Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
Does the city smell differently in December? I strongly believe in this. As the calendar hits December, it is a long patient wait till Christmas. Everyday feels like Christmas. Madhushree believed in Santa for a long time and she used to write letters to Santa till Class VI. As we look back now on this, we have a hearty laugh but wish that our 4 year old son should believe in the same for as long as he can. After all, there is a certain charm and innocence about believing in some myths for at least sometime in your life.
Coming back to the city – yes, Kolkata smells and starts looking different during this season. Be it St. Paul’s Cathedral or Park Street, which have been synonymous with Christmas celebrations; Bow Barracks, where the last few Anglo Indian community members reside, Old and New China Town and many more places get decked up in Red and White and other colours too. It Christmas. Now since the Park Street Carnival has started for the last few years on the foot path opposite to Allen Park, Park Street gets a new look altogether. It is celebrations for the last few days of the year.
Read more about christmas celebrations in Kolkata here in our latest write up for Eazydiner
My childhood and growing up years have been around two cities which is famous for two very popular churches in West Bengal. The infancy being spent in Bandel meant I was dropping in to Bandel Church as and when someone or other expressed their wish to visit the same, taking almost all relatives and guests at home for a Bandel Church tour, the place where people used to light the candles, the water body in front of the small cave in the main courtyard of the church by the side of the prayer houses where we used to throw coins for wishes; all are etched in memories. Bandel Church has a long history and an interesting one too which deserves a separate blogpost. This church was built by the Portuguese as a part of their settlement in the year 1599 and that makes this church the oldest christian church in West Bengal. For me, Christmas was special in Bandel and for a lot of people, it still is one of the most coveted places in West Bengal to visit in Christmas after Kolkata.
Chandannagore has been a witness of my school, college, friends, heartbreaks and many more. No, I never had a guardian call from school, never had a nasty bloody fight on streets or on playgrounds, never climbed a wall to see my girlfriend (if that term can be loosely used) , so don’t form your opinions. Chandannagore also has a church. The only city which was under French rule even after India’s Independence, Chandannagore has Sacred Heart Church which was inaugurated in 1884. Christmas eve mass and the ringing of the bells of the church at midnight have been one of the most integral part of growing up. Situated on the famous Strand Road – the gorgeously preserved stretch of Ganga, the ambiance is perhaps the best in West Bengal.
I had stopped believing in Santa quite early as for me Baba was the biggest Santa who used gift me sports goods and primarily, cricket balls on every new year as a part of Christmas gift. I don’t believe in Santa till now but I will like to believe him if he fulfills my wish. For once just like that little boy in Bandel on the stroke of midnight, I wanna hug my real life Santa – my Baba and wish him Merry Christmas once again.
Both Bandel and Chandannagore has many small time bakeries, perhaps more in Chandanngore for the French influence as they brought along with them variety of breads and also the feathery millefuille pastries.Christmas was a time when all the shops used to be filled with various sizes of cakes. Wrapped in brown cellophane paper and neatly tied with golden ribbons, these cakes were promising and promises which were fulfilled too. Needless to say I miss the person who used to bring this every year for me and my family. My Rangama ( youngest aunt) never missed any christmas to gift us a christmas cake.
Madhushree starts baking on the onset of Christmas and the season starts with this.
Christmas Cake with Almond Paste Frosting
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 2.5 to 3 hours
Ingredients For the Dry Fruit Mix: http://www.pikturenama.com/eggless-rich-fruit-cake-magical-season/
(The link above will take you to a recipe of eggless plum cake and the dry fruit mix is the same as the one mentioned there)
Ingredients for the Cake:
|Flour||275 gms||Butter||275 gms|
|Ground Almond||75 gms||Castor Sugar||275 gms|
|Eggs||5 nos||Orange Zest||1 tsp|
|Cake Spice||1 ½ tsp|
Ingredients for the Almond Paste
|Ground Almond||450 gms||Castor Sugar||450 gms|
|Icing Sugar (for dusting)||1 Cup|
Notes: The cake itself is pretty easy. The tedious task is applying the almond paste which requires extreme patience. However, once done, the result is incredible. This recipe is taken from Rachel Allen, although the ingredients from the dry fruit mix are not the same.
- Have the dry fruit mix ready with you as per the instruction provided in the link above.
- You will need 2 cups of dry fruit mix.
- Since this cake requires a longer baking time, it is mandatory to line the cake tin (23 cm in diameter) with parchment paper on the bottom as well as the sides. I would prefer to double line it.
- Cream the butter and sugar till it becomes light and fluffy.
- Then add the eggs one by one and beat thoroughly using an electric mixer till all the eggs have been incorporated properly and you have a smooth, light and airy batter.
- Add the grated orange zest and ground almond.
- Fold the flour and the cake spice very gently.
- And finally fold in the dry fruit mix along with some leftover brandy from the dry fruits.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and pop it into the oven in the middle rack at 180 degrees for 2 and half hours or more if required.
- Once the cake is done, take it out and let it cool down on a wire rack.
- While the cake is in the oven, prepare the almond paste.
- In one bowl, take the ground almond and sugar and mix properly.
- Make a well in the centre and add the brandy.
- Beat one egg in a smaller bowl and add half of it first. The mixture needs to be brought together and then kneaded to a stiff paste. Add more egg if required. But remember that the almond paste extracts oils and it becomes soft along with the sugar quite easily.
- Once you have a stiff paste and have brought it together in a dough, dust some icing sugar on the kitchen top and knead once more.
- Now divide the mixture into 2 parts.
- By now the cake would have cooled down completely. Remove the parchment papers and place the cake next to the work top.
- Then dust some more icing sugar on the kitchen counter and roll out one portion to a diameter that will cover the top of the cake. The thickness should be about a little less than a cm.
- In a bowl, lightly beat one egg white and 2 egg yolks. This will be used to brush the top of the cake.
- Now brush the top of the cake with the mixture.
- Turn the cake upside down on the almond paste and make sure that the almond paste is stuck to the cake. Cut out the extra from the sides. Carefully turn it back upside. Alternately, you could carefully flip the almond paste on the cake top. Smooth down the edges.
- Now take a thread and measure the circumference of the cake. Roll out some more almond paste the same length as the string. You could also make smaller strips and join them while pasting on the cake.
- Brush the edges of the cake with the egg mixture and then carefully place the almond paste strips on the sides. Smooth all the edges. Cut out any extra so that there are no bulges.
- Place the cake on a baking sheet. Keep the oven preheated at 220 degree C.
- Roll out all the balance almond paste. Take any shape cookie cutter and cut out shapes.
- Brush the top of cake with the almond paste with more egg wash.
- Now decorate your cake with the cut out shapes all over and stick them properly. The eg wash acts as a glue.
- Finally brush the entire cake with the egg wash.
- Place it in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes till the cake has turned a beautiful golden and looks toasty.
- Take it out and cool it down. Once cooled, this cake can be consumed for over a month and it doesn’t lose any taste.