The Great British Bake Off Christmas special was a delight to watch yesterday evening. It was rather strange hearing the music again and knowing there would be no competitive element. There were sweeping scenes of snowy fields and it started with a little cosy chat between Mary and Paul talking about their memories of Christmas.
Mary talked about Christmas tree decorations starting with one her husband had been given for his first Christmas through to some beautiful children’s bells. It made me smile because I have a family tradition with decorations too. My daughters get a new decoration every year to put in their box. They reflect what they are making at school or interested in so this year has been all about finding baubles of ladies in ballgowns as they are obsessed with Strictly Come Dancing.
Paul talked about his duties as the village Santa. I think the nation was swooning at the pictures of him in costume judging from the reaction on Twitter. Perhaps there a a few of you reading this hoping it’s Paul coming down your chimney with that KitchenAid you’ve asked for?!
The baking started with a Christmas Cake recipe which will sadly not be do-able for any of us as it requires three weeks before icing and we only have six more sleeps til Christmas Day! Mary has been making this recipe since 1966 and it looked very, very simple. I loved the simple decoration. No messing about with rolled icing and cutting out delicate shapes of snowflakes etc. I’m tempted to make a nice chocolate cake and decorate the same way as Mary did. Not very traditional but I never was a big fan of Christmas Cake.
Next on to mince pies. Paul made some very simple sweet pastry by hand and as usual was very negative about using machines. I totally disagree with him on this. I usually make mine in a food processor and It comes out perfectly fine. I did love his filling though and his idea of adding fresh fruit to the mincemeat. I will be doing that and perhaps adding cranberries too as we rather like those in our house.
Then followed a beautifully simple Yule Log. Mary made a chocolate Swiss Roll handing out some great tips about how to roll it tightly. She advised scoring the edge to get a good start and then rolling up while warm using the paper as a lining to get a even roll. The topping was a simple, quick and very silky chocolate ganache. Beautiful and again very achievable by even the most inexperienced of bakers.
I was surprised to see a Panettone recipe next. Not very British and Paul’s recipe married French with Italian. It looked very easy to make and there was a lot of butter but I do want to have a go at this. Paul’s top tips are to chill the dough as its too soft to work with if you don’t. The chilling also helps to ferment the yeast and give it more flavour. I am sure the supermarkets will be stocked up with panettone tins today but if you cannot get hold of one a great tip I picked up on Twitter was to use a cutlery drainer from that well known Swedish furniture store! Nice tip!
There was then a historical interlude. I loved these on the competitive episodes. Rupert Penry Jones did a good job narrating but I rather missed Mel and Sue. The story related to Aggie Weston and the Sailor’s Rest houses she established to give sailors returning home a safe place to rest when coming off the ships. She also used them Christmas puddings if they were deployed over Christmas and there is one beautiful tin left on display at Portsmouth Dock. Whether it’s as good as Paul’s we shall never know!
The Christmas pudding recipe was next and again this would be difficult to make in time for Christmas but looked incredibly simple and traditional in that it was steamed for seven hours! That’s a lot of energy for one pudding!
Finally something a little different. Paul’s leftover turkey Chelsea buns. He also used cranberries which added a lovely colour to the rolls when they were pulled apart. I think I will have a go at making these with an overnight rise and without the turkey. Pecan and cranberry to wake up to on Christmas Day will make a nice change to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
What a lovely round up of recipes the week before Christmas. Still time to fit some in and have a go at home baked goodies for the Christmas table. The Great British Bake Off returns with a Comic Relief special and an Easter special next year.