Yes I know you think it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas already but its only 55 days away!! For people like me, its never too early to be thinking about it as the best thing I love about Christmas is all the baking Ill be doing and believe me this involves extensive planning!
Christmas can be a daunting time of year, with so much to think about, and more importantly so many things to pay for that I think being a little organised and planning some home-made Christmas gifts can be a fun thing to do and also save you some pennies! It also gives you a few things to do with the kids in the week before Christmas – tire them out before Santa arrives on Christmas Eve. Only last week I moved over to Switzerland to start a new job and a new life and one of the things I’m looking forward to most is my Swissmas – Christmas in Switzerland – where ill enjoy all of my home baking traditiins! Below are some of my top handy hints for a Crafty Christmas – enjoy!
Elf on a Shelf.
This is a pretty new phenomenon to me but is a great idea to keep kids from misbehaving in the lead up to Christmas. Sent directly by Santa from the North Pole your children’s Elf on a Shelf is sent as a scout to help Santa compile his naughty and nice list. Every day thought December, the Elf will appear somewhere new in the house, sometimes mischievously if the children have misbehaved, and other days with rewards, if the children have been good. The Elf then mysteriously disappears on Christmas Eve leaving behind a stocking full of presents……if they made the nice list! One of the best ones is to leave a shopping list and cash with the elf one night, comprising of the ingredients for gingerbread men. But don’t say what its for. Then the next day bake some delicious gingerbread men and leave with the elf the following night with decorations and icing. A perfect activity for the kids to then decorate. Im not sure what I was baking as a child in this picture but Im certainly having fun! Head over to the BBC for a simple recipe which is less than 15 mins in the oven.
Christmas Advent Calendars
As a child I loved my advent calendar, counting down the days until Christmas Eve. Nowadays you can get calendars beyond pictures and chocolate (although my favourite is still Lindt). Whilst shopping in Germany (now that I live in Switzerland that still sounds weird!!) and found this Craft Beer advent calendar!
Whilst they are a nice to have they can be extremely pricy so why not make on at home. There are so many empty advent calendars, shaped like trains, Christmas trees or castles each consisting of 24 empty boxes. Each year you can fill it with whatever you want and open each box each day. These are great to pick up in the New Years Sales, when they are normally half price of less and will last. If you are feeling particularly crafty then have a go at sewing one, with 24 little pockets. Hobbycraft sell a kit that you can sew yourself.
Or even better do a reverse Advent Calendar. This is where you get a box and each day you add one item into (hence reverse) the box and donate it to a local food bank – fill it up with new stuff from around the house that you haven’t used or add a tin each time you go for a shop.
Originating with Hansel and Gretel the Gingerbread House is synonymous with Christmas in my household, including the annual tradition of smashing it into a million pieces with hammers or rolling pins. Supervised of course! Bit like a piñata but edible. The best bit is the fun of baking the gingerbread house pieces, constructing it and then decorating it with piles of sweets. I tend to use the same recipe as I do for gingerbread men but takes slightly longer to cook as they are thicker pieces. Best advice is to cut out your gingerbread using a template online as it will make life a lot easier believe me.
I love nothing more than pulling together a Christmas Hamper full of home made goodies – much nicer than any shop bought present and shows a lot of care and consideration that goes into it. Think Chutneys, jams, curds, biscuits, crackers, chocolates, sweets – you name it! For an amazing Christmas Chutney take a look at my post last Christmas when a made Katherine Frelon’s Christmas Chutney.
I thought I would share with you my favourite Brownie recipe, which I’ve recently updated in honour of my emigration to Switzerland and added the famous Toblerone.
Recipe for Chocolate Brownies:
100g Dark Chocolate
110g unsalted butter softened
200g light muscovado sugar
2 x Large eggs
110g plain flour
2 x 150g Toblerone bars
Preheat the oven to 160° (180° Fan assisted) and line an 8-inch square tin.
Melt the dark chocolate over a saucepan of boiling water. Allow to cool
Mix the brown sugar and butter until combined and resembles coarse breadcrumbs using a handheld food mixer.
Beat the eggs and then add to the butter and sugar mixture, adding little at a time and combining well.
Sift in the flour and fold into the mixture.
Take 16 sections of Toblerone and leave to one side. Chop the remaining Toblerone into small pieces and add to the brownie mixture.
Pour into the square tin and smooth down using a palette knife.
Place the 16 sections on top of the brownie mixture.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes and leave to cool before cutting into 16 squares, each centred with a Toblerone triangle.
In the coming weeks post I’ll be share some recipes for some Christmas biscotti, lemon curd, and Almond Butter Cookies, plus some more ways to gift wrap your edible gifts.
nb. Post was completed in collaboration with Providence Finance