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Festive fun in the oven

Festive fun in the oven

Bigging up your bakes could help bag brilliant sales this Yuletide. But will your goods be on point?

Award-winning pastry chef, chocolatier and CEO and culinary director of TLC Gourmet, Thomas Leatherbarrow, shares his thoughts on how to add some Christmas cheer to your creations . . .

Little luxuries

This Christmas more than ever, people are looking for luxury, bespoke bakes and personal touches. Lockdown showed people they can make things themselves on much lower budgets, so professional bakers and pastry chefs need to work even harder to make their creations stand out.

Festive flavours

People want a little bit of innovation but are sticking strongly to classical flavours pairings. Winter spices such as mace and nutmeg are dynamic, and herbs will be very popular this Christmas too, as will sumac. The challenge is to get these flavours into a well-designed product. For example, we’ll be making egg custard tarts but elevating them by including lemon, thyme, gin and sumac.

Bowled over by fruit

Use fruits that are in high season such as classic mandarins, white peaches and winter cherries. Instead of a cherry drop sweet, make a cherry drop cake. Also try using cherries in rocky road tray bakes.

Cocoa creations

I don’t like ‘over chocolating’ things. For me, it’s more about looking at the flavour profiles of cocoa and chocolate (fruity, nutty etc) and pairing them well with other ingredients. Everyone loves a chocolate fondant but how can you make it the best it can be? Try:

Milk chocolate fondant paired with roasted black cardamom caramel.

White chocolate with rose and hibiscus.

Dark chocolate with rosemary and sherry vinegar truffle (Rosemary is a very good herb and has a flavour profile which goes really well with sweet things).

Hand it over

For Christmas, in terms of handheld bakery, Danish bullar will be popular. They’re essentially brioche-style buns which you can add flavour to. Things like mixed peel, chocolate drop, honey and lemon thyme are great for Christmas. The kids love them! Similarly, you can adapt gingerbread by adding other ingredients. Honey gives it a completely different flavour profile for example. We make our own ginger by dehydrating crystallised candy ginger then blitzing it up.

Out with the old . . .

People are moving away from traditional Christmas cakes and being influenced by different ideas. Younger generations are moving into their own homes and starting new traditions of their own. Bundt cakes (so-called because they’re baked in a distinctive, doughnut-shaped Bundt pan), drizzled with icing are coming to the fore because they look like Christmas wreaths.

Deck the halls

Utilise everything around you in terms of your displays. We find people are drawn to us if our displays are borderline, over the-top extravagant! We use ingredients, like cinnamon sticks, which symbolise what we’re doing, alongside holly and flowers.

Made to order

Cook to order. By December 30th the shelves in your kitchen should be empty.

Practice makes perfect

Make sure you’re very comfortable with your recipes. People will taste it if you’re not. 

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