Festive Indulgence

Christina here. The holidays are over for most of us and it’s time to return to normal and go back to work. It can be hard at first to get into our everyday routines, but it helps if we can still allow ourselves a little festive indulgence now and then. It wouldn’t have been Christmas without lots of candy and sweets, and perhaps, like me, you have some left over? My favourites are always of the chocolate variety, and this year I was lucky enough to receive several gorgeous boxes, which I haven’t quite emptied yet.

The most beautiful ones were these praline and ganache selection boxes from Fortnum & Mason in London. I would have bought those for the boxes alone! (And I’ll be keeping them once they are empty). Another gorgeous treat was a gift from a friend – Christmassy chocolates that tasted as good as they looked! I’m not usually one for complicated chocolates though, and it wouldn’t be the festive season for me without some Ferrero Rochers. I don’t need them stacked into a fancy pyramid, the way they’re shown in adverts on TV, but I do insist on them being kept in the fridge as they taste much better cold! Finally, in our family it’s tradition to eat Terry’s Chocolate Orange this time of year, and I confess that several of those were consumed during the last two weeks. Simple, but oh so delicious!

I used to make chocolate toffee every year, following a recipe handed down from my grandmother, but I didn’t have time so it will have to wait for next Christmas. Probably just as well as I think I have enough to be getting on with – this lot will fuel my writing for the next few weeks!

Do you have any favourite chocolates or other sweets that you just have to have this time of year? And are there any left for you to enjoy now? Recipes welcome if they are home made!

Time for Cake!

CakeChristina here. A friend of mine has her birthday today – happy birthday! – so naturally my thoughts turned to cake! Well, the two usually go together, don’t they? Birthdays are a great excuse for baking (and eating) cake and it wouldn’t be a special day without such a culinary treat, at least not to me. Cake can also cheer us up in these uncertain times, so why not indulge ourselves a litte? It made me wonder though – who first hit on the idea of making cake? Time to dive down a research rabbit hole …

1024px-Strucla_sweet_bread02

Attribution https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=128566

I don’t think anyone really knows where cake baking originated, but the first ones were probably more like bread sweetened with honey. Rather than putting the honey on top of the bread, someone decided to put it inside before baking and liked the result. I’m all for that as I confess I don’t like the taste of honey on its own. Nuts and fruit could have been added to make it sweeter (sugar came much later) as that was all they had. We know the Egyptians made special cakes for various feasts, religious ceremonies or for people to take with them to the afterlife. And then the Romans started adding eggs and butter to their bread dough, as well as honey, which gave them a cake like result. They must have brought these recipes to England when they were in control here, but then they left and the Dark Ages came … well, without cake they must have been dark indeed!

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