Victorian Bakers: Christmas Special
How the Victorians invented Christmas as we know it today – through the eyes of four professional bakers, who make favourite festive products from the most revolutionary era in British history. Featuring the long lost centrepiece of British Christmas known as twelfth cake, mince pies with actual meat in them (tripe – and roast beef), surprisingly recent innovations such as Christmas cake, cards, crackers and even Santa Claus, and the strange shapes favoured by some Victorians for their newly-named Christmas puddings.
Historians Alex Langlands and Annie Gray are on hand to fill in the fascinating facts behind the transformation of our midwinter break – from a riotous 12-day affair with clear pagan elements which climaxed in early January, to the more respectable family-based occasion centred on December 25th which we know today.
Reflecting an era when the gap between rich and poor was extreme, John Swift and Duncan Glendinning try their hand at baking for the upper crust, going to a country house kitchen to make the giant Yorkshire Christmas pie which Queen Victoria would eat each Christmas, while their colleagues Harpreet Baura and John Foster MBE DL experience the harsher side of a Victorian Christmas, scraping by on the street. The team also make gingerbread decorations for the then-new custom of the Christmas tree, toast the season with a punch which includes bread in the recipe, and discover why the whole community would rely on the bakers’ oven to roast their Christmas lunch.
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