What’s your favourite festive pud? Discover how they came to be, and find tips to help perfect your own versions at home…
With Christmas fast approaching, the time for guilt-free consumption of all that’s sweet and delicious is nearly here. To celebrate, we take a look at the history of our favourite Christmas desserts, and give some handy hints on nailing your technique. Where better to start than the humble mince pie?
Few aromas summon the spirit of Christmas like that of a freshly baked mince pie. But these familiar festive treats haven’t always looked and tasted the way they do today.
For most of their history, the pies were coffin-shaped and filled with actual minced meat – normally mutton, or ox tongue – along with the usual fruit and spices. The sugar of the fruit and the strong spices were great for preserving meat through winter, or hiding the taste of goods that were past their best.
The pies were so delicious that the 17th century Puritan movement decided they must be sinful – although rumours that Oliver Cromwell went as far as banning them is stretching the truth a little.
These days, the perfect mince pie consists of an indulgent alcohol and fruit filling, encased in a light and crumbly pastry. To ensure your crust reaches just the right consistency, try Stork’s Original Baking Block rubbed into flour to make dough that’s easy to handle without cracking.
For we all like figgy pudding – even if these days the Middle Eastern fruit is largely lacking from our recipes. But how did the dense steamed cake come to be?
Its closest ancestor is pottage – a porridge-like dish that’s been popular since Roman times. ‘Standing’ pottages consisted of veal or mutton bound together with breadcrumbs and eggs, stuffed with currants and other fruits and steamed or boiled until they were solid.
Thankfully for modern palates, today’s Christmas pudding is less meat, more sweet. It’s the embodiment of all those classic Christmas flavours – fruit, alcohol, nuts and spices – in one deliciously rich dish. But festive chefs still face the same problem: how to avoid the dreaded cannonball-like consistency of a pudding gone wrong.
To really nail the results, make sure to use Stork With Butter straight from the fridge to give your mixture the perfect thickness.
Brandy butter and sauce
Where would Christmas pudding be without brandy butter or brandy sauce? The finishing touch to many a Christmas dessert. Which one do you prefer – the salty, melted indulgence of brandy butter, or the thick richness of brandy sauce?
Whichever one you go for, replace butter with Stork With Butter for a healthier alternative that doesn’t compromise on taste. And, for an extra Christmassy twist, try adding a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon while you’re creaming the mixture.
Cooks have always looked for ways to preserve the abundant autumn harvest through the barren winter months, and the Christmas cake is a great example. Its high alcohol content keeps it moist and ready to eat for months – assuming you can keep your hands off it!
But it hasn’t always looked as it does today. Marzipan and icing were a Victorian addition, inspired by the earlier tradition for a Twelfth Night Cake, which was baked to celebrate the end of the twelve days of Christmas. It was a night of parties, feasts and games – and the cake was a part of it. Two beans were hidden in the mix, and the man and woman who found them were treated as king and queen for the night – a tradition that seems ripe for revival!
Our last Christmas dessert is a recent import, but a popular one. Stollen has been part of Christmas in Germany since at least the 15th century and has turned up on these shores more and more in recent years.
It’s made in much the same way as a regular sweetened fruit bread. But once it’s taken from the oven, the still-warm loaf is slathered in butter and rolled in icing sugar. It’s the kind of treat we often pick up from the shops, but making your own couldn’t be easier.
The festive season is a time to enjoy all your favourite foods, and if that doesn’t include Christmas pudding, you don’t have to have it! More and more of us are looking to bring something different to the dinner table and looking abroad for ideas.
Why not take some inspiration from the Australians and tuck into a Christmas Pavlova on the big day? Made using winter berries and Christmas spices, it’s a lighter festive treat that still tastes like the holiday season.
The French are partial to a chocolate Yule log, while in Spain it’s traditional to bake a batch of polvorones or almond cookies for the family to share.
If you’re looking for something totally different – and more than a little bit fun – give this chocolate Rudolph cake a try. Kids will love it, and it’s perfect to bake with Stork with Butter. The smooth blend of classic Stork margarine and creamy real butter makes for a light and fluffy cake with a buttery taste and a rich, delicate icing
What will you be making this Christmas? Whether you decide to go traditional or experimental, let us know in the comments below!
For recipes, tips and baking advice visit Bake with Stork.