I'm on dessert duty this Christmas.
Rather than schlepping back to Adelaide I, where I have to endure the ignominy of my maiden aunt status and generally not do very much at my mother's place for a day or so, I get to have a less stressed Christmas here in Melbourne.
The decision not to go back to Adelaide was made as soon as I found out my sister was moving house on the 21st of December. Moving house is stressful. I love my sister but I would rather not be around her when she moves house. I'd rather not be around most people when they move house.
Besides, I'm working on Christmas Eve. Makes getting back to Adelaide hard.
No, this year I'm staying in Melbourne and having a lovely Christmas with Barney, Blarney, Chance, Lance, the Maow Maow. Glen Waverley, Merijn, seven other Christmas orphans from various parts of the globe will be there for lunch and a handful of Samoans are coming over for seconds lunch mid-afternoon.
Blarney is worried that there will be enought food. Is there ever enough food when you have Samoans in the equation?
And in all of the Christmas planning, I've got dessert duties. I also have vegetable peeling duties, help Barney put up the trampoline duties, placate the Maow Maow duties, bath the boys, read them a story about trains and put them to bed duties too. I'll probably stay at Blarney's overnight so that I can get up and watch the boys open their presents - which is what Christmas is about. Christmas is a bit more palatable when there are young children around. Oh, and I might have to help slaughter a cow to feed the Samoans, but that is under discussion.
I'll have to wait for my present to come when Glen Waverley and Merijn turn up late morning - I purchased a new laptop a few weeks ago, gift wrapped it and gave it to Glen Waverley for the occasion. It's nice knowing that I have a present to unwrap on Christmas Day. Makes a change from the card and book vouchers that I normally receive from my Mum and sister (not that I'm being ungrateful, I just like receiving presents that you unwrap - because I'm a big kid)
Anyway, staying here and being on it means over the next few days I have desserts to make.
Which means a hot dessert and a cold dessert.
Unwilling to make a full on Christmas Pudding I'm going another route.
Firstly a spiced bread and butter pudding - made from fruit bread, brandy soaked raisins and infused custard. That sounds sort of Christmassy. Which I know that Glen Waverley likes my bread and butter pudding. He's asked me to make it.
The second dessert I'm doing is a bit of a Behr family tradition.
My favourite aunt passed away last year. She wasn't my real aunt but my mother's best friend and we were close. A lovely lady, she had a birthday on Christmas Day. This meant getting her two presents to give to her on the day. One was always to be a Christmas present, the other, wrapped appropriately, was a birthday present.
Also, for her birthday, Mum always made her a cassata. Being a summer baby, an ice cream cake was the perfect birthday cake. This is a recipe that hails from the Woman's Weekly Dinner Party Cook Book from the late seventies.
Cassata has over the years has been the source of many family arguments - mainly over who gets the last slice and which bugger ate more of it for a midnight snack.
I made this a couple of years ago for Christmas, taking it around to Blarney's for the family do and another for dessert for our evening meal at another orphan's Christmas do I had that evening. There were fights over the cassata then too.
So what is this mythical cassata.
I think half the mystique about it is the fact that it takes DAYS to make. Well, there is a bit of extended prep around the whole thing.
Last night I spent an hour peeling and halving almonds - about a cup and a half of the buggers. They will be toasted tonight - the good looking ones reserved for the top, the not so perfect ones will be made into almond toffee.
The glace cherries and sultanas were covered in brandy and soaked overnight.
This morning I whipped up a coronary's worth of cream until it was lightly aerated. Please note the hand beater. This used to belong to my grandmother. I inherited some of her kitchen utensils and it's always a joy to use them. I don't cook for people enough - its something I love doing. It's been my job to whip the cream at family events since I was about six-years-old.
The cherry, sultana, brandy and cream mix is the placed in a lined spring-form pan and put in the freezer.
There are two more layers to the cassata. That will be blogged over the coming days.
It's quite fun to do my best Nigella Lawson imitation. Then again, I have the rack and the off-colour sense of humour to do a decent Nigella impression.
Regardless, by some miracle, I'm finding myself in something that looks like the Christmas spirit.
Now all we have to do is survive today's Zombie Apocalypse resulting from the end of the Mayan Calendar and life will be perfect.
Happy Litha. (Summer Solstice)