Wrapping Up the Festive Fun

With the excitement of New Year behind us, we’re already taken down the last of the decorations. The tradition is to keep them up until Epiphany on 6 January. But we usually put them back in the loft on 1 January – I just like the feeling of order and calm that comes with putting everything away for another year and giving everything a good clean.

I wrote last year that we organised a festive bake-off at work, and we did the same again this year. We did well last year, but the standard really increased this time. I kind of left it to the last minute, and found myself at midnight putting the finishing touches to a batch of saffron buns. They went down well, but they could not hold a candle to the elaborate gingerbread house that one of my colleagues agonised over for the best part of a week. A worthy winner. The judges even suggested that next year’s even should allow only gingerbread houses, and perhaps the bakers’ takes on London landmarks. We’ll see how people feel about that nearer the time, eh?

Back home, this year has seen the eighth installment of the Twelve Days of Festive Baking. This means that I have made 96 separate recipes from around the world. If you are curious, can see the previous recipes from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Each year is a bit of a rush but it is always fun. And as I lamented last year, what I am finding is that it is becoming more challenging to find new recipes which are linked to the festive season and which are also interesting to make and taste good. And over the years, I’ve also made a few things which did not make the final cut, so if you are sitting on an idea and want to share it, then please do! But the fact I’ve done the more obvious things does mean I’m getting more creative and have been willing to try things that in the past I might have skipped over. So the hunt is on for next year. For the GBBO fans out there, I’m still trying to decide if I should try making Laufabrauð, that elaborate Icelandic leaf bread.

So here’s to my 2018 edition – and next time we get to hit and pass the magic hundred!

Finally, as has become a tradition, I’ve set out the original lyrics to the Twelve Days of Christmas against each of the recipes to see if there is any sort of correlation. As in the past, there seems to be none. But did you know that each year the people at PNC Wealth Management put together the Christmas Price Index? They work out the “true cost of Christmas” if you really were to get all the gifts in the song for your beloved. You would end up with 364 separate “gifts”, but the index does make some adjustments – for example, they assume the people are being paid for their drumming or dancing services for the day, rather than being actually sold (!). This year, they reckon you would be shelling out $39,094.93, not including shipping or travel costs. Given the choice between a menagerie and a house full of dancers and musicians, I’m quite keen to have a house full of festive cookies!

So how did I compare to the song?

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

…twelve Drummers Drumming (Dutch Speculaasbrokken)…
…eleven Pipers Piping (Austrian Brabanzerl)…
…ten Lords-a-Leaping (Norwegian Krumkaker)…
…nine Ladies Dancing (Italian Parrozzo)…
…eight Maids-a-Milking (Portuguese Broas Castelares)…
…seven Swans-a-Swimming (Spanish Cordiales de Murcia)…
…six Geese-a-Laying (Italian Canstrelli)…
…five Gold Rings (Belgian Cougnou)…
…four Colly Birds (Sugared Almonds)…
…three French Hens (German Berliner Brot)…
…two Turtle Doves (Swedish Finska Pinnar)…
…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree (Swiss Chräbeli)!

So 2018 is over. And I think this has been a fun selection. My favourites were the Berliner Brot, the Chräbeli and the Brabanzerl. They all seemed truly and properly festive.

Now…time to think about what might appear in 2019’s edition!


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3 responses to “Wrapping Up the Festive Fun

  1. jlp_nyc

    Thanks for doing this series again – great recipes, commentary and photos, all very much appreciated with the obvious research and genuine care that goes into it!

    I thought I would share recommendations for a quartet of favorite U.S. baking books with a holiday / cookie (biscuit) focus that might be of interest, in case you haven’t run across them. Some are out of print but easy enough to find used:

    1. Sarah Kelly Iaia’s “Festive Baking: Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German, and Austrian Traditions” (1988).

    2. “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts” and “Book of Great Cookies” (various editions exist; Heatter really was the doyenne of US desserts and baking in her day – the 1970s – known for the quality and breadth of her recipes and fastidious writing / instructions. If you have access to the NY Times cooking site / app and do a search for “Maida Heatter”, a number of her recipes will pop up if you’d like a preview).

    3. “The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009” (2010) by Gourmet Magazine (a fun read from the late, lamented, trailblazing U.S. cooking magazine, with very clever, alluring photography – of each cookie! – and some interesting vintage recipes).

    4. “Visions of Sugarplums: A Cookbook of Countries that Celebrate Christmas” by Mimi Sheraton (1968 / multiple editions).


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