I absolutely adore Christmas for very many reasons – one of which is most definitely the food! There’s something very special about festive fare. Christmas food is so celebratory, it’s almost impossible not to feel joyful while consuming it. And there’s much to be said for delayed gratification, of course. When you’ve waited a whole year to eat something special, you tend to enjoy it even more!
For most people, Christmas dinner is the main attraction. Now, I love roast turkey and honey glazed parsnips as much as anyone, but they are merely stepping-stones. What I look forward to the most at this time of year are the Christmas desserts. There’s really nothing like them! Granted, I love dessert from January to November, too. In fact, when eating out, I choose the dessert first, and then work backwards. But Christmas desserts represent next-level deliciousness, and our sweet tooth rejoices as advent approaches. If you’re a kindred spirit, this blog is for you. Read on to discover some of my favourite festive sweets:
Christmas pudding is the classic festive dessert. There are many different theories about its origins and ingredients. It’s likely that the pudding we know and love today started life as a kind of broth, known as pottage. It would have featured meat – or at least meat stock. And this type of plum pottage would have been served at the beginning of the meal, as opposed to the end. I’m much happier with the current-day version of events, especially when accompanied by a generous helping of brandy butter! If you’re keen to make your own, there’s no shortage of Christmas pudding recipes to choose from. And in theory, much of the prep should already be done. Have you heard of Stir-Up Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent begins)? It’s the day when families traditionally get together to stir the mixture for their Christmas pudding. Believe it or not, the day gets its name from a passage in the Book of Common Prayer. But don’t worry if you missed it this year! There’s still time to prep your pud. I love this rich, classic recipe from BBC Good Food. Be warned, your pudding will need to be boiled/oven steamed for an hour on Christmas Day. But believe me, it’s worth it!
Traditional mince pies
Just thinking about the aroma of freshly baked mince pies makes our mouths water. Yes, store-bought versions are the easy option and I love my food. But mince pies are far less labour-intensive than a Christmas pudding. And trust me, homemade mincemeat really is in another league. Batch-cook and you could make enough to see you through the next three years, when stored in sterilised jars. (Delia says this, and who am I to argue?). Her traditional family mince pie recipe is fail-safe and fabulous – just as you’d expect.
Top tip: Use any spare pastry to decorate your mince pies with a festive star motif.
She may no longer be gracing our screens on The Great British Bake Off, but Mary Berry is still the queen of cakes. So if you’re after the ultimate Christmas cake recipe, call off the search. La Berry’s version is packed full of boozy fruit and flavour, and finished with a feathered royal icing.
Top tip: Christmas cake can be quite rich! Downsize your portion by cutting into modest squares, instead of hefty slices. Serve with a sprig of holly and some festive ribbon.
If you need a lighter alternative to round off your Christmas Dinner, a Yule Log is the ideal Christmas dessert. A chocolate log is essentially a roulade, filled with cream, and topped with chocolate ganache or buttercream. Remember, we said “lighter”, not low-calorie… Some Christmas Log recipes are flour-free, others ring the changes with the filling. Jamie Oliver’s one incorporates chestnut purée, cinnamon and, intriguingly, a Crunchie bar. The finishing touch? All this needs is some shaved chocolate sprinkles and a few festive red berries. Fab-Yule-ous!
Christmas gingerbread cookies
If I eat these throughout the day, does that mean they aren’t strictly a Christmas dessert? Never mind, they are simply too good not to include. Gingerbread is a popular Christmas treat all over the world, and a firm favourite with the CC team. These cookies are beautiful to look at, and easy to bake with children. They’re perfect with hot chocolate when it’s cold outside, or even a glass of sherry! Waitrose’s Christmas Gingerbread recipe can be used to make a whole range of different shapes, including tree decorations. Simply use a skewer or chopstick to make any holes needed.
Top tip: If time is tight, buy ready-made icing to decorate your gingerbread biscuits. Dr Oetker Writing Icing comes in lots of different colours, and even includes a child-friendly nozzle.
Not all Christmas desserts involve chocolate and/or icing. If you’re a fan of all things fresh and fruity, this is the recipe for you. Cranberries and orange are a wonderfully refreshing combination. You can use fresh or frozen fruit for this tangy cranberry tart, which also combines creamy mascarpone and custard. Different and delicious!
Top tip: Stock up on the ‘cheat’ ingredients, like ready-made custard and pastry. They make this tart a great stand-by option for unexpected guests, or when you’re cooking against the clock.
Pavlova with berries
If you’ve really overdone the calories, but are still craving something light and sweet, this Pavlova is the perfect Christmas dessert. Named after the famous Russian ballerina, a Pavlova is basically a meringue-based pudding. It’s soft and light on the inside, and usually topped with fruit and whipped cream. For a festive vibe, top with coloured, jewel-hued red berries. And serve with an extra dollop of brandy cream for a treat!
Top tip: To minimise cracking, once your Pavlova is cooked, turn the oven off, leave the door ajar and let the meringue cool completely.