Christmas is coming…

…so let the baking commence!

We don’t host Christmas, so there’s not so much of the frantic turkey-basting, sprout-scoring, cake-feeding panic that you read about how to avoid in the colour supplements.  But, for a Very Keen Cook, that’s a touch of a disappointment. I want the chaos, the gravy-splattered recipes, the timetable planned down to the last minute that inevitably goes out the window at 9am.

I have to create opportunities to cook.

That usually works out quite well. In my family, our Christmas Trees buy presents. If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is. We all (the whole extended family, all four generations) exchange presents in the normal way (before lunch on Christmas Day, or Boxing Day). Then, after lunch and some games have been played, we crack open the presents from our Christmas Trees. Our trees are prolific shoppers. They also buy for all four generations… Tho they rarely spend more than £4, and tend towards the novelty / functional (shower gel from Grandma’s tree, nose hair clippers from Michael’s tree, pink sparkly Virgin Mary money box from Uncle Paul’s etc).

My tree bakes. Which is pleasing, as I help it (see, this is getting crazier). This year we’re working on getting together 35 gift bags of rocky road. Which I think is about 400 pieces, in a mix of ‘adult’ (boozey with ginger), ‘gluten-free adult’ (see previous) and ‘kiddy friendly’ (milky ways, M&Ms and honeycomb). That’s the mission for the next few nights. Bring it on.

The second excuse for baking is visiting. We’re working on a Sourdough Stollen project (gifts for people we are staying with WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT). One enormous loaf has been baked as a prototype (it’s currently nestling in my handbag wrapped in foil, for distribution to work colleagues), and I’m hoping to improve on it for the ones that will actually accompany us home for Christmas next week.

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Chocolate-pecan-cinnamon cookies

One extra baking opportunity fell into our laps this year – the ‘pop-up cafe’ at Oliver’s church’s Christmas Play. #win, as the young people say. We didn’t do anything fancy – this was an 8am-on-the-day-with-a-hangover job. We made an Ottolenghi recipe from the Guardian last week – Chocolate-pecan-cinnamon cookies.

Dead easy, dead quick, dead tasty. They make an incredibly chewy biscuit (they only bake for 6 minutes!), with a lovely cracked sugary top. and have a nice spicy and chocolate flavour. I have to say I’m not overly enamoured with the slight whiff of banana – I didn’t expect to be able to taste it. I don’t know if it was essential to get the cookies to hold together (I doubt it), but I’d probably leave it out next time.

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