When I was little and the first of December rolled its way around to the front of the calendar I would feel a light fizzing begin in my chest. With each passing day of Advent the fizzing would grow larger and louder, until on Christmas Eve I would be as effervescent as a bottle of champagne. I didn’t really know what that fizzing meant as a little kid.
As I grew up I realised that the fizzing was the spirit of the season: the joy of Christmas time, the thought of spending time with my family, playing out in the sunshine every day, helping to decorate the Christmas tree and the rest of our home, watching friend’s and family’s faces as they gather round to open presents, and baking Christmas treats. The Christmas Spirit meant that a bubble existed around my own little world just for a few weeks, where nothing bad could happen, and everyone’s hearts were a little more open to the plight of others.
Now I am grown and the spirit of the season is sometimes harder to capture. The last few weeks of the year can pass in a flurry of end-of-year deadlines, parties, and the constant barrage by the media counting down the shopping days left until Christmas.
This is why it is important to be present in the moment this season. It takes extra and effort and patience to be exactly where you are without worrying about the million other shiny distracting baubles on offer. For me, this is particularly important when I get to spend time with my friends and family. This is where I feel the spirit of the season the most.
Recently my friends and I gathered at Casey’s house to celebrate the season with games on the grass, tacky Christmas t-shirts, cheap Secret Santa presents, and plenty of good food and wine.
I brought a summery salad and these Spirit of the Season Blondies. My friend Melissa took one bite and declared ‘they taste just like Christmas’. What a beautiful compliment, thanks Melissa.
The flavour of Christmas is captured in blondie form with the combination of Frangelico, spices, white chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. They make excellent gifts and will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator – if they last that long!
Spirit of the Season Blondies (gluten free)
Makes one 9 x 12 inch pan of blondies. If you do not require these to be gluten free you can replace the buckwheat flour, hazelnut meal and brown rice flour with a total amount of 385 grams (2 ¾ cups) plain flour. If you or your family do not consume alcohol you can simply leave out the Frangelico.
- 200 grams buckwheat flour
- 100 grams hazelnut meal
- 85 grams brown rice flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 200 grams butter, softened
- 1 cup (lightly packed) brown sugar
- ½ cup caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
- 1/3 cup golden syrup
- 200 grams white chocolate chips
- 100 grams shelled hazelnuts
- Preheat your oven to 160C (320F) and line a 9 x 12 inch baking pan with baking paper.
- Spread hazelnuts over a baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for 5-7 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely and then roughly chop. Set aside until needed.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the buckwheat flour, hazelnut meal, brown rice flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger until completely mixed and no lumps remain.
- In a large bowl beat together butter and both sugars with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time and scrape down bowl between additions.
- Measure in vanilla, Frangelico, and golden syrup and beat until well combined.
- On a low speed beat in flour and spice mixture.
- Stir in white chocolate and chopped hazelnuts with a wooden spoon.
- Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan and place in the oven.
- Bake for 30- 40 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Once cooked remove from oven and allow to cool completely before chopping into squares.
- Serve to friends and enjoy.
Tell me, dear reader, how does the spirit of Christmas feel to you? How do you stay present at this time of year?