Ria’s Teashop Secrets: A taste of Christmas

Christmas marzipan cookies at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough
Christmas marzipan cookies at Ria's Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough
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Ria Chambers from Ria’s Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough writes for the Telegraph.

As some of you may have noticed the festive season is upon us, a time to indulge in the many flavours this time of year brings.

With so much to choose from you would think planning the menu for the tearoom would be easy.

However, the variety on offer poses its own challenges.

The obvious route would be Christmas cake and mince pies.

Not everyone likes dried fruit, though, and as most other retail outlets will take the cake and mince pie option (often from exceptionally early in November) most people are sick to the back teeth with them by the time Christmas Day arrives.

And that’s not taking into account all the Bah, Humbugs out there who want to ignore Christmas is happening until the last minute.

So, what to do to appease those who expect and like the traditional fayre, while not alienating those who want to avoid Christmas?

Well, for a start there is marzipan.

Not an obvious choice but it is associated with Christmas more than you think.

Marzipan has been used historically in other European countries at Christmas for longer than England, particularly in Germany which is considered the home of marzipan.

In Germany marzipan is used at Christmas as a chocolate covered sweet, is vital when making stollen, and is moulded into edible figures which are given as gifts.

These traditions have spread, so there will now be many everywhere using marzipan figures to decorate their Christmas cakes this year, as well as using a layer of marzipan on the cake before icing it.

Another tradition currently having a revival in Britain is marzipan fruit.

These treats have long been used to celebrate Christmas in Italy and Portugal especially, and they became extremely popular in England during the Victorian era.

Many now are buying vintage bon bon dishes to serve marzipan fruit on for guests who may visit, which is kitsch but fun.

I shall be using marzipan to create Christmas marzipan cookies which I am including in my Christmas Afternoon Teas (which are booking fast).

I will enrobe a ball of marzipan in a shortbread-based mix, which as it bakes will allow the marzipan to melt in the middle so as you bite into the biscuit’s outer layer a chewy centre awaits.

I know marzipan can have the same Marmite effect as dried fruit, but by having Christmas Dundee fruit cake alongside the cookies on my Christmas Afternoon Teas you get the best of both worlds.

They will also be available to buy in the tearoom from November 30 when Wellingborough officially starts festivities with the Christmas lights switch-on event, and on various days from then on throughout December.

Why don’t you come and try a cookie – perhaps on Small Business Saturday on December 7 – if you like them you could always take some home to share.

NB Don’t worry mince pie fans, they will also be on sale using my secret recipe for sweet pastry!