Christmas is all about the… baking!

Christmas is all about the… baking

It’s December. Hurrah! And while I’m super excited that it’s now officially the most wonderful time of the year (Andy Williams says so, so it must be a fact), in my book, the season of goodwill and cheer is mostly about baking. Whether it’s Christmas cake with a touch of orange blossom in it, a gingerbread house that looks more scruffy than Scandi, a clementine yule log covered in ganache (cracks – what cracks?!) or a boozy pudding, if I’m not wrapping presents or writing my latest book, I’m baking in the kitchen, with my boys bubbling around me, vying to be first to lick the bowl or the beaters.

Given my passion for the science, alchemy and precision of baking – not to mention the sweet reward at the end of it –  I had to make Maya, my heroine in my debut novel The Note, a baker too. She’s a woman who – like I was – is nervous about following her heart, having fallen in love with a stranger on her daily commute. But her pursuit of “Train Man” – with his head stuck in a book and unaware of Maya – runs parallel to her pursuit of the perfect macaron. So while I was writing about Maya, I was also going on a baking odyssey of my own – learning the art of “macaronage”. Which is a thing, apparently.

I took courses. One was in a woman’s tiny north London kitchen on the hottest day of the year (needless to say my shells cracked); another was at Waitrose Cookery School (my French friend Sophie, who came with me, was horrified that we were taught the Italian meringue method over the French – but it worked). I even went on a thinly veiled “research” trip to Paris. I booked my husband – the original Train Man – a trip to the finale of the Tour De France, but really it was so I could do some sampling. Turns out Paris is the holy grail of macarons, with Ladurée and Pierre Hermé selling pastel perfection on (almost) every corner. Even McDonald’s sells macarons in Paris, and they’re pretty good too.

With some perseverance and a lot of practice, I finally learned the art of making macarons – and used this experience to help me write Maya’s journey. So while she’s pining for a man she doesn’t know, she’s baking into the small hours, making presents for friends and doing thoughtful deeds as she does, in the hope that she one day gets the courage to finally give Train Man a note asking him out for a drink.

This Christmas, I’m going back to my inner Maya and getting my KitchenAid out again. Pistachio and rose macarons make pretty homemade gifts tied in a stack inside some cellophane and ribbon; red velvet shells look stunning on a smooth white Christmas cake; keep them colour free and you can even make macaron snowmen. And if you haven’t yet read The Note, then they’re the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and Maya and James’ story. I do hope you enjoy it – and if you ever want my trusted recipe, you can find me @zolington on Twitter.

Have a very merry Christmas.