Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lucy's guide to festive baking

Last week I got a press release about Valentine's Day. Seriously. It happened the day after I'd walked through Auckland Airport, mentally shaking my fist at the large Christmas tree in the arrivals hall. I anticipate Easter eggs popping up on Pinterest any minute now. Shall we just fast forward to Christmas 2014 and be done with it?

Christmas Mazurka - a hot favourite in 2012 (hence the baker's twine)
This week, I feel differently. That's because yesterday I realised there are just 29 more sleeps until The Big Day. Now I understand why Christmas things are appearing on blogs and on Instagram (I don't count magazines, because everyone knows they operate in a kind of hyper-reality). Now I understand why a friend was so keen to seek my counsel (not to mention my copy of Nigella Christmas and my 20cm square cake tin) in order to make her first-ever Christmas cake.

This week, I am in no position to do anything Christmassy. I have a new job (which is consuming all my mental energy) and we're in the start-up phase of a house makeover (which is consuming mental energy, time and money). And the Small Girl is rehearsing for a ballet recital, so if I hear Baby Love by the Supremes ONE more time before breakfast, I may go insane.

But next weekend, when these other life events are a little more under control (well, at least the first two), I am going to start baking and making in earnest. I'm going to start by buying a bottle of brandy and the best dried fruit I can lay my hands on. Then I'm going to see what happens...

In the meantime, here's a handy checklist of festive things to make and bake. By next week, I may not be able to find any of these recipes, so this list is as much for me as it is for you. It's better to give than receive, don't you know?

Lucy's Christmas Cheatsheet

Haven't made your Christmas cake yet? Don't fret. This one - studded with prunes, apricots and nearly a kilo of dark chocolate - doesn't need time to mature. Nor does this one, which mixes the wisdom of Alison Holst with a bottle of green ginger wine. Neither need icing, but you could give the second one a pretty glazed topping (instructions found here).

I made so much Christmas mince last year that I'm going to be able to pull the jar out of the cupboard and say, 'look, here's one I prepared earlier'. I use this recipe - dead easy, includes caramelised banana - and the pastry is fab too.

Now we head into the 'things to give away' territory. My best tip here is to Think Big - making industrial-sized quantities of a couple of things is much easier than a bespoke biscuit here and a steeped vinegar there.

This chutney is always popular and very easy - last year some non-cooking friends requested the recipe so they could make it for Hannukah presents and it went down a treat. 

Beginners will also have fun making vegan biscotti and this chocolate body scrub (also suitable for vegans).

You'll need a few more skills for my all-time best-ever brownies, but they're not difficult to whip up and the recipe makes a huge amount. The same goes for these gingerbread Christmas decoration cookies, which taste as good as they look.

If you want to go a little off-piste, try my totally addictive white chocolate rocky road (the hardest thing about making this is not eating it all on the spot) or these luscious apple blondies, with added cranberries for extra festive-ness.

Have you started your Christmas prep yet? Go on, make me feel inadequate. Even better, share your favourite recipe links in the comments below...


  1. Valentines?? Already?! I'm only just coming to terms Christmas is twenty eight days away! Lovely selection of festive foodie treats!

  2. Thank you so much for this Lucy. I love the sound of both Christmas cakes...a toss up between my chocolate and ginger...
    Christmas preparations for me suddenly veer from 'too soon' to 'too late.' I think I'd better get a riddle on...
    Thank again

  3. I am just coming around to Christmas (but let's not mention Valentine's Day just yet) - made your apple blondies a couple of weeks back and agree they are delicious - even better after a few days - which is great for Christmas planning. I still don't have my head around Christmas baking and preparations though have made a start on presents - good luck with yours

  4. i've worked out what i'm making for my christmas gifts, had a practice run last weekend, so just have to do them now. we don't go overboard with christmas chez Dig In, but i am tempted by anything that has a greens ginger wine in it. a most under-rated liquor for cooking!

  5. These baking ideas are awesome, and I think I am definitely going to try some of that.


Hello - thanks for stopping by. If this was real life I'd make you a cup of tea and open the biscuit tin, but in lieu of those things, let's have a chat anyway...