As the month of December arrives, homes and streets around the world are filled with the aromas of freshly baked pies, breads and cinnamon and orange-scented mulled wines, bringing in the smell of Christmas.
In many households, Christmas begins at least a month ahead — starting with soaking the fruits and nuts in a heady alcoholic mixture, which will then go into the cake mixture after a few weeks. With the festival right in the corner, it’s the right time to prepare the cookies, cakes and let them rest. If you’re looking for a few easy bakes and wines to create the authentic Christmas experience right at home, here’s what Chennai’s home chefs and bakers suggest you do without having to spend too much time.
Baker Sara Koshy points out that finding good recipes is a very important step when it comes to baking. “I would suggest one goes through recipes from books or online and chooses those that have the measurements in metric system rather than cups, as their sizes can differ. Measurements are extremely important while baking.
It can also help in investing in a good weighing scale,” she notes. Cut-out cookies, which are popularly made during the Christmas season using cookie cutters, nankhatais (shortbread cookies) and mince pies (which use a mixture of dried fruits and spices) are some of the easy-to-create baked goods, she says.
Whether it is tomatoes, ginger, beetroot, rose or bird’s eye chilli, Juhina Sabrina Samuel can turn them into wines. “Brewing is an acquired craft. One needs to follow the recipes to the T, and hygiene and patience reigns supreme in wine-making. Sadly, it is a dying craft because we live in an ‘instant’ generation, where one doesn’t have the time or patience to dedicate,” she asserts. Her family’s Christmas meal planning starts a week before, she notes.
“It is the conversation starter and brings the entire family together at the table sharing memories and a meal,” says Juhina. Mulled wines, which can be prepared in just about 20 minutes, quick and easy kulkuls, rose cookies, rum balls and cheese straws are some of the recipes she recommends, that are part of her family’s dining table for Christmas too.
Flour: 210 gm
Baking powder: ¼ tsp
Soft unsalted butter: 130 gm
Sugar: 90 gm
A little milk or beaten egg
- Sift together the flour and baking powder. Keep aside.
- Place butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, cream together till the mixture lightens in colour.
- Mix in the sifted flour in three lots and stir it in till combined, add a little milk or egg to form it into a soft dough.
- Lightly dust a worktop with flour and roll the dough into ¼ inch thickness.
- Cut out with a cookie cutter and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Chill the cookies for about 15 minutes; bake in a preheated 160-degree oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or till the cookies are pale coloured.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Unwaxed oranges: 2
Lemon, peel only: 1
Caster sugar: 150 gm
Cardamom pods: 5
Cinnamon stick: 1
Nutmeg: A pinch (freshly grated)
Fruity, unoaked red wine: 2 bottles
Ginger wine: 150 ml
- Peel and juice one orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
- Bring to the boil and cook for 5-8 minutes until you have a thick syrup
- Meanwhile, if you’re serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with six vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.
- Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish. Alternatively, you can allow the syrup to cool, and pour it into sterilised bottles for use later.
Cake: 360 gm
Chocolate: 85 gm
Dark rum: 70 ml or Rum essence: 1 tsp
Glaze cherries: 12-15
Cocoa powder: For dusting
Chocolate sprinkles: As toppings
- Crumble cake pieces in food processor or by hands like breadcrumbs. Transfer the crumbs in a large mixing bowl.
- Melt chocolate in microwave at full power for 45 seconds and whisk with spatula until entire chocolate is melted.
- Pour melted chocolate on cake crumbs and mix with a spatula to coat all dry crumbs with chocolate.
- Combine the rum with chocolate-cake mixture until everything comes together to form a large dough ball. Take small portions of the mixture dough and roll between palms to form medium sized balls.
- Now insert one glaze cherry in the middle of each ball and seal the edge.
- Dust the rum balls with cocoa powder or drizzle chocolate on top. Decorate rum balls further with sprinkles.