Christmas magazine (slightly adapted); I can’t remember where the Orange and Fig wine and white Mulled wine came from. The other chutney is a very similar one but made with apples. I’m going to my neighbours (they’re my bubble) on Christmas Day, and they’ve assured me they love chutney… I have a feeling this could keep them going a while, so I hope they don’t have too much in stock already. And when someone’s letting you share their christmas dinner you have to take something to drink with you. The mulled wine needs to be served warm; the orange and fig wine like an apertif, really cold.
Cake is always popular, and M&S had a nice recipe for carrot cake in their christmas food brochure (again, slightly adjusted). I had some bananas left, so an old favourite out of Cake (the recipe book by Rachel someone) got made, and then topped with chocolate and stars to make it more christmassy. The spiced Christmas cake drizzled with white chocolate which is meant to look like a christmas tree, came from the Scandinavian book – I think the Cardamon cake did too (the Scandinavians seem to love cardamon – it was in SO many of the recipes – I’ve now run out of cardamon).
These are probably two of the things I was most pleased with. The Brown Cookies (containing spices and candied peel) were really popular – it’s a recipe I’d definitely make again – and my macarons could be improved but weren’t bad. Booths supermarket posted an extremely good video by ‘chef Paul’ on how to make macarons; for mine I actually used an Italian meringue rather than a French meringue, but I made some before these to try out his method. The only problem was that a lot of them stuck to the greaseproof paper, and they’re so delicate they of course broke. Oh well – it meant that I was able to taste test them…
The stollen, surprisingly, wasn’t from the Scandinavian book but from Raymond Blanc’s Christmas, a recipe book I’ve had for years and used several times. The Honey cakes were from the Scandinavian book, but what the recipe didn’t say was ‘DO NOT use runny honey’: my mixture was impossible to roll out and cut into shapes which could then have been covered in tempered dark chocolate. I understand that the cakes tasted good though. One of my favourites however was the Venetian Focaccia above, from Venezia – a beautiful recipe book by the Tessa Kiros, the same author of Like Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries. It creates an incredibly light cake, something of a cross between panatone and brioche (probably more like the former), and lemony. I doubled the amount of lemon zest in it but you could easily triple it if you love lemon (as I do).
Almost equally as light was Pulla Bread (Scandinavian again). I don’t like raisins but it seems to me that you could easily make it without raisins – or alternatively if you want an alcoholic version, you could cut down the amount of milk in the recipe and add brandy-soaked-raisins (which, by the way, are in my carrot cakes).
Finally, one of my friends said she didn’t like spiced cakes particularly: and I know she loves chocolate. So here is a dark and white chocolate cake (with actual chocolate in the sponge as well as on top). The recipe is from BBC Good Food, which is a great resource if you just want to find a recipe for something online and be fairly sure it will work (the Waitrose website is also good. I used to use Great British Chefs and Great Italian Chefs, but they now charge).
The only things left for me to make now are Honey Roast Parsnips and roast potatoes for the main course on Christmas Day, and bruschetta/crostini (of various types) as a starter.