In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, our judges decided to go easy on the bakers and let them off the Technical.
… Just kidding. Of course they didn’t.
For The Great Christmas Bake Off, Paul set returning bakers Andrew Smyth, Flo Atkins, Jane Beadle and Liam Charles the challenging and, let’s face it, pretty confusing task of baking Icelandic ‘laufabrauð’. Translating as ‘leaf bread’, this traditional treat sits somewhere between filo pastry and a poppadom. Its intricate and fiddly triangular decorations mean it can be hung up like a snowflake or used as a weapon to befuddle unsuspecting bakers in festive knitwear. But there must’ve been a Christmas miracle in the air, because despite never having heard of laufabrauð, Andrew, Flo, Jane and Liam all did miraculously well.
But looking at those crispy, delicious snowflakes got us thinking – what other international Christmas bakes are we missing out on? Are there pies out there to challenge a minced? Puddings fruitier than our brandy-soaked one? Christmas cake that ISN’T made weeks before the big day? We selflessly decided to investigate Christmas baking around the world, so we know exactly which bakes we should be borrowing.
Easter bread (yes, really)
German immigrants in Chile brought their classic marzipan and fruit loaf stollen with them. Since then it’s taken on a life of its own and become ‘pan de pascua’ which, despite translating as ‘Easter bread’, is a traditional Christmas bake made with honey and ginger and stuffed with almonds, walnuts and candied raisins.
You might know them as the spicy little biscuits served with coffee, but on the continent ‘speculaas’ or ‘speculoos’ (depending where you’re from) are a big deal at Christmas. The Dutch, Belgian and Germans in particular love these moreish biccies, and stamp them with festive scenes.
Speculaas aren’t the only seasonal biscuits we should think of stealing. Danish ‘vaniljekranse’ or ‘vanilla wreaths’ are circles of buttery, melty, shortbread-y goodness that are easy to make and even easier to eat.
In Malta, ‘Imbuljuta tal-Qastan’ is traditionally served after Midnight Mass at Christmas. It’s a thick, spiced, warm chocolate drink that sits somewhere between hot choc and sturdy soup – perfect for slurping on a cold Christmas eve.
And now for something completely different. Portuguese families at Christmas make a sweet egg cake called ‘Lampreia de Ovos’. It tastes of almonds and is shaped like that most festive of creatures: the bloodsucking parasitic lamprey fish. One to consider when you’ve ticked off everything else.
For more festive baking fun, tune in to The Great New Year’s Bake Off on Channel 4, 1st Jan 2019 at 7.40pm.