Year’s End, Christmas Baking, and some changes for Cate’s Cates

The end of 2018 is upon us, and I have to say, I am more than ready to bid it farewell. There has been so much sadness and stress in our lives this year, and I’m ready for a fresh start. The new year will be busy – while I retained my job, my Division is changing a lot, with several labs moving out and more moving in, so it will take a bit of work to get the new Division functioning as a Division – and, I think, for all of us to start feeling less battered by the way the restructure has been concluded.

A banana cake, with passionfruit cream cheese icing, and quite a bit of bling. Much of the bling was leftover wedding cake bling, but who is counting?

Outside of work… I literally have made no plans, as yet. Because I didn’t know what would be happening with my job until the Thursday before Christmas, I didn’t dare plan for any exciting holidays (and boy, do I need a holiday right now). And a big part of my is inclined to use the next year to really think about what I want to do with my life, because much as I love my scientists, I’m not sure this is where I want to be anymore. We shall see.

I made some biscuits.

In the meantime, I spent most of December baking like a madwoman. I tend to get a bit overexcited about baking in December at the best of times, and it turns out that when I am stressed and low on sleep, I really lose any ability to figure out how much baking is necessary, so I just keep on doing more and more. (Those who know me are probably reading the previous sentence with a wildly suspicious eye, and wondering how this differs from how I bake when I am not stressed or low on sleep. All I can say is that it very definitely does.)

Quite a lot of biscuits, yes, what is your point?

And really, it was hard to calculate this time. Because I had to bake for two Christmas parties, one fundraising bake sale, two dinner parties, Christmas Day itself, the Boxing Day BBQ, a picnic lunch to take to the cricket, a care package for a friend in Gippsland, and to make Christmas presents. Since you don’t really know how much food will get eaten at any given event, the level of baking-quantity-uncertainty increases exponentially with each added event. And if you add to that the fact that every single thing I tried to make as a gift for someone either failed or turned out tasty but ugly, you will understand the level of baking spiral I entered into.

Look, we needed a lot of biscuits, OK?

So I made vegan Florentines, and banana-passionfruit cakes, and four kinds of gluten-free cookie, and three kinds of gluten-free cheesy biscuits, and about six attempts at pectin jellies, and olive biscotti, and a triple batch of jam thumbprint biscuits, and four batches of jam, and highly decorated gingerbread, and jam tarts, and fruit mince pies, and I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten a few things in here, but I also went to a Savour Dessert Buffet class on the Friday before Christmas and added a Concorde tree, a frozen Christmas Pudding, salted caramel chocolate truffles, biscuit bonbons and chocolate wreaths to the mix, so yes, there was enough food.

It must be said, these are but a remnant of the legion of gluten-free cheesy biscuits that graced our table. A tasty, tasty, cheesy remnant…

But not too much too much food, because I have actually managed to dispose of quite a bit of it, and at this stage, I have only a few pectin jellies, a quarter of a frozen pudding, a quite rational number of cheese biscuits, a handful each of mince pies and jam tarts, and yes, QUITE A LOT of jam thumbprint biscuits left.

Yes, I made pectin jellies too.

Oh, and a bag of leftover chocolate meringue sticks from the Savour class, but those weren’t really my fault.

The meringue sticks were leftover from this delicious meringue and chocolate mousse tree. I intend to combine them with berries and mascarpone and ricotta for a particularly fabulous Eton-mess-ish dessert on New Year’s Eve.

Anyway. One good thing that 2018 brought was my return to food blogging, and I will try to remain present in 2019. I am also celebrating the new year with a new look for Cate’s Cates – I hope you like it! It should be a little more accessible for people with vision impairments, too, I hope.

Sometimes, you have to stay up until 1am decorating gluten-free gingerbread to within an inch of its life.

The other change I will be making to Cate’s Cates is that I am going to bring my singing website over here, too. This may seem odd, but at this point, I have four public blogs and one private one, and I also write a fair number of book reviews and other bits and pieces elsewhere, and it’s getting ridiculous. You won’t see an enormous number of posts on singing here – my main activity on that blog is an annual Musical Advent Calendar – but I might post the occasional note about an upcoming concert or a piece I’ve found that interests or amuses me.

Why yes, sometimes I *do* pipe musical notes onto my gingerbread…

The trick will be combining them in a way that doesn’t destroy the layout of both, so I apologise in advance if this website does a bunch of weird things over the next few days. I trust it will settle down soon.

Frozen pudding, looking ugly on the outside, but delicious within, hopefully not representing just how this blog will look over the next few days while I figure out how to make it all work…

(My politics blog will remain separate, for the simple reason that while cooking and singing are fairly non-controversial activities, politics is not, and I’d rather not bring some of my more colourful commenters over to this nice peaceful blog…)

These are not colourful commenters. Or are they?

And that, I think, is about all for now! I wish you a happy, healthy and safe 2019 – may we all end the year in a better place than we start it!

Golden truffles for a golden new year.
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6 comments for “Year’s End, Christmas Baking, and some changes for Cate’s Cates

  1. December 30, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Happy new year catherine – I am happy to see the resurgence of the blog. (I have had what-would-catherine-do moments when baking!) And will be interested to see how the singing combines with food – could be fun! Sorry that the end of 2018 has left you somewhat depleted – hope you regain some energy over the Christmas-New Year break. I am feeling a bit drained by the year too and enjoying some quiet time. Roll on 2019 with lots of energy and compassion!

    • Catherine
      December 30, 2018 at 9:01 pm

      Thank you! And I hope you have a restful and relaxing break. I do enjoy your posts, even if I’m never permitted to comment by the strange ways of Blogspot…

  2. December 30, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    What a magnificent spread! You’ve clearly given so much to others in 2018, I hope life is more gentle with you in 2019.

    I want to ask you specifically about your gluten-free cheesy biscuits! I’m actually planning to make this very thing tomorrow. Did you use packaged gluten-free flour? Any other cheesy baking tips?

    • December 30, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      Hi Cindy, thank you so much for your kind comments! It’s been quite a year. I hope 2019 is kinder to all of us…

      Regarding the gluten-free cheesy biscuits, basically, I took a whole lot of cheesy biscuit recipes from Donna Hay’s recent Christmas book (which is fairly amazing – she has a basic parmesan biscuit recipe, but then you can do things like blue cheese and juniper and currants, or three-cheese), swapped out the rolled oats for almond meal and swapped out the plain flour for my all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. I couldn’t find potato starch, so I think I replaced it with part cornflour, part tapioca flour. It’s a pain getting hold of all the ingredients, but I really like this mixture because I can use it in pretty much any cake or biscuit recipe 1 for 1, and it will work.

      Hope this helps! And hope to catch up in the new year!

  3. filkferengi
    December 31, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I’m sorry you’ve had so much stress at work. It sounds like their shenanigans are a long way to turning normal mid-life re-assessment into more a crisis. If they’re not careful, they may stupid themselves out of a catherine.

    I’m glad you’ve been able to get back to your blogs; I do enjoy them so much. You do a superlative job on the political blog; the advent calendar is lovely; and your food posts are excellent, both text and so many pictures. You approach Kerry Greenwood levels of food-p*rn [only, alas, lacking the semi-dressed beefcake].

    I hope next year is kinder to you and look forward to your next adventure.

    • Catherine
      January 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Yes, that’s basically what has happened! But it might be a good thing in the long run. And thank you, as always, for your support.

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