20/ The Art of Christmas With Alex Hely-Hutchinson
For our fourth editions of “The Art of Christmas”, we are delighted to welcome Alex Hely-Hutchinson, founder of culinary hotspots 26 Grains in Neal's Yard and Stoney Street, who gives us an insight into her Christmas rituals, from childhood to now, and her tips on how to make this festive season special, despite everything that's been going on in the world.
Here, the pioneer and literal tastemaker shares her mouth-watering recipe for Spiced Apple Donuts, perfect as a warming gift to a loved one or as a fun baking session with your family, they are a lovely way to bring people together.
Christmas in a house with 5 babies under 10 years old meant my parents had no hope of a peaceful, simple Christmas, instead it was pure chaos. We exhausted the walks, Christmas tree decorating and the attempts at home baking. So instead my parents decided to assign us each a role in the nativity play; to practice and develop the characters, set ideas, props and costumes.
It was taken very seriously, wise men would also play the part of shepherds, the youngest always a little sheep or baby Jesus. Songs were rehearsed, lines learnt and for the days leading up to Christmas eve we were busy pulling together a production we believed that would trump all others. Of course, as you can imagine, lines were forgotten, promises of who was the angel vs who was the star led to confusion and arguments, but nevertheless it has been something we've always treasured growing up, even if it was relatively short lived once Mary had her braces put one and started wearing training bras.
Beyond that, our Christmas traditions have developed randomly from the fondu we cook on Christmas eve, to the way we make our bread sauce with porridge oats after having used all bread crumbs in the stuffing one year. The table is always over decorated, starting with a few festive napkins and ending up brighter than the Christmas tree.
We won't all be together this year because of travel restrictions so things will be slightly different, but as of next year we'll have new cast members for the nativity roles arriving so we can start planning for the years to come. Happy Christmas everyone!
ALEX'S SPICED APPLE DONUTS
140g unsalted butter, room temperature 165g light brown sugar 50g caster sugar 2 large eggs, room temperature 1tsp vanilla extract 120ml apple juice 225g plain flour 1.5 tsp baking powder Good pinch of salt 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp cardamom 1/2 tspn ground cloves ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
To finish 100 g caster sugar 85g butter, melted 1 tsp cinnamon
I love these light little spiced apple pillows. No fryer needed, half donut, half muffin, something I've made for my team, for nieces nephews and friends alike and they always disappear very quickly.
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/160 fan. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin with a little oil. Start by creaming your butter and sugar together in a mixer for 3 minutes until a little paler. Then add your eggs, one at a time, then your vanilla extract and mix on a low speed until fully combined. With the mixer still on, slowly add the apple juice.
2. Now mix the rest of your dry mix together in a medium bowl; flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg.
3. Combine the two mixes, with the mixer on and adding the dry mix tablespoon by tablespoon. When completely smooth, spoon two tbsp of batter into each cup of the muffin dish, being careful not to overfill them.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and the skewer comes out clean.
5. To finish, melt your butter and keep in a bowl. Mix together the rest of the caster sugar and cinnamon. Once the donuts have cooled, cover them in butter, roll in the cinnamon sugar and pile up on a serving plate to enjoy.