Preparing for Christmas lunch usually takes up a really big part of Christmas day (and even Christmas Eve in a lot of cases) so it is understandable that people tend to push Christmas dessert to the back of the queue in terms of priorities over the festive season, opting for shop bought puddings instead. But for those of you that would love to indulge in homemade treats but don’t feel like you have enough time on your hands, Le Cordon Bleu London are here to help. Our renowned pâtisserie Master Chefs, have created this guide so that you can properly prepare for dessert and still have time to enjoy the magic of Christmas day.
There are some desserts that can be prepared months in advance, such as Christmas pudding which is due to a combination of its content’s (dried and candied fruits) lack of moisture, and the preservative nature of the alcohol. However as there are only four days left until Christmas there is no point including such desserts in this article! Instead we will focus on those festive treats that you can start preparing from now up until the big day.
To prepare today (21st)
Mince pies are another classic Christmas dessert that contains dried and candied fruits. You can make the mincemeat for your pies up to a week before you intend to eat them to allow the flavours to develop in intensity, but as we don’t have that long you can begin to prepare it right now!
If you are making any other dessert containing pastry then this can be prepared any time between now and Christmas, as long as it is kept in the fridge before being baked. Your completed mince pies can be stored in an airtight container until they are ready to be eaten. Our Master Chefs recommend serving them warm with cream or brandy.
If you are making a dessert that contains meringue such as a Pavlova or a Mont Blanc, then again you can start to prepare this now, as long as you keep your meringues in an airtight tin they will keep crisp instead of going soft.
To prepare in two days (23rd)
Desserts that contain creams cannot be made too far in advance as they may spoil. The chestnut cream for your Mont Blanc can only be made up to two days before you intend to serve the dessert to keep it as fresh as possible. Our Master Chefs recommend mixing rum or brandy with the cream for a festive kick!
If you are making something like a Bûche de Noël that requires a sponge, you can make this up to a week before Christmas day and store it in the freezer, but of course time does not allow for that now! So if you need a sponge for your Christmas dessert then it can be made at this point and chilled until needed.
If your Christmas dessert contains elements such as fruit compotes or chocolate ganache then these can also be made two days prior to their consumption. The compote should be kept to chill in the fridge and the ganache should be used for its purpose (such as filling a sponge or decorating your Bûche de Noël) and then also stored in the fridge until Christmas day.
To prepare on Christmas Eve (24th)
If you are making a custard based dessert such as a crème brûlée, a crema catalana or even a flan, then this can only be prepared and baked the night before Christmas, as they have a very short life-span. Just leave them in the fridge to chill and then caramelise on Christmas day after your Christmas lunch has settled. For the perfect crème brûlée our Master Chefs recommend cooking it in a ban-marie for a smooth tasting cream, and using demerara sugar on the top for a nice caramel flavour.
To prepare on Christmas Day (25th)
Hopefully if you follow this guide there will be nothing much left to do on Christmas day except for putting together the different pre-made components of your dessert, or warming them up if required. The only exception is when your dessert requires whipped cream or fresh fruit, which could be for decorative purposes like on a pavlova, or just as an accompaniment, which could be for just about anything!
It is essential that you prepare your whipped cream on the day so that it stays stabilised and of course you must prepare your fruit just before eating so that they stay as fresh and as vibrant as possible. But luckily these small tasks do not take long so you will still have plenty of time to get on with more pressing things like cooking Christmas lunch or having another glass of Sherry!
Let us know what dessert you will be preparing for Christmas this year by tweeting us @LeCordonBleuLDN with the hashtag #LeCordonBleuXmas.