Snow may not quite be falling all around, but in his regular blog, Gerhard Jenne discusses the importance of getting the season’s most interesting Christmas treats right.
Last issue’s blog on apprenticeships resonated with lots of people. One of our managers remarked that a lot of his ex-university colleagues ended up in meaningless, low-paid jobs that will add nothing to their CV. Most of them would much rather have gone on an apprenticeship scheme to earn them an additional, proper qualification.
Our bank manager at Barclays picked up on it too. Barclays is working on a scheme to promote apprenticeships as part of its Citizenship/Barclays Bridges Into Work program, helping more SMEs to create apprenticeship schemes. I’m hoping 2014 will be good for apprenticeships.
Meanwhile, I had the great fortune of demonstrating and talking about gingerbread houses on Sunday Brunch (C4) with Tim Lovejoy and comedian Greg Davies. Now, here was a man who clearly had never held a piping bag in his hand all his life. If you want to see a few comic moments, there is still time to catch it on Channel 4OD.
Normally I wouldn’t harp on about matters German, for I have been here for 30 years and don’t feel particularly patriotic. I know more English football players’ names than German! However, this magical time of the year is something the Germans do manage to celebrate in style and have been able to export all over the world, including Britain.
It all started with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Their marriage brought the Christmas tree tradition to the these shores, and gingerbread houses may also stem from Germany. The most famous of abodes featured in Brothers Grimm’s fairytale Hansel and Gretel and, I speculate, was brought to life by a creative baker as some culinary entertainment for his brood. Nearly 200 years on, they are more popular than ever.
Christmas markets are another export from the Heimatland. From Manchester to the South Bank, via Cologne, they are thriving, serving waffles, mulled wine, gingerbread and what should be X-rated sausages.
Having a stall or supplying a market is a good extra source of income for us bakers. If you want to catch the real thing for some inspiration, go to Nuremberg, or hop on the train to Strasbourg where they celebrate Europe’s largest.
Even at Konditor & Cook we are at our most German at this time of the year. The shops are brimming with Stollen, the yeast-leavened Christmas bread/cake that is meant to resemble Jesus in his swaddling clothes. It needs to be quite soft to appeal to the British taste buds.
Furthermore, we have almond-y Cinnamon Stars, a wheat-free Christmas treat and therefore hugely popular. Kipferl cookies and chocolate and sugar-coated Lebkuchen, a soft gingerbread as opposed to the hard one used for making houses, are also selling like hot cakes.
While these Teutonic treats are gaining popularity over here, mince pies with their ‘sour’ tasting filling will not redress the balance of trade I’m afraid to say, Mr Osborne. That might just have to come down to Messrs Olly, Robbie and One Direction for this Christmas.