I took a one-day course in Christmas baking at the pastry studio, to learn some new tricks. And I did learn a lot. The recipes aren’t the best tasting ones I’ve had (I have access to better), but the techniques yielded incredible results compared to what I normally do when it comes to yeast doughs! (Main trick? Only use enough flour that it holds together. As sticky as ever. It’s the kneading that fixes the stickiness, NOT the flour. Stupid home-ec.)

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The other day they’d apparently had 22 people in that reasonably small kitchen – today it was only me. I’m amazed they didn’t cancel by lack of participation, but very happy with the outcome.

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In only two hours we’d made two loaves of traditional christmas bread (vört, a kind of slightly sweetened, christmas spiced port loaf), put saffron buns to rise, prepared gingerbread dough, made the dough for “christmas stars”, and chopped chocolate for chocolate truffles.

The trick to saffron buns is to NOT roll them together more than necessary, to let them rise more, otherwise they’ll get wide instead of tall. Also, let them rise (as with all bread) until they JUST feel like they don’t want to spring back when you prod them – before that they still have too much rising power, and if they sink down when prodded, you’ve let them rise for too long.

AND get this – it’s a lot better to have the liquid for the dough be like 30 C rather than 37. It’ll need to rise a bit longer, but everything benefits from longer rising time.

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The course description mentions other things than what we did, and I mentioned being curious about the promised candied apples. He said we wouldn’t really have time for it, but decided that we do it anyway. And they are delicious! I love candied apples, but I’ve never made them before.

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These “christmas stars” (in the shape of hearts) turned out to be my favorite. Not at all what christmas stars means to me, as I’m northern, but so delicious.

The dough is 100g butter, 100g flour, and 20g heavy cream. Brought together, flattened to a sheet and left to chill, then once it’s cold, brought back out, rolled out thinner with a baking pin, three-folded, rolled out, three folded again, and rolled out.. then cut into shapes. You can’t re-knead the dough after cutting, so frankly I’d suggest cutting better shapes than hearts to get the most of it! Brush them with egg, COVER with pearl sugar, let the excess fall off, and bake at 190C for .. a couple of minutes. Maybe 5, maybe 9, they should turn an obvious golden. We didn’t do timers.

The pictures don’t include two more trays of gingerbread cookies, another tray of saffron buns, and the lump of gingerbread dough that was left over for me to take home, because man – three trays are enough for one go!

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