By Venessa Anthony
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and what other way to be jolly than stuffing our faces with some delectable Christmas goodies? It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when cooks around the country take to their kitchens and the smell of freshly baked goods wafts through the air. The Morning Brunch compiled a list of home bakers on Instagram that make some amazing Christmas dishes with a fun twist!
You may wonder how the combination of spiced egg yolk spiked with alcohol came to be. It all started with the early medieval Britain “posset”, a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Eggnog is a drink we all know and love, but have you ever tried an eggnog pie? Nelu Weera, a home baker who runs @fudgyfridays, has her own take on eggnog in the form of a pie!
She spoke to The Morning Brunch about how this innovative dish came to be. “Why not a pie?” she questioned, adding: “I had never tried eggnog before and wanted to try it out and then I thought ‘why not make a pie out of it?’ I have heard that a lot of people don’t like eggnog because they can taste the egg, so let’s try it in a pie.”
Weera is known for her eccentric combinations in her baked goods. Her gingerbread chocolate tart is another wonderful combination that just works!
If you are looking to try out the classic eggnog, you can hit up @foodiecolombo on Instagram, they’ve been making this drink for years now and it’s always a hit.
Pastries and pies have been synonymous with Christmas for many years now. Samanthika Perera, from @demelbakery on Instagram, came up with an interesting concept for Christmas pastries. She is famous for her Christmas tree pastries that are literally shaped in the size of a large tree, oozing with fruits and chocolate. This pastry has layers upon layers of decadence, and the combination of the fruits with the gooey chocolate is amazing. She spoke to The Morning Brunch about the concept behind her pastries. “I wanted to do something new, something that hadn’t been tried out before, and especially because of Covid, I had more time on my hands and really wanted to try out something unique.”
Regarding her struggle with the pandemic, she said: “It has been very difficult, as the prices for ingredients have increased, and people are hesitant to place orders due to Covid, because everyone’s scared they will get it. I usually go to Pettah to buy my stuff, like the moulds and decorative ingredients, and due to restrictions and lockdown, it’s been very challenging for me to go about.”
She further noted: “The Christmas tree puff-pastry had never been made before, and I tried it with many fillings, but the best was the fruits and chocolate one. Usually, we only get savoury pastries, so I wanted to start sweet pastries too, as they had never been made before. Overall, I can say it was a success.”
She thanked her regular customers for supporting her during these difficult times, and revealed that she will be opening up her very own bakery down Buthgamuwa Road in the near future.
You can even make requests for what fun shape you want your pastry to be in for the season; the talented Samanthika can whip it up for you!
Did you know that Christmas cake began as plum porridge? People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Eventually, butter and flour were added to the recipe, along with dried fruit, spices, and honey, and it became the cake that we eat religiously during the holiday season.
Natasha Pillai, from the Instagram page @bakeitwithnatasha, has her own recipe for this Christmas classic. “I make my mum’s Christmas cake recipe and it has been in our family for decades.” She reveals the procedure behind procuring such a divine cake, “We use Australian-imported ingredients: the best-quality cashews, fresh farm eggs, and high-quality butter. All of the ingredients are sorted, cut, mixed, and soaked in essences, spices, spirits, jam, honey, etc., for a few days, and then mixed into the batter and baked at home.”
This cake is truly a labour of love. She added: “We also have a special range of puddings that could be garnished with a touch of Christmas!”
This is not exactly a Christmas classic, but this cake is definitely a hit during the festive season. Love cake is believed to have been introduced by the Portuguese or Dutch, but has evolved into a confectionery unique to Sri Lanka. Praveeni Alahakoon, the owner of @dulce_lk on Instagram, has given this delight her very own twist.
“It’s my grandmother’s recipe, and it’s been in the family for ages,” she shared. “We use the same ingredients that go into love cake, like cashew nuts, pumpkin preserve, and semolina spices, but the ratios are different. When compared with other love cakes I’ve tried, this is much richer. In every bite, you get a mouthful of cashew nuts and the cake is not too sweet.”
Alahakoon also mentioned how the pandemic affected her business. “I had limited access to ingredients, and arranging delivery was a problem, since we lacked services that deliver food. So it had a major impact on the business.” She elaborated: “Whoever has tried my baking always comes back for more. It’s made with a lot of love! My grandmother is the one who taught me to bake when I was 13 years old, and since then, I have been baking.”
It’s not a Christmas meal if there’s no breudher on the table! It’s said to have originated from traditional Dutch breakfast cakes and breads.
Ashmita Wijesinghe, who goes by @little.miss.shortcake on Instagram, does the traditional Sri Lankan delicacy right. “It’s something interesting yet challenging, yet i’ve got a hold of it.”
She explained that she began “little miss shortcake” during the season a few years ago, and has continued with her calling, which is baking. “I have specialised in pastry and bakery, and I have a Patisserie Diploma from Prima. I’ve attended a few pop-ups too and I’ve been blessed enough to have interned at some well-reputed hotels.”
She talked about how the pandemic affected her. “This pandemic opened a door with the first lockdown, since I was one of the first bakers to arrange delivery. I had quite a few orders going on with the support of a good delivery system; some of them also helped me get the supplies that I needed, so it was efficient and interesting.”
However, the second lockdown saw things turn out differently, as she explained: “Things were kind of slow. More people were affected, but I’m going strong; these days are quite busy, so I’m getting ready and getting busy, staying in line with the Covid protocols.”
She shared an easy recipe that those of us celebrating Christmas at home can indulge in. “It’s the season of giving and love and joy. A very traditional goodie to bake at home would be cookies. A sugar cookie simply consists of butter, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and a little bit of almond or cashew powder. You can cut them out in any shape you like and have fun with the icing. The icing is super easy to make, all you need is butter and sugar; whip it up, and add whatever colour you want. With the limited resources available these days, you can make something small, celebrate, and be happy.”
Remember the days when we used to leave out a plate of cookies and milk for Santa? Well, that’s not exactly where the tradition of Christmas cookies began. Cookies were seen as an affordable gift, dating back to the medieval ages where only the rich could afford to feast on the richer Christmas puddings. @theconfectionery.srilanka, a homegrown business that is run by two sisters, Chamindie and Sandali, make packs of the cutest sugar cookies out there!
Every cookie is painstakingly decorated with fine details to represent every element of Christmas. They spoke about what makes their cookies the best in town. “What makes our goodies unique and special is that all the goodies are baked fresh the night before.”
They also mentioned that they do undertake customised orders, so head on over and satisfy your cookie cravings now!