Lazy christmas post 2011- The cake-shakers christmas thoughts, from quality street to prawn rings. And why I have no love for xmas puds

Christmas as a pastry chef usually finds me constructing a Gingerbread house

Good grief I have been soooo busy since November at work that I haven’t had the time to write-up any new Christmas recipes, so here I am re-hashing old ideas and putting my thoughts down to what Christmas is to me past & present. Now before I ever picked up a rolling-pin and put on a pinny, Christmas was all about my Mums roast farmyard on a table ( she could never decide what to cook so as well as a Turkey there would also be pork, beef, duck or goose & maybe Lamb ) Then in the evening it was cheese, and crackers from the co op’s christmas selection box, now the family was split on the cheese front, myself and my dad liked Stilton or any blue cheese, ( smelly foot cheese as my mum affectionately called it….& still does) Where as my mum would nibble on a bit of mild cheddar. My little sister on the other hand had a tub of cottage cheese to herself  as that would be all she could handle cheesiness wise.

But like most kids Christmas as a child for me was always about the grandparents coming over…I sort of got the feeling my mum & dad weren’t as keen as us, but Nan & granddad where the fun ones, sneaking us chocolates off the tree, my nan letting me have a sip of her babycham or snowball, or sharing a mince pie with my Grandad and watching with awe as he carefully cleaned his pipe and filled it with fresh tobacco……. & of course there were the presents 🙂

My Grandparents are no longer with us, but Christmas is the time I think about them most & have a sneaky Snowball cocktail and raise it to them where ever they are, & for a slight moment I can almost smell the heady waft of pipe tobacco as the memories flood back. ( obviously my Nan didn’t smoke a pipe…she liked her benson & Hedges)

Fast forward & we are all a bit older, My parents are now the grandparents to my niece & nephew,  & we don’t all meet up for christmas dinner anymore & there are no more farmyard massacres from my mum. But we all meet up separately  for a nice dinner out  at some point in December, before we all go off & do our own thing.

Now these days Christmas is all about my work as a pastry chef, centered around my now traditional Gingerbread house where ever I am working at the time, plus the usual avalanche of mince pies & Xmas puds…with the occasional cheeky yule log thrown in.

THis year I decided to quite literally light up my gingerbread house like an Xmas tree !

My Xmas pud memories haunt me to this day, one year when I worked in the pastry section at the headquarters of  BP  which was then in Hemel hempstead we were making 2000 individual Xmas puds for the staff restaurant xmas party and 3oo large ones as gifts for staff & clients. The guy in charge of the catering contract for BP did what he wanted when he came into the kitchen, we were all in fear as he had a say  in who got the contract when it came up for renewal. He came into the pastry section in the middle of a pudding making session and said ” you want some almond essence in that you do”  & proceeded to empty 4 bottles of the stuff into the mix as we watched horrified ! It was so strong I could smell it in the street I lived two blocks away the next morning, as we had left them steaming overnight and the vapours were pouring out the buildings vents :/ We used to give 30 large ones to staff, so the pastry team made an extra 30 which were just ready & still slightly warm as the BP contract guy handed them out to staff…we had to whisper to people ” pick a warm one, the older ones just burn your taste buds away with almondy fury. ”

You Can sometimes lose the love for the Xmas pud after making 2000 of them… the real nightmare before Christmas 😉

Another Time I remember was making nearly 1,700 individual puds at Marsh & Mclennan near tower bridge, where I was pastry chef. Myself & my Commis chef Nadine were mixing a huge batch in a massive plastic container on wheels, we put in so much booze, & because we were practically up to our elbows in this huge mix, we got totally trollied on the fumes & just collapsed on the floor giggling & Retching  !

NOTE: I’ve never really been a huge fan of Xmas puds, and for the past couple of years haven’t made any as no one else seems to be either.

This year in my role as pastry chef at Spring studios I’ve made the biggest gingerbread house I’ve ever made…and built lights into it for extra campness. There’s been the usual mince pies, plus giant gingerbread men & women, chocolate truffle “Xmas pudding” cakes….but no actual Xmas puds. Maybe my new years resolution this year should be to get my act together and get some of the above blogged before christmas 2012 ;).

Its been interesting to see how much the super markets seem to compete for the Xmas food market with the most bizarre stuff ! I mean when I was younger it was mince pies, Xmas pud, turkey and if you were lucky a big tin of quality street…. oh and a gala pie if you were posh. Now we are spoilt …I mean it wouldn’t be christmas without a prawn ring it seems (I assume a homage to the Halo around the head of the angel Gabriel in crustacean form from the nativity scene) or a hoisin duck Xmas tree (cheers for that Iceland, would love to have been a fly on the wall of the NPD* team for that one ! )

*NPD-New Product Development….nothing to do with cops in the big apple

Prawn Ring anyone ?

I am still trying to find the  Christmas Quiche as advertised by Morrison’s, as elusive and just as a mysterious as Santa himself  I feel.

PS can someone tell me why apparently there is a sudden urge to supply us with mountain range sizes of Toblerone chocolate, or a “yard” of Jaffa cakes at this time of year ? ! (deadly weapons I think, should a family row break out during a heated game of twister).

Over the past few years myself &  the husband Terry have cooked the full Xmas monty, Nigella Lawson style,complete with turkey soaked in brine in a bucket in the cellar…last year there was almost a breakdown amongst the brussel sprouts.

Last years “Nigella’s” Turkey soaked in brine…a sort of What lies beneath of the avian world

So this year we are whisking ourselves off to a local indian restaurant, Babur to be served with what we know will be marvelous food.

But one thing will not change this year, settling down to watch christmas telly with a plate of cheese ( including the smelly foot one) crackers and pickled onions, with a nice glass of Rioja…bliss.

So even though I have not had time for Xmas recipe idea blogging, there are still a few thing on here to fire your imagination, so check out these links to seasonal ideas on this blog 🙂   Make your own gingerbread house.some xmas figures, or even use the gingerbread men recipe here and christmas them up a bit…or even a christmas toadstool house using a giant cupcake tin.

Or how about a snowball cupcake made with advocaat !

Perhaps you could make Gingerbread people…or even GIANT ones ! 🙂

How about a Christmas toadstool cake, using a giant cupcake tin ?

As an alternative to christmas pud what about a naughty malteaser cheese cake ? or a healthy (ish) baked fruit pudding ? And of course I have the perfect solution on how to use the usual Panettone you normally end up  being lumbered with 😉

What ever you are going to make have a wonderful cake shaking christmas & more power to your rolling-pin in 2012 ! 🙂 Happy Christmas.


© The cake-shaker 2011


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