In a series of blogs on Homemade with Fairtrade, the finalist in the first series of the nation’s favourite Great British Bake Off, Miranda Gore Browne, reveals what she’s baking this Christmas and why she took part in the show five years ago.
When do you start preparing for Christmas?
My Christmas preparation has got earlier and earlier, as I am often involved in Christmas baking projects at the end of the Summer. I try to make double batches of any Christmassy recipes I am making so I have plenty of supplies for Christmas! I always love to make a Christmas pudding on Stir Up Sunday as that is something we always did when I was little and I love sharing the same traditions with my children. I love the process of thinking about how many Christmas cakes I need to make and having the kitchen full of a Christmassy baking fug in November as they bake for hours and the pudding steams! Although I never worry if I am making a Christmas cake a few days before Christmas - it will still taste delicious even if the fruit has only soaked for a few hours.
Your favourite kitchen kit?
I love my AGA, because I can have so many Christmassy things baking / steaming or cooking at once. My Kenwood mixer gets lots of use, as I love to be able to quickly whizz up a big batch of meringues, if I have a spare half an hour in the evening, or to help me make all my Christmas cakes and biscuits. I couldn't manage without my timer, as I am always really busy and very bad at remembering how long things have been in the oven and have been known to completely forget things I have spent ages making!
What are you baking this Christmas?
My favourite Christmas cake is one my mother always made when we were little and I love the fact that the recipe is now in my book, "Bake me a cake as fast as you can." I always make lots, as I like to give one to my parents and one to my mother in law but I also often make for the children's teachers and for the school fair! I have a scrummy recipe for a Figgy Christmas pudding with a gorgeous sticky chocolate sauce that I have tweaked over the years and is now always on the table at Christmas in our house.
We always have meringues with Chocolate sauce on Christmas day and often profiteroles too (a tradition started by my brother when we were younger and he was never keen on Christmas pudding). I have a big jar of homemade Fig and Parmesan biscotti that is great to have for nibbles, canapés or with soup. My daughter makes a gingerbread nativity and loves decorating it and setting it up on Christmas Eve in our hallway. We also make lots of biscuits to hang on the tree, to decorate Christmas wreaths and to give as presents. I’m mad about biscuits and love revisiting all the recipes in my book, "BISCUIT", and making lots of them at Christmas – they make great presents and look so pretty in little boxes or bags tied with ribbon.
Why do you support Fairtrade and the Homemade with Fairtrade campaign?
My parents always tried to buy things Fairtrade and I can remember them explaining about Fairtrade coffee and bananas, and why buying them can make such a difference. I always try to buy Fairtrade whenever I can. I was thrilled when Squires Kitchen launched Fairtrade sugar paste, as this prompted me to ask myself how much of my baking larder I could swop to Fairtrade.
Homemade with Fairtrade came from this desire to make a huge difference just by doing something as simple as swopping a few ingredients in your kitchen. Baking for me is all about provenance, creating memories, bringing people together and making life better with something homemade. I felt very strongly that this was a great way to make even more lives better.
GBBO’s host Mary Berry named you 'The iced biscuit queen', what inspired you to take part in GBBO?
I have always loved baking and all things foodie. When I saw the advert for GBBO, I thought the show sounded a great idea and that it might be a fun thing to do. I had no idea I would make it to the Final or have the amazing opportunity to do what I love every day and share it with others. Mary was wonderful! It’s such an honour to be praised by her and to have her say that about me.
Going back to Christmas, what is your favourite thing to do as a family in preparation for the festive season?
We have a beautiful Village nativity pageant and for me this is the start of Christmas. The children all dress up and we walk in the dark through our village and arrived at a candlelit church. My daughter always likes to get her gingerbread nativity ready and usually decorates it the morning before this special tradition.
And finally, what’s on your Christmas wish list?
My father was very ill earlier in the year so to have as much of the family together with him this Christmas, and for him to enjoy it with us all and see his grandchildren together, will be my biggest wish.