This is a guest post by the lovely and talented Daisy Banks!
Thank you, Sotia, for your kind offer to help me celebrate the release of my new book Christmas Carols, published by Liquid Silver Books on the 10th of August.
I know readers might think it a little odd to be thinking about Christmas in August but in Victorian England, where my story is set, people were used to starting their Christmas preparations early.
One traditional decoration which could be made in advance was gingerbread. This has been popular in England since the middle ages. Exquisite carved moulds for gingerbread were made in that era many of them religious. The gingerbread was pressed into the mould and then the design was eased out and baked. Many of these pieces were not meant for consumption but only decoration. They were decorated with paints and some were gilded.
A little later in time edible gold leaf was added to gingerbread meant for eating. Decoration was no longer paint but icing. It is said Queen Elizabeth I served her guests gingerbread men. I am sure there were some amusing comments of off with his head from her guests.
Gingerbread meant for consumption can be stored plain for up to a month as long as it’s kept in an airtight container. You can then decorate at you leisure for the big day.
Here is a recipe you might like to try.
75g light brown soft sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cloves
finely grated zest of ½ orange
95g butter block cut up into lumps
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g plain flour, plus a little more if you need it.
Put the sugar, syrup, treacle, water, spices and zest together in a large saucepan.
Bring to boiling point, stirring all the time. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and bicarbonate of soda.
Stir in the flour gradually until you have a smooth manageable dough – add a little more flour if you think it needs it.
Leave the dough covered in a cool place to become firm.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
While the oven heats roll your dough out to 3mm thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out gingerbread men or shapes.
Arrange them on the baking sheets and bake near the centre of the oven, one sheet at a time, for 10–15 minutes until the biscuits feel firm when lightly pressed with a fingertip.
Leave them to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container.
Gingerbread or ginger biscuits were often served with tea in Victorian England. In Christmas Carols Stephen and Alice take tea together more than once. Enjoy this little excerpt from the story.
The vicar informed me Mr. Broadbrace died from injuries sustained in battle. If so, your late husband was a brave man who gave his life for his country. Yes?”
She swallowed hard and whispered, “Yes.”
“Then he’d not have relished a cowardly wife.”
“Hear me out, madam.”
“No, I’ll not allow you to insult me further.”
He rose, turned and stepped forward, closer, all the time grasping the back of the pew. “I do not wish to insult you. I think you should find your courage. Life is a short affair and you will live it bitterly if you do not. Would being part of the choir so distress your sensibilities? Why not try just until the Christmas season is over?”
Thankful he’d not see her expression, she gaped.
“Well? There are six weeks until Christmas. The choir will sing during the Advent services, during the service on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. You could be part of the community’s preparations for the birth of the Christ child. What do you think of making the attempt?”
She couldn’t articulate all the reasons why she believed to do as he asked would flout propriety and scandalize people. “What would everyone say?”
“Ah, now I understand. Let me ask you, would you like a cup of tea?”
“Yes, we will stroll to Mrs. Brown’s tea rooms and have tea. We can talk there. It’s too cold in here today.”
The instant reaction to refuse somehow got lost and she said, “Very well, Mr. Grafton.” She picked up her scarf and gloves.
Stephen Grafton, the blind organist at Holy Trinity Church, is gaining a reputation for his fine playing and compositions. Alice Broadbrace’s initial venture back into society after years in deep mourning brings her to the notice of the talented organist, and he offers her the opportunity to sing a solo carol to his accompaniment. His courage convinces her to find her own, while her charm entices him into thoughts of romance. A difficult walk in a snow storm is only the beginning of Stephen and Alice’s journey to happiness. Enjoy this sweet Victorian tale of talent and love blossoming.
Thanks for reading
Find Daisy Banks here
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/1NWh8gi
Daisy Banks is the author of
Soon to be available with Liquid Silver Books Serving the Serpent
Marked for Magic
A Perfect Match
A Gentleman’s Folly
Your Heart My Soul
A Matter of Some Scandal
Daisy’s books are available here
Daisy Banks writes a regular monthly story in the Sexy to Go compilations.