Every year at about this time I give up telling everyone that comes within earshot that it is too early to think about Christmas. Certainly it seems that lots are already doing their online Christmas shopping, much to the annoyance of our couriers! Vanessa suggested that we are a bit like Santa Claus and his elves, but I daren’t suggest that analogy in the office: I certainly don’t want to be likened to a very fat unfeasibly old man and I am not sure anyone else would want to be an elf, so we probably need to leave that alone.

A very common question we receive is to ask if we ship outside the UK. Yes we do! Over 50 countries to date from Colombia to Canada and Bahrain to Bhutan. The drop in the value of the £ has meant lots of new visitors from far-flung places.

International delivery has become cheaper! We have secured much cheaper courier deliveries to many countries including United States, Australia and Malaysia. Some rates have been reduced by over 60% - and delivery is faster too!

So...with a month to go today (or a day under, depending on your heritage), I don’t think I am the only one to do the utmost to avoid the shopping centres decked with Christmas trees that I saw on the August bank holiday as the throngs of people meander aimlessly and getting in my way...A hint of Scrooge? …Probably. Don’t mind the shopping but prefer it if I am sitting down.

After chatting with heritage grain expert John Letts (more of his amazing flour is due next week), I had a thought about the way that grains were milled in bygone times and came across a granite hand mill. I had a sample at home for a week to try out and then sent it over to Vanessa but she won’t give it back! So, I am waiting for the first delivery to arrive, due by this time next week - but we only have a limited number. hey are addictive...enter the room and it is hard to resist giving it a few turns. Freshly ground wholemeal flour is very nutritious so we’ll do a newsletter in the New Year dedicated to the benefits of it.

Don’t miss our next newsletters as they contain superb recipes to make as Christmas gifts – they are easy, delicious, inexpensive - and you can make in advance.

I can’t mention Christmas without reminding you of our classic Pandoro.
We first challenged Vanessa four years ago to come up with a Pandoro recipe that would be achievable and reliable – it is a little more challenging than our usual recipes, but it’s now got a semi-cult status, with people chatting about it on the bread forums, and we get lots of emails and photos every year, saying what a delicious easy and impressive Christmas bread it is. Rich, sweet and fragrant, Pandoro is the most glorious Italian Christmas speciality using a sourdough starter for that authentic, complex flavour. See the recipe and Vanessa’s top tips. All the ingredients used and two Pandoro tins are available in our exclusive kit.

Get stocked up...

We have lots of Christmas ingredients for you so we asked Vanessa to name her favourite can’t-do-without festive ingredients and her suggestions for each one:

Cinnamon | £2.27

Stir a teaspoon into some double cream, with a couple of spoons of sugar to serve on warm mince pies.

Orange Essence | £6.99

Possibly my favourite essence ever. Add ½ a teaspoon into almost anything for an instant utterly sweet Christmas orange hit. My favourite trick is to wipe the inside of a baking tin with a teaspoon of butter with 4 or 5 drops of this orange essence and then dust the with flour before putting my dough in and baking as usual. Oh the aroma is amazing and the bread is not over-powered by orange. A little goes a long way.

Candied Orange Peel | £3.30

Ok, this is a simply wonderful ingredient. It is soft, sweet, and fragrant. You can instantly transform your favourite cake, or bread by stirring a pot of this in. I use one pot per 500g of flour in almost any recipe.

Allspice | £2.27

I love to add this to my Christmas recipes, and I love using it when it is fresh. Throw away last year’s pot and get a fresh one for all the wonderful spicy subtleties that make your mouth water. How to use it? Well I make up a jam jar of
• 120g plain flour.
• 60g caster sugar.
• 60g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces.
• A teaspoon of allspice
I use it on top of muffins, and cakes to add instant texture and flavour. I also make spare and keep it in the fridge. It will stay in date as long as the date on your butter.

Fresh Yeast | £1

I love using the real thing at Christmas. There is something really nostalgic about dissolving some in some warm water with a teaspoon of sugar to make a simple loaf with. When all the Christmas craziness is on, I often find myself in the kitchen gently kneading some bread, enjoying a moment of peace and quiet.

Chestnut Flour | £10.45

The essential Christmas nutty flavour. Replace 10 – 15 % of our flour in almost any recipe to enjoy that classic Italian delicious flavour.

Panettone Essence | £6.99

Not just for Panettone ..
but for practically
anything ...

Another of our classic recipe is Panettone ... the famous Italian sweet bread loaf – my kit contains all the ingredients and cases you need to bake a perfect panettone and you can save 20% compared with buying the items individually. It makes a wonderful pre-Christmas present for those of us who have to give gifts before the 25th December – and we can ship it anywhere.

Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

Suggestion Box

Are we missing something? An usual flour, a particular tin, or a special piece of equipment you’d like to see on our shelves? Let us know and if we decide to stock it, you will receive the very first one of the item you suggest.

Don’t forget to take a look at our sale lines.