First things first. Yes this is a Christmas throwback and yes, I realise we are now well into January, but everyone loves a bit of Christmas any time of the year, don’t they? If you disagree, I do apologise for what is about to follow, but only a little bit. If there is ever a time for a bit of over indulgence and not worrying about it (we shouldn’t worry about it anyway), Christmas is very much that time! Oversized tins encasing tiny versions of our favourite chocolates, family sized bags of snacks for the ongoing daily nibbles, endless variations of mince pies, amongst other pastry adorned delights, to name just a few. Just for the record and in preparation for the festivities of 2022, I will happily eat up anyone’s leftover Bounty chocolates; I am THAT person.
As well as treating ourselves throughout the festive flurry, giving to others in any form is all part of the fun and indulgence; thoughtful gifts, sending cards, text messages or throwing a smile at a stranger, there is just something about it. And this year (well, last year), I was the surprised recipient of a homemade, bake filled Christmas Eve Box from the wonderfully local Charlotte at Bay View Bakehouse. Social media, particularly Instagram, still surprises me sometimes with how it connects you to other individuals thousands of miles away and even to those literally up the road; Bay View Road to be precise. Even more, it reconnects you to others you may not have seen for a while; Charlotte to be precise. Flashback a couple years and I am shouting into my head mic at my HIIT class participants to keep working hard and think about cake (obviously), of which one of the regulars was Charlotte. Flash it forwards to three days before Christmas Day 2020, or Christmas Eve Eve thanks to Phoebe from Friends, I was picking up the kind gift of a Bay View Bakehouse Christmas Eve Box from Charlotte. I obviously didn’t work her hard enough if she was willing to give me free cake! From burpees to brownies, it was a brilliantly sweet start to the festive period. Even more surprising to you all, and also myself, the sumptuous treats inside the box did last longer than Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Eve Box
A wet and windy pick up from Charlotte’s Bay View Bakehouse made arriving home to open up the Christmas Eve Box and reveal the secrets inside even more exciting. What is more comforting on a damp winter evening than a mouthful of freshly made bakes? Not a lot in my opinion, other than washing down the rich squares (and circles) with a large glass of strawberry gin and diet lemonade. Add to that my sofa and a fluffy blanket and you pretty much know me in a nutshell. Easily pleased. Just for the record, part two, Beefeater strawberry gin is my favourite.
Other than sugar filled delights, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I opened the cardboard bake box. Lifting the lid, which had a rustic beige and very cute handmade with love sticker upon it, my eyes were sparked by the vibrant, Christmas tree green tissue paper that was hiding what lay beneath. Spying dark squares of potential brownies, golden wrapped circles and multi-coloured objects of all shapes and sizes, I knew this was really going to be a treat box to rival all treat boxes. Secured by the second hand made with love sticker, the eye catching tissue paper was gently peeled to each side to reveal a treasure chest of foodie gold (and purple, red, orange, white and pink): four brownie squares each topped with a different festive chocolate favourite; bite sized chunks of feathered effect decorated tiffin; white chocolate chunk and pecan flavoured cookies; mini marshmallows, chocolate coins and Cadbury’s chocolates. Obligatory photos out of the way, I went straight in and did not want to stop. At all.
Taking in the sea of colours clashing against the festive green tissue and the overwhelming smell of rich cocoa, the brownies were always going to be the curtain opener to this Christmas panto. *Oh no they wasn’t!*. Oh yes, they were. Between the fingers, the brownies had the softness and squidge (for want of a better word) we all aspire our brownies to possess and a crust to envy. Between the teeth, the soft and slightly gooey texture was confirmed. The crackling crusts, gently flaking away, were each topped with one of the nation’s most loved Christmas-esque chocolate chunks which added a hard crunch as well as festive cheer. The ever famous chocolate orange segment from a guy named Terry gave a warming hit of citrus to brownie number one. The upper class appearing hazelnut ball of Ferrero Rocher provided a winning chocolate and nut combination that I am all for, with my ongoing obsession with nuts and nut butter, to brownie number two. Santa’s favourite milk chocolate reindeer sunk its way into the gooey middle of brownie number three adding a sweeter chocolate taste. The topping upon brownie number four was my particular favourite. Adorned with the most underrated triangular chocolate, Toblerone, the white chocolate and almond nougat pieces had pops of texture whilst the milk chocolate melted away, making it the sweetest of the brownie selection.
With all the flavour of deeply rich cocoa and the softness of Santa’s beard, each brownie melted in the mouth. Each brownie was truly divine and individualised and were the best way to start Christmas Eve Eve, as well as any other occasion, like a Thursday evening, for example.
I don’t know why, but tiffin always makes me think of real old school baking, like the treat of a sweet biscuit piece born hundreds of years ago, when it most probably wasn’t! Whenever this genius concoction of chocolate and biscuits was revealed to the world, I am truly grateful, particularly as Charlotte included a number of pieces of her own homemade tiffin in the Christmas Eve Box. Much like my relationship with pancakes, tiffin is one of those foods I rarely think of having, but when I do, I always comment on how I should include this in my life more often. Such a comment left my mouth once more after the gnawing of a delicious piece or two (possibly three), of Charlotte’s homemade tiffin had sadly come to an end. The memories of that tiffin, however, are ongoing.
Beautifully decorated with delicate white chocolate feathering, each piece of the seriously inviting tiffin flew straight into my mouth; I think one piece did navigate itself into Rob’s, but I cannot be sure. Underneath the intricate white feathering lay two thick layers of contrasting colours and textures. A silky smooth milk chocolate ganache made the white feathering pop with elegance and with a slight softness, my sweet tooth effortlessly made its way through to the darkness beneath. Speckled with golden pieces of the well known tea dunking biscuit, the bulk of the tiffin was made up of this sweet, moist and slightly crumbly dark layer. Bursting with bitter chocolate, cocoa and, I imagine, luxurious syrup, the crushed biscuits crumbled with each bite, whilst the larger, golden nuggets held their own before being coarsely bitten down. Intertwined with the sea of smooth, slightly sweeter ganache, each mouthful was a delicious voyage through a chocolate ocean. I would happily captain that ship.
Surviving the voyage through the vast chocolate ocean of glorious brownies and tiffin, I metaphorically dropped anchor across the pond in the U.S of A at a dock filled with enticing cookies. Pale in colour, the circular morsels were soft, chewy and just down right delicious. Evenly spread throughout the mountainous and cracked surface, pecan pieces added their signature hint of nutty, caramel flavour along with a subtle crunch. Nesting themselves next to nuggets of creamy white chocolate, the array of cookies were most definitely the sweetest of the treat box and would most certainly fuel my voyage back to North Devon just on sugar alone!
With my blood sugar levels thoroughly spiked, the smile on my face was maintained for days as I joyfully made my way through this amazing Christmas Eve Bake Box. The addition of mini marshmallows and Cadbury’s chocolates on top of all the amazing bakes, made this gift feel even more special than it already was. The effort to make it special went beyond the brownies, tiffin and cookies, which I am sure all those who received one felt, as well as myself, and possibly even Rob with the few pieces I did kindly offer him.
Thank you Charlotte for this deliciously sweet Christmas gift! Although, I am not sure how many burpees it would equate to, it would definitely not stop me from ordering her array of bakes again at any time of the year.