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Christmas Baking – Ultimate Festive Treats

Tickle your festive taste buds with glitter ball truffles, savoury breads and golden panettone


Image source: Pinterest.

Image source: Pinterest.


I have never really bothered with the whole traditional Christmas cake thing. Maybe it’s the necessity to think so far ahead or my ambivalence to marzipan – who knows. I am however smitten with fresh baked Christmas treats and my oven works harder than Santa’s elves for whole month of December.


Mince pies, shortbread and gingerbread all tumble out the oven, into hungry mouths before they’ve had a chance to cool but each year I aim – I don’t always succeed but I do aim – to try something new.


This year my cravings are leaning towards handsome plaited breads plump with sweet fruit or savoury morsels. And golden Panettone eaten with rich, dark coffee, potentially laced with a touch of grappa….



Chocolate Ginger Christmas Truffles


First up is my Christmas truffle recipe. This is my effort to seduce with the ease of homemade Christmas delights….of course I also love them because they look so sparkly and gorgeous. And taste divine.


This is a Donna Hay recipe but I’m afraid I camp it up a bit by adding gold edible glitter to cocoa powder for dusting – c’mon it’s Christmas!


400g dark chocolate, chopped

60ml single cream

2 tbsp green ginger wine

50g cocoa powder, sifted

½ tsp ground ginger

½ -1 tsp edible gold glitter


Place chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, add the ginger wine and stir to combine. Pour into a 750ml dish and refrigerate for 1–2 hours or until firm.


Remove from the fridge and allow to stand for 5–10 minutes or until softened slightly. Roll 2 teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Combine the cocoa and ginger in a bowl. Toss the truffles in the cocoa mixture to coat. Store in the cocoa mixture in the fridge.



Richard Bertinet’s Olive Bread Sticks


Richard Bertinet is a baker of some note who runs a cookery school in Bath. And I first tasted these bread sticks – a term that massively undersells them – after a friend had attended his bread making course.


Image source: Pinterest.

Image source: Pinterest.


I was overwhelmed by their slightly salty, savoury bite and their light texture. They are absolutely the sort of thing you want around at Christmas, especially as they can be made in advance, part-baked and whisked out the freezer to casually impress unexpected/or expected guests.


Basic white dough:

5g yeast (fresh, if possible or 3.5g dry active yeast)

250g strong white flour

5g salt

180ml tepid water



100g purple olives, such as Kalamata,

50g grated pecorino or parmesan

5g good herbes de Provence

Maize flour, cornmeal or polenta for dusting



You can make the dough by hand – see Richard Bertinet’s instructions here – or using a mixer with the dough hook.


Begin by putting the flour in the mixer bowl and rub in the yeast (if using dry, just mix in). Using the slowest speed, add the salt, then the water, and mix for 2 mins.


Next turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for another 6-7 mins. Until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured counter and shape lightly into a ball. Cover with a tea towel and rest for one hour.


Mix the olives with the cheese and herbs in a bowl. Turn your dough out on to a lightly dusted surface, then flatten into a rectangle, about 2cm thick. Sprinkle the olive and cheese mixture on to it and press into the dough with your fingertips.


As if you’re folding an A4 letter to put into an envelope. Fold one third into the middle, pressing it down to work the olives in, then do the same on the opposite side.


Cut the dough widthways into 10 or 12 x 1cm strips.


Flour the work surface, then twist and roll each strip to stretch it to the length of your baking tray (non-stick, or covered in greaseproof paper).


Place them on the tray, leaving a good gap between each one. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven (as hot as it will go) for 10–12 minutes. Lift the breadsticks carefully on to a wire rack to cool.


You can also use sundried tomatoes, or caramelised red onion – whatever you fancy.


If you want to freeze them, part-bake for 6-8mins. Cool, then wrap in freezer bags. They can be baked from frozen at 180-200°C for 12mins.





You may wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of baking their own panettone when there are so many bobbing around in dinky boxes at this time of year.


Image source: Pinterest.

Image source: Pinterest.


Well, there is only one answer. Taste.


It might be bit of bother, but really nothing compared to preamble of the Christmas Cake. If you’ve ever baked a Christmas cake you’ll swing into the panettone groove no problem. The perfect gift if you can bring yourself to give it away.


This recipe is culled from a baking blog I follow. The writer has gone to all the trouble of trialling the best recipes out there so when she says this the one – I believe her. You can buy pantone moulds at Lakeland.


140g raisins

2 tbsp light rum

2 tbsp hot water

550g strong white flour

150g granulated sugar

½ tsp active dry yeast

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp lemon zest

½ vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

3 eggs, at room temperature

230ml tepid water

1 tbsp honey

150g unsalted butter, softened

15g unsalted butter, melted

15g unsalted butter, chilled

55g candied peel, citron, orange or mixed. ¼cm pieces.



Soak the raisins overnight, or for at least 8hrs in a small bowl with the rum and hot water. Until the raisins are plump and most of the liquid has been absorbed.


In a mixer combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lemon zest and vanilla bean on low speed until combined.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, tepid water and honey. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the egg mix to the flour. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until all of the ingredients are combined.


Add the softened butter, a small bit at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding more. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.


Drain the raisins, discard the soaking liquid, and stir together with the candied citron and the melted butter. Stir this mixture into the dough with a wooden spoon.


Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proof in a cold oven with the door closed until it has nearly tripled in volume, 12 to 15 hours.


Locate and discard the vanilla bean, then sprinkle the dough lightly with flour and scrape out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a bit more flour onto the dough, then fold the edges of the dough in towards the centre, forming a loose ball, and place, seam-side down, into the panettone mould.


Cover with a damp tea towel and proof in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until the dough is just above the top of the mould, 3 to 5 hours.


Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the dough-filled panettone mould on a baking sheet.



Score an “X” across the top of the dough. Place the 1 tablespoon chilled butter in the centre of the X and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out slightly moist but not wet, 60 to 75 minutes (the panettone will be very dark).


Remove from the oven and pierce 30cm metal or wooden skewers all the way through the panettone (including the paper) 4 inches apart and 1 inch from the bottom so the skewers are parallel. Hang the panettone upside down over a large pot and cool completely before cutting.


Stored in an airtight container the panettone should stay fresh for about 1 week.



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