This final instalment of the 12 Days blog series is another creation I make most years. I usually make many different kinds of truffles for Christmas and put a few aside to dress up as mini puddings. This year I'm not making a truffle tree, so rather than grabbing a few choice spares, I chose a cake recipe especially for the occasion.
We don't really like the traditional steamed puddings in our household. One we do like, however, is the untraditional chocolate and raspberry version. These truffles are made from chocolate and strawberry cupcakes to represent our ideal steamed pudding.
Lots more under the cut…
It wouldn't be Christmas without a certain reindeer. Rudolph and his famous red nose feature here on a batch of peanut butter cookies.
Peanut butter cookies are one of my boyfriend's favourite ever things. When I'm picking his brain for ideas to bake, he usually requests them and I usually ignore him and look for something new. When I finally give in, it rekindles his love for them and he laments my lack of baking them more often. So when I finally decided on baking some rudolph cookies, peanut butter was the obvious choice.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose…
Mince tarts are so pretty. So festive. But so unappealing to all of us. I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t like them. I always stare at them in the supermarket wishing that were different.
So I decided to pinch the aesthetics and substitute the taste. These sweet tartlets make for a delicious and festive dessert for the chocolate-lover.
We don't get much snow in Australia when compared to the rest of the world. During winter we get a little in our alpine zones along the east coast. Rarely, Melbourne and Hobart see snow during severe cold snaps. It's never happened in my hometown in my lifetime. I've seen snow once when I travelled to Falls Creek with a few friends some time ago. It's really not as soft and fluffy and lovely as the movies had me imagine. Still, it was a load of fun. We couldn't afford any of the recreational stuff, so we frolicked in the snow for a day. I made my first and only snowman with my friends, while others made phallic objects out of the snow for everyone on the ski lifts to see. As you do.
During Christmas, though, you can forget about snow. Our climate tried to fake it last year thanks to the La Niña we experienced. We had a massive hail storm from which my car still bears the cosmetic scars. Mass flooding across my state further threatened to ruin the day. Except in typical Australian spirit, we weren't letting that happen so easily. People gathered up the hail and shoved it in the eskies to keep the drinks cold. Others got out in the board shorts and started swimming or body-boarding down what were formerly main roads.
Most years, though, it's sweltering. Some years you get lovely 30°C days that you can make it through. Other summers it can exceed 50°C and you spend the day sprawled out in front of a pedastal fan, eating watermelon and waiting for the sun to go away. The last time I experienced a festive season like that, I was celebrating it in a rural area, so we spent the day hoping the bushfires would go away as well.
Despite our sweltering Christmas days, snow is still an iconic part of Christmas. Influenced by cultures on the other side of the globe, all our Christmas cards and decorations revolve around snow and pictures of families or Santa rugged up in warm clothes. We spray fake snow on our trees or around the borders of our windows. We adorn our trees with icicles and houses with large light displays cover their lawns and rooftops with batting or wadding to resemble snow. Everywhere there are penguins and snowmen rugged up in their winter woolies.
It was only natural that snowmen should feature somewhere along the way.
We'll have some fun now before I melt…
Santa hats are one of the most iconic scenes at Christmas time. Whether it's from a Christmas graphic in a shop wiondow or your cousin's choice of head gear at the family feast, we see them everywhere throughout December. Here in Australia, we celebrate Christmas in summer, so Christmas feasts typically involve lots of summer fruit. Strawberries are amongst my favourite and they will always adorn the pavlova and anything else I can justify adding them on to. Along with strawberries, white chocolate is another familiar flavour amongst the desserts. So I figured, why not combine all three?
This dessert is a new take on an old favourite.
Santa Claus is coming to town…
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love baked for me; 7 swans a-swimming.
Meringue swans are one of my favourite desserts to make. I've served them many different ways and on many different things, but they've yet to hit the blog. This version is really simple to make, and is easy enough to dress up any way you fancy.
Dive right in…
The single most exciting part of Christmas for me is decorating the tree. Most of November consists of me waiting for any sign that's it's appropriate to bring the tree out. This year our neighbours put up their Christmas lights really early, and that was all I needed. I eagrly grabbed the tree and set about my favourite task.
No one else in my family is really into any artistic hobbies or creatively inclined, so even when I was quite young they were more than happy to let me decorate the tree. To everyone else, it seemed like a chore. It eventually became my 'thing' at Christmas. As a kid I'd become easily bothered if people tried to 'help', because it would inevitably result in them putting decorations in places that were just aesthetically horrible. These days, my boyfriend always helps me decorate the tree. While he jokes about how pedantic I am about it and teases me about my decorating 'rules', he shares the same creativity and an eye for detail that comes with his love for artistic hobbies. He's just a pedantic as me, and the only person I trust to help me with this onerous task. It was really evident this year when we were finding places for the last handful of baubles. My sister suggested a place for him to put the one in his hand and he replied with, "No, you can't put it there. There's another bauble of the same size and colour right there." That's my boy!
As I grew up, every year I'd have a different theme. Out decorations were a haphazard collection of brand new assortments of baubles alongside ratty old ones from the 80s. I'd pick and choose colours every year, with one of my favourites being red and gold. These days, my tree is always blue and silver. I've built up quite the collection of blue and silver decorations now, a collection large enough to fit the ridiculously over-sized Christmas tree. While blue and silver is my chosen poison these days, I miss the red and gold a little. I almost have no red and gold baubles left any more, so it was with immense joy that I returned to one of my favourite colour schemes with these edible versions.
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…
I couldn’t go past the fifth day of Christmas without making rings of some sort. Cookie wreaths seemed like the perfect option, but which recipe? I was tempted to make some piped shortbread, but after having made some Christmas shortbread already this year, it had to be something a bit different.
These Italian lemon biscuits were the perfect alternative.
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There's little around the house that remind me that Christmas is coming as well as the sign of my poinsettias beginning to bloom. Around mid-Spring their leaves begin to turn red, reminding us that December is not far away. Despite their traditional use in Christmas floral displays, the brightness of the red remind me of everything I love visually about the festive season. Red is my favourite colour. I love it's vibrancy, it's warmth and its festivity. While my Christmas tree decorations are always blue and silver, but my place settings are always red and gold. Red reminds me of time with family and loved ones, sharing joyful conversation over good food.
It wouldn't be Christmas without poinsettias. It wouldn't be Christmas dessert without edible poinsettias.
Just what every Christmas needs…
I have such a love of candles. I own far too many candles that I never burn because I have some weird thing about keeping things looking new and never using them because reasons (I'm looking at you, 5 sets of Derwent pencils still wrapped in plastic).
Once I inevitably get over this weird quirk and light them, I'm quickly captivated by them as the flame dances on their molten surface. I love their elegance, their ambiance and their beauty. I especially love their fragrance, be it from a scented candle or the smell of a wick just blown out. I also love the way they remind me of being a kid. I grew up in a household where money was variably present, and so we often had one or more of our utilities cut off. Of course, as a kid, you don't yet know the stress of money and bills so it's all just another adventure. Today we get to boil the water for our baths on the stove and read stories by candle light. There were a lot of candle light nights. Maybe it's because they bring me back to this time of personal innocence, or maybe it's just their intrinsic beauty, but I find them so calming.
Candles also remind me of Christmas. They're my favourite centrepiece at Christmas dinner, though they look gorgeous adorning any occasion. Lit or unlit, they make the setting look beautiful. So when creating a list of baking for my 12 Days of Christmas, I just knew candles had to be featured.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…