Tasting tales: Sweet knowledge

The month of December is exciting for so many reasons—holidays, family time and, for sugar enthusiasts like me, it stands out above the rest with the baking opportunities it brings. The air is filled with all the baking as well as the parties, because if I go through so much baking, might as well have a few guests over for a party to try all the goodies!

And with Christmas around the corner, the time for guilt-free consumption of all that’s sweet and delicious is here. Join me as I share some festive specials that have come to rule our hearts during celebrations...

Mince pies

For most of their history these pies were made with actual minced meat, mixed with the usual dry and candied fruits and spices. The sugar of the fruit and the spices were great in preserving the meat throughout the winter. These days the perfect mince pies consist of just alcohol-soaked fruits encased in a light and crumbly pastry.

Plum cake

Bakers have always looked for ways to preserve the abundant fruits and nuts through the barren winters. And plum cake is a perfect example of this. Its high content of alcohol and sugared fruits keep it moist and ready to eat for months. Marzipan and icing was a Victorian addition, which was inspired by the 12th night cake that was baked to celebrate the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

Stollen

This German delicacy has been seen turning up on our plates more and more in recent times. It is made like a regular sweet fruit bread. Once baked it is brushed with melted butter and rolled in icing sugar.

Christmas pavlova (pic: thekiwicook.com)

A favourite with the Australians, this baked meringue dessert is made using winter berries and Christmas spices. It is lighter than the other desserts but still leads its way to the same festive flavours.

Kulkuls

These sweet shells are a food preparation that forms a part of the traditional goodies prepared around Goa and Mangalore, but have become very popular in our city as well.

Marzipan

It’s a confection made primarily of sugar and almond meal. It is often made into sweets, commonly used are chocolate covered marzipans and small marzipan imitations of fruits and vegetables. In some countries it is shaped into small animals as a Christmas treat.

Milk cream

These delicious treats melt in the mouth like a dream, made using just milk, sugar and ground cashewnuts. One can test one’s patience as it requires constant stirring, which gives it its white colour. It requires patience and love while making these and I promise, these will be whipped out once you serve them on the table.

Baath/ Batika

A traditional Goan cake made using semolina and coconut, it is topped with a pattern of traditional short crust pastry.

Guava cheese

One of the most famous sweets from Goa, comes steeped in Portuguese history. Made using ripe guavas and sugar and stirring lovingly till it is cooked through. A yummy delicacy.

Coconut cordial tarts

These are cute small tarts made traditionally by the East Indian community of Mumbai. Cordial is like barfi and it is set in small sweet tarts. These are very simple to make and look fabulous to serve.

Yule logs

Also called the ‘buche de noel’, it is a traditional dessert served during Christmas in Europe, made of sponge cake and iced to resemble a Yule log.

(Chef Manish is Founder and Partner, Brownie Point and Noir)