The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain
To help get you in the mood for all things Santa related, here’s a couple of her Winter baking recipes to set you up for the festive season, and an introduction from Heidi to her new novel!
The Christmas Wish List is the perfect read this Winter, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance.
After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .
Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.
As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?
Can you believe it folks? It’s time to head back to Wynbridge for another festive instalment, and today I’m delighted to be able to give you a little insight into the inspiration behind my brand-new book, The Christmas Wish List.
A very wise author (Dame Milly Johnson) once told me that nothing that occurs in an author’s life is ever wasted. ‘Everything,’ she said, ‘ends up in a book’ and, as always, she was absolutely right. The Christmas Wish List is proof enough of that.
When I was asked to write a fourth festive trip to Wynbridge I knew I wanted to include a brand new town setting and it was mere minutes before I wandered into the very place. Last winter, when I was briefly ‘between books’, I wrote a ‘just for fun’ short story that centred around a school in the run up to the Christmas holidays and when plotting Wish List, and thinking about my own decade-long experience of working in a village primary school, I knew that there was no place I’d rather take my readers in the run up to the big day.
Even the most Scrooge-like bah-humbug advocate couldn’t work in a school and fail to catch a dose of festive enthusiasm. From the beginning of November onwards, the excitement begins to build in both the classroom and the staff room. Nativity plays are planned, the Christmas letterbox gets a new lick of shiny red paint, carols for the concert are rehearsed and exciting activities for the inevitable fair are suggested, vetoed and added to the ever-growing list on the whiteboard.
Of course, it isn’t all plain sailing for the staff, but with talk of the ‘naughty or nice’ list becoming the hot topic in class, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the children’s excitement, and it was one of the things I missed most when I left my job to take up #thewritinglife on a full-time basis.
There are lots of my own experiences that I’ve included in this book – random object identification, witnessing the transformation of a wine box to a convincing manger, costume readjustment and sitting on far-too-small seats to name a few – which goes to prove that Dame Milly was right: nothing is ever wasted.
Whether you have school-age children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces or not, I hope The Christmas Wish List instils in you that child-like anticipation that can get all too easily forgotten as we tear about buying presents, filling the fridge and stock-piling the sherry.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy New Year!
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without gingerbread, would it? So, here’s a super easy recipe to make your own treats to either hang on the tree or fill the biscuit tin with! You should be able to get around 15–25 out of one batch, depending on the size of cutter you use. That said, whatever size you go for, do be aware that they won’t be around for long and you’ll have to stay firmly rooted in the kitchen to keep up with demand!
Preparation time is around 30 mins and cooking time is approximately 15, so in less than an hour you can have a deliciously smelling home and delicious eats too!
Crank up the festive tunes and get baking!
350g plain flour
5 ½ teaspoons of ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
175g light brown soft sugar
4 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 medium egg, beaten
Tubes of icing to decorate (if required)
- Heat your oven to 180 or gas mark 4.
- Tip the flour, butter, ginger, cinnamon and bicarb into a bowl and mix with your fingers until you achieve a crumbly texture – just like a crumble topping – the ingredients in the bowl that is, not you.
- Add the sugar, syrup and egg, and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a firm dough.
- Using a well-floured rolling pin and board, roll out to approximately 5mm thick.
- Cut out your shapes and lay on a greased or non-stick baking tray.
- Use a skewer to make a hole near the top – but not too near – if you want to hang them on the tree.
- Bung in the oven for 15 mins, but check after 12. The biscuits should be golden, not burnt!
- Transfer to a cooling rack before demolishing in one sitting, or decorating if preferred!
- Leave space between each biscuit as they will spread during baking.
- Use tubes of writing icing to decorate. They’re affordable and come in a great range of colours!
Merry Christmas folks and happy festive baking!
Easy Cheat Sausage Rolls!
You will need:
One pack of pre-made puff pastry (at room temperature)
The very best sausage meat you can source
1 beaten free range egg
Pepper, a variety of dried herbs or dried chilli flakes (or any other dried addition you fancy)
What you need to do with it all:
Roll out the pastry on a floured board and cut into 2 wide strips
Arrange sausage meat along centre and brush pastry with egg wash
Sprinkle liberally with pepper, herbs etc – or alternatively leave plain
Roll to create two long sausage shapes, brush with more egg wash and sprinkle top with any flavourings you have used to help identification when baked
Cut to required lengths
Bake for 10 mins at 220 and a further 20-25 mins at 180 until golden and crisp
Easy Peasy Mince Pies!
As you may know I like to ‘impress without the stress’ (I think I should patent that phrase) and these star topped treats really couldn’t be easier. I have a tin to hand from around the last week of November up until December 22nd when the Quality Street and Lindor enter stage left.
You will need:
One pack of pre-made shortcrust pastry (at room temperature)
A jar of mincemeat
1 beaten free range egg
A star shaped cutter for the pie tops and a round one (not too big) for the base
12 hole cake tin (not too deep)
Ma Larkin style apron
Classic fm belting out carols, or depending on mood/taste Smooth Xmas belting out Elton John
One glass of fizz, mulled wine or similar as a reward for all the hard work
What you need to do:
Set the oven to 200C
Roll out the pastry on a floured board
Use the cutter to cut the 12 discs for the bottoms
Place the discs in the cake tin and add approximately 2 teaspoons of mincemeat (taking care not to overfill)
Cut the 12 tops using the star shaped cutter and lightly press on the pies before glazing with beaten egg
Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, then allow to stand before transferring to a cooling rack
Finally, top up your glass again, you’ve worked hard after all!
So there you have it. Whether you have the time (or the inclination) to bake from scratch this holiday or like me you prefer to take the easier option, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Love, Heidi xx