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Paul and Prue’s Christmas hacks

With Paul’s decades of experience as a leading artisan baker and Prue’s prestige as a chef, they’re a formidable source of knowledge when it comes to Christmas feasting prep.

Here are their tips on timings, trimmings and twists for your Christmas cooking.

The traditional time to make your Christmas cake is ‘Stir-up Sunday’ at the end of November. Do you stick to this?

Paul: “I make my Christmas cake in October and finish decorating mid-November. I do like royal icing – I like to crack through it when you cut into the cake.”

Prue: “I am the complete opposite to Paul; I make my cake on Christmas Eve. I think it’s a good idea to make in advance, but if I make a cake too early, my husband will have eaten it in three weeks.”

What are your tips for the perfect Christmas pudding?

Paul: “Christmas puddings are prepared well in advance. I don’t like brandy butter, I’m a big fan of custard with my Christmas pudding, and now other members of my family are defecting to custard too. I don’t understand why we only have Christmas pudding at Christmas, it’s such a great pudding I would have it every Sunday!”

Prue: “It’s the same for me. Dried fruit will absorb a lot of booze, if you soak the fruit in the booze right at the start you will get all the flavours. Children don’t always like plum pudding or traditional hot Christmas pudding, so I now make an ice cream made with crumbled Christmas pudding, refreeze it, and the children love it.”

Paul: “My nan used to put sixpence pieces in the Christmas pudding and wrap them in silver foil. You knew when you bit into that on a filling that you had found the sixpence. We still use the same sixpences, although I refund them now for a fiver!”

There never seems to be enough mince pies. What’s the solution?

Paul: “My favourite thing to make at Christmas are my mince pies and I start baking them in November in batches of 50 and freeze them. They get devoured around the Christmas period. My pastry is more of a shortcrust and I infuse the mincemeat with flavours to make it a bit more special. They go down very well.”

What’s the most important thing to remember if you’re in charge of the Christmas dinner?

Prue: “The most important part for me is to have a stress-free Christmas day. I always want to have a big chunk of time that I can be with the family opening presents or having a glass of champagne. So many people ruin their day because they are not used to feeding that many people and panic. A huge bird and all the extras can give you collywobbles!

“Let’s say you want to eat at 2pm; work backwards from that and work out your timings. At 9.30 am I put the oven on for the turkey, and then I can plan from then. I cheat like anything and have experimented over the years. I have already prepared a boned turkey which is stuffed with chestnut stuffing, which I will have to remember to take out of the freezer a couple of days before to thaw. If you boil the potatoes and then shake them in a pan to get them fluffy the day before, they will be ready to roast and delicious the next day.”

Do you have a festive message for the Bake Off viewers?

Prue: “I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year break and every bake turns out perfectly!”

Paul: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.”

Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!