The Twelve Days of Christmas

Last Christmas I got terribly ambitious and tried to make twelve different festive bakes as part of a self-imposed “Twelve Days of Baking” challenge. It was one of those things that seemed like a frankly amazing idea at the time, but with the passing of the days, it ended up in a bit of a baking binge in the kitchen, with all manner of treats being turned out at an alarming volume. I was getting through ground nuts at an fearsome rate and the oven was often on until the wee hours.

When I did this challenge last year, I asked myself whether I would be doing it again in 2012. Just for fun, let’s go back and look at what I wrote at the time:

My first instinct was “no” – I did not quite anticipate the volume of baked goods that would be coming out of the kitchen, and on a less obvious level, it’s rather difficult to take decent photographs in the British winter – I much prefer daylight for taking shots, and that’s a little tricky if you work and it gets dark at four in the afternoon. There is also a limit to just how much dried fruit, nuts and spice that someone can eat in a short period of time. All these pragmatic things that never crossed my mind when I proudly took on the challenge!

However, all these recipes have also been fun – I’ve used this as an excuse to try some new ideas, revisit some old ones, and bake using unusual ingredients or employ techniques that I was unfamiliar with. It might be going a bit far to say that I have “pushed” myself, but I’ve certainly made things that I’m not familiar with, so that has been interesting. And heck – if nothing else, I have finally mastered the art of tempering chocolate! So I leave this project with a “maybe”. We’ll see how I’m feeling in November 2012.

I read these words now and all those same feeling come back – yes, it was fun, but it was hard to get pictures in daylight, and again my kitchen is groaning with biscuits. Given I now have a much large kitchen, that is saying something. However, there was a silver lining to this glut of cookies – they were a source of incredible delight to the kids at yesterday’s Boxing Day lunch with friends – the Serinakaker were the surprise hit, and have actually been the most consistently popular of everything I made. However, there is also that point where you do wonder whether it is humanly possible to eat anything else sweet.

I’m glad to report that for all my vowing to be more organised if I were to attempt the same challenge this year, 2012 has been just the same. I had all the best intentions in late November, yet still ended up in a rush on Christmas Eve. Heck, it’s like a tradition by now! I kept coming up against the practicalities of normal life – I only own one cooling tray, I kept running out of biscuits tins, the need to do all your pictures are the weekend because you work full-time…and as it turns out even my friends with the sweetest of sweet teeth have a point beyond which they can’t face any more cookies. Yes, I sit here surrounded by those bad boys, which I estimate should all finally be gone by the third week of January.

Anyway, for all my carping on about too many biscuits, this year’s challenge has also been fun. I’ve played a bit more with different raising agents, and this has been much more of a celebration of fruit, nuts and spices (no chocolate anywhere!) and more elaborate shapes – the traditional cookie presses for Springerle, the Sirupsnipper fluted diamonds and the bright jammy Spitzbuben. That, and I finally, finally, mastered using my cookie press. When you see them all together, I think they look like a pretty attractive bunch.


In case you are wondering, here are the original lyrics from the Twelve Days of Christmas, with each of my recipes next to them. As you can see, there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:

…twelve Drummers Drumming (twelve Mince Pies)…
…eleven Pipers Piping (Gevulde Speculaas)…
…ten Lords-a-Leaping (Panforte)…
…nine Ladies Dancing (Spitzbuben)…
…eight Maids-a-Milking (Kuri-Kinton)…
…seven Swans-a-Swimming (Frankfurter Brenten)…
…six Geese-a-Laying (Springerle)…
…five Gold Rings (Serinakaker)…
…four Colly Birds (Kardamomkipferl)…
…three French Hens (Sirupsnipper)…
…two Turtle Doves (Queen’s Gingerbread)…
…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Christmas Spritz Cookies)!

More likely than not, I will be doing this challenge again in 2013, but I do wonder if there is a need to change tactics. Maybe I need some savoury ideas in there? It’s a little more tricky, as savoury foods are reserved more for the Christmas Day meal, or involve cheeseboards. I’m not too sure anyone really wants to see a picture of a block of Stilton I picked up from a shop…but we’ll cross that one when we get to it! Or maybe Christmas cocktails are the solution? Hmmm….

So again, I hope that you have enjoyed this baking challenge! Do let me know if you have any comments, thoughts or feedback on what I’ve made. I’m even open to suggestions for next year (gasp)!


Filed under Christmas, Sweet Things

6 responses to “The Twelve Days of Christmas

  1. Hi Russell, I’ve followed your challenge and loved the recipes you came up with. I’m also intrigued by your experiments with baker’s ammonia… Well done!

  2. I love your baking challenge!! I just happened upon your wrap up email and all 12 days look amazing 🙂 I actually had the same idea and did 12 days of baking in December too- I totally agree that it makes for a sugar- filled month!!

  3. petit4chocolatier

    Looking forward to more amazing baking!!

  4. Reblogged this on Baking Addicted and commented:
    What’s better than food during christmas time? ❤

  5. Pingback: {1} Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkles | LondonEats

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