Annabel Langbein: Christmas gifts homemade with love (+ recipes)
As I write this, I am in Paris. It's not quite snowing but out on the street everyone is rugged up to the nines, and all the Christmas decorations are jangling in the wind. They look so glittery and bright against the dull, flat light of late autumn.
The big department stores have their special Christmas windows up, vying for attention with their displays and creating a wonderful sense of anticipation around the year's biggest celebration.
This year the glossy department store Le Bon Marche has a big window with a dancing puppet show, and the puppets are wearing special Christmas jerseys that you can buy inside (full-size) and see being made. It's so extravagant and fun, and while I know it's based around getting us all to buy stuff, in that way of traditions, it warms the heart.
The Northern Hemisphere does Christmas so well, and I'm sure it's all because of the weather. For us sweating in the heat of summer down at the other end of the Earth, it all feels wrong, this idea of heavy food and fires and being indoors. I find I need to get into the kitchen and start baking some traditional treats before I actually feel like it's Christmas.
When I smell the spice of the Christmas cake mixture I'm back in my nan's kitchen, watching her mix up a giant cake batter with her hands. Getting to lick the bowl afterwards cemented that particular taste in my mind as being Christmas.
When our kids were little we often had Swedish au pairs living with us, and they would always prepare their favourite Swedish treats at Christmas – yummy chocolate balls, delicious cookies and incredible gingerbread houses. I know they did this not just to share with us, but as a way of bringing a sense of Christmas to life where it was hot and sunny and all so different.
Every year in mid-December I dust off my mother's wonderful old recipe file and put her special Christmas recipes through their paces. Having the cupboards stocked ready and waiting with homemade treats makes me feel like I'm at least a little bit organised in the run-up to Christmas. If friends call in, I can pop some Christmas baking into a little cellophane bag with a ribbon and send them home with a happy Christmas wish.
My first item of Christmas baking each year is usually a double batch of my mother's famous fig and ginger kisses. I love the fact that my kids now consider these a special Christmas treat to look forward to. Get the recipe
The addition of rolled oats gives these chocolate bites a delicious chewiness. Get the recipe
These little biscuits are lovely served with a glass of bubbly as you open your presents on Christmas morning, or after lunch with coffee. Get the recipe
Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) is a beautiful compendium of Annabel’s best-ever savoury recipes and cooking tips. It makes a great Christmas gift and it’s on sale now at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores. Find out more at annabel-langbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.