14 Dec The Season to Sprinkle a Taste of Christmas Grace Stevens
Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year is finally upon us. It’s the chance to abandon the chaos of our everyday routine and instead revel in the comfort and joy of precious family time.
From decking out our homes in festive lights and cheer to staying up late to leave Santa some homemade cookies and milk – what makes this time extra special is the way loved ones gather around to indulge in past traditions or craft entirely new ones.
Whichever way you are spending this magical time, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without delicious foods and customary treats like crumbly mince pies, moist fruit cakes and sumptuous roasts, all washed down with overly delectable desserts and warm, jovial tipples. (The new year resolutions are still quite some days away!).
Grace Stevens, award-winning TV chef, brilliant baker, and unapologetic Christmas lover shares some of her most cherished Christmas traditions, as well as a selection of her much-loved holiday recipes to help you celebrate the season with traditional trimmings, magic, and magnificence in abundance.
Grace’s top three ways to enjoy a memorable Christmas
- Choose to bake not buy
One of the first signs that the Christmas season has arrived in our home is the smell of freshly baked treats. In fact, the minute I start baking with cinnamon and ginger, my family knows that it is Christmas time, as these smells are synonymous with the festive season.
I especially enjoy making home baked gifts like shortbread biscuits, tarts, or pretty tea cakes. Not only do they taste delicious, but they are made from the heart and show the recipient just how much they mean to you. Even better is the fact that you can get the whole family involved, especially young children if you are baking for teachers and grandparents.
- Create personal traditions
Christmas time comes with a huge helping of nostalgia but over time this can begin to lose charm and perspective. Reinventing common Christmas traditions or putting your own spin on old favourites creates an intimate set of habits and rituals that are unique to your family, and which will bring a whole new meaning to the season.
Our family for example has dessert for breakfast on the 16 of December with steaming hot waffles and ice cream and lashings of runny chocolate spread. It’s our own little holiday tradition which we have done for years, and for us, fondly marks the start of the holidays.
- Don’t overload the schedule
It’s easy to want to do as much as possible during these precious few days that you have together with loved ones, especially if they are coming from afar. However, a few things done fabulously is way better than lots of things that are rushed.
Take time to make meaningful memories and don’t clutter the days with lengthy to do lists that will cause nothing but stress. Simple things like baking and decorating a gingerbread house can be so much fun if done with all the family (but just try and forget about the mess). Music is also a great way to get everyone loose and into the festive vibe, as is spending an afternoon doing absolutely nothing but rewatching your favourite Christmas movies. Remember it’s not what you do, but who you do it with that counts.
Grace’s top two indulgent Christmas recipes
- Crème Brulee
This delicious and simple French dessert is so perfect for the festive season as you can prepare it way in advance, which means more time raising a toast with your favourite people. Simply pour it into individual ramekins and refrigerate, and then only pull out and blowtorch the sugared top when you are ready to serve. I love to watch as everyone excitedly cracks through the glass-like crust – it always creates such delight.
- Pesto and Cheese Twist Bread
Having lots of family around means having lots of mouths to feed. This twisted bread is flavoured with basil pesto and Parmesan cheese and is incredibly moreish and addictive. Its versatility makes them a guaranteed hit at any Christmas party buffet table – be it a great showstopper snack, the perfect addition to a cheeseboard or the ideal pairing to a warm soup. Bake them well in advance and watch them fly out of the bread bin.
Crème Brulee By Grace Stevens
• 4 egg yolks
• 50g castor sugar
• 500ml cream
• Vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 130֯C
2. Place six ramekins into a roasting tin.
3. Boil the kettle
4. Place cream into a medium saucepan and bring to just below boiling. Set aside.
5. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until light. Try to prevent too much froth to form.
6. Strain cream into a jug through a sieve.
7. Slowly pour the cream into the eggs while constantly beating the eggs.
8. Strain the custard through a sieve back into the jug.
9. Divide the custard amongst the ramekins.
10. Before placing the custards into the oven, pour boiling water into the roasting dish to come up ¾ of the side of each ramekin.
11. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
12. The custards will be done when there is a slight wobble near the centre of the custard.
13. Remove the ramekins from the water and allow to cool.
14. Set for at least four hours in the fridge.
15. To finish, dust a teaspoon of castor sugar on each custard. Take the flame of a blow torch over the sugar until a caramel forms.
16. Repeat the sugar and blow touch and allow to cool.
17. Serve immediately.
Pesto and Cheese Twist Bread by Grace Stevens
• 4 cups of flour
• 7,5 ml salt
• 20g of fresh yeast (1 sachet of instant yeast)
• 375ml water
• 1 egg
• 60g butter (soft)
• 375ml grated mozzarella cheese
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
2. Rub the butter into the flour until you get the consistency of breadcrumbs.
3. Mix the water, egg and yeast.
4. Pour the water mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, bringing it into a dough.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is pliable and smooth.
6. Place into a clean glass bowl and cover with clingfilm.
7. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
8. Knock back the dough and knead for a minute.
9. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about a cm thick.
10. Spread the pesto onto the rolled-out dough. Top with cheese.
11. Roll up the dough from the longest side, making sure to make a tight roll. Stretch the rolled-up dough to elongate.
12. Divide the roll into three pieces.
13. Cut each piece length wise with a sharp knife just enough to expose the filling.
14. Plait the three lengths, tucking each end under the plait when you are finished.
15. Place into a large, greased bread tin.
16. Cover with a cloth and allow to prove for 1 hour or doubled in size.
17. Preheat oven to 220ºC
18. Prepare an egg wash, by beating together an egg and a dash of milk. Brush this over the top of the bread.
19. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200֯C and bake for a further 20 minutes until golden and baked through.
20. Serve warm