Well, it’s been an interesting exercise, posting daily. I’ve never tried to do this before and it may be a while before I do it again, at least as a set piece. 🙂 Anyway, I’ve been sitting here racking my brains as to a suitable topic.
I thought about all the Christmas baking I did when my boys were young. Of course I have no photos here, but I think I’ll write about some of that anyway and use pictures off the internet.
Although at the time I was doing most of the Christmas baking we had no electricity and thus no refrigeration, I would begin baking just after Hallowe’en. The things that kept best were made first and the others closer to the big day. My boys didn’t get much in the way of sweets during the year; I didn’t want them to develop a sweet tooth like mine. Generally, bread was the only thing we baked. Christmas was different, though, and I loved to go all-out for the holidays, then we were ready to returnto simple living once it was over.
The first thing I baked was often the Christmas cakes; I made a variety of shapes and sizes, mostly due to using my bread pans and the like. I used my old jam kettle to mix the dough in. It looked similar to this one, without the handle on the side (just the bale) and, of course, was much older. It showed its long history of jam-making.
The recipe was my own and if I ever find it, I will share it with you all, but not this year. It’s somewhere in the storage.
Once the cakes were baked, I set them, one at a time, on a plate covered with a large piece of cheesecloth, two or three layers. I punctured the cake all over and then poured brandy slowly in the top, letting it soak into the holes; No worries; by the time we ate this, the alcohol had all evaporated, leaving only a delightful flavour. I wrapped the cakes in the cheesecloth, then in waxed paper, then finally in aluminium foil. Then the cakes were packed and put away in the cool mudroom for the next year. (After the first year I made these cakes, we always ate the aged ones.
I made two separate pound cakes, too, in my largest bread pans; one with halved green maraschino cherries and one with halved red cherries. When the cakes were sliced and arranged on a plate with the colours alternating, they looked very festive. Usually, I use whole wheat flour, but the pound cakes were made with white.
Each year I made gingerbread men and also a gingerbread cake. The latter was baked in my largest rectangular pan and was left un-iced. I felt we were going to have enough sugar without icing the gingerbread!
For cookies, I made hermits (with oats, raisins, walnuts, coconut, and more) and an unbaked cookie that in our family was known as ‘humdingers’. These are rich and chocolatey and I will see if one of my sisters has the recipe. You know where mine is!
I loved to make the traditional sugar cookies, too; those we cut out with cookie cutters in Christmas shapes and added the details with icing.
I used my Mum’s trick of making a waxed paper cone, then snipping the end off (you have to be careful not to make the opening too large, so go slowly with the cutting if you try this). You can tape the edges or simply be careful. Spoon the icing into the cone, fold the top down and squeeze it slowly. I made several cones and a different colour of icing went into each one.
I made other things, too, but these were the yearly mainstays. And, of course, the Scottish Shortbread! I have made them with oat flour and with rice flour (they are not Scottish if made with only rice flour) and with cornstarch. Our favourite s were the ones with a mixture of oat flour and rice flour. (using oat and rice flours together goes back to at least the 1800s)
- 1/3 cup oat flour or 1 cup porridge (rolled) oats
- 1 ½ cups rice flour
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan. To make storage easier, you may want to use an 8: square cake pan.
If you are using the rolled oats, grind them in a blender to make your own oat flour.
Place the oat flour (or ground oats) in a mixing bowl and add the rice flour, powdered sugar, and salt, blend well to combine.
Add the butter and mix well with a wooden spoon (or you can use and electric mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes) until the batter comes together and forms a dough.
Press the dough into the prepared round cake pan and use a knife to score it into 16 wedges. If you are using a square cake pan, score the dough into 16 bars.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400°F then reduce the oven temperature to 250°F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on them the first time you make these, as ovens differ. Remove the shortbread from the oven and turn the oven off. Using a sharp knife, cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still hot. Place the pan back in the oven but do not turn the oven on. Let the shortbread sit in the oven with the door closed for an hour while the oven cools down to let the shortbread dry out and develop a crisp texture).
Remove the shortbread from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
Store in a covered tin to keep the texture crisp.
Well,that’s it for today, I think. If more comes to mind, I’ll add it to another post.
Music for today:
I have loved this one since I was a girl:
The French Song by Lucille Starr
Have a great day today. The weekend is nearly here! Peace & Insight ~ Linne