Almost Twelfth Night…

And just like that, another festive period is nearly over. But apparently it was not always like that. I was glued to Victorian Bakers at Christmas which explored the history of food at this time of the year, and apparently celebrations used to run over the whole Twelve Days of Christmas. This actually makes a lot of sense when you’ve got a predominantly rural and agricultural society with not much to do in the deep dark days of winter. It was the Industrial Revolution that did for this, and whittled the festivities down to just a couple of days. There was also a fascinating look at some of the festive “treats” of the past (and I use that term loosely). Mincemeat pies filled with real meat (beef if you were rich, chopped tripe if you were less well off), and a behemoth of a bake called Twelfth Cake, which seemed to be a yeast-raised fruitcake composed of 75% currants, and coated with some sort of meringue icing. Fascinating to find out a bit of history, but those are two baked items that I don’t think I’ll be turning my hand to in the near future!

Having seen how things were done by the Victorians, I can look back with a little pride at my own take on the Twelve Days of Christmas Baking for 2016. This year, I’ve completed my sixth installment of what has become something of a Christmas tradition. I’ve had a look at what I wrote in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and I recognise all the usual pledges that I made. I keep banging on about being more organised, being more realistic about the complexity of the recipes I’ll attempt to make, and trying to avoid spending money on pieces of kitchen equipment that are needed to make only one specific type of cookie (pizzelle, I’m thinking about you!).  And of course, when December comes rolling around this year, we get to do it all again.

So here’s to my 2016 edition of the Twelve Bakes of Christmas! I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to find some very different recipes this year, and I’ve managed a fairly good spread of traditional cookies and treats from across Europe. Some are very old, like the Italian Biscotti di Regina and Cavalluci, through to more modern creations like Spanish Marquesas de Navidad.

12bakes2016
As I’ve done in past years, here are the original lyrics from the Twelve Days of Christmas (which was my original inspiration for the Twelve Days of Baking Challenge) with each of my recipes next to them. Again, you can see there is absolutely no correlation. Not a jot. None whatsoever! Well, other than the Cavalluci might look like golden rings if your eyesight is not good, and I guess that there is a tree in the Borstplaat shapes, even if not a pear tree…

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

…twelve Drummers Drumming (Italian Nadalin de Verona)…
…eleven Pipers Piping (Spanish Marquesas de Navidad)…
…ten Lords-a-Leaping (Finnish Joulutorttu)…
…nine Ladies Dancing (Swedish Hallongrottor)…
…eight Maids-a-Milking (Greek Kourabiedes)…
…seven Swans-a-Swimming (Florentines)…
…six Geese-a-Laying (Danish Kransekager)…
…five Gold Rings (Italian Cavalluci)…
…four Colly Birds (Finnish Piparkakut)…
…three French Hens (Italian Biscotti di Regina)…
…two Turtle Doves (Norwegian Sandkaker)…
…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Dutch Borstplaat)!

And so we wrap things up for another year. I will be doing this again in 2017, so if you have any traditional recipes that you would like to see on here, please do leave a comment or get in touch. If they have an interesting history or amusing story to go with them, or are associated with a quirky tradition, then so much the better!

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7 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Sweet Things

7 responses to “Almost Twelfth Night…

  1. I have a question, do you know which country has the most cookies? I ask because I see three Italian recipes for this year!

    I might have to check out that Victorians Bakers At Christmas, hopefully I’ll find it on YouTube! I think how they managed to make their meals and sweets is so interesting compared to our modern ways! We’re so addicted to fast food that we take it for granted, we don’t think of our ancestors slaving themselves in the kitchens by hot flames… it just makes think. Sorry for the ramble! Lol

    • Hi Meghan – that’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I will give it a go.

      I’ve done three recipes from Italy this year, but that was by accident as I happened to like the recipes, and one of them is a bread, which I wanted to make so that I did not do just cookies. But of course Italian food generally is very regional – one town will make something that they don’t know the next town along the valley, so there will inevitably be lots and lots of different recipes, all reflecting the different regional products and history of trade. That said, I think Germany also has lots of Christmas cookies too – I actually made lots of more Northern European cookies in previous years, and not so many from Italy, so perhaps I am only now catching up???

      If you can find Victorian Bakers, it really is interesting to watch. They also make wassail, a warm beer drink thickened with bread! But what I found most interesting was the social angle, with the differences between what rich and poor could afford. However, I don’t think I’ll be adding meat to mincemeat pies any time soon – I prefer mine sweet with a frangipane topping.

      • Ohh! I got you thinking now! You won’t remember by December but hey! Lol

        You’re right about the different regions of Italy and what they choose to eat, like the South generally eats more seafood whereas the Northern part has more meat!

  2. Really enjoyed this post. I will keep my eyes peeled for recipes.

  3. Fiona Young

    Delightful … truly. Beautifully written and photographed, and above all conveying your enthusiasm and curiosity. Thank you.

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