- Liam Charles won over “The Great British Bake Off” judges earlier this year with his distinctive flavour combinations and conceptual bakes.
- Business Insider spoke to Charles about cooking at Christmas.
- The baker said that Christmas “is the time to eat whatever you want” – even if that’s burgers instead of turkey.
- Rather than being pressured into seasonal traditions you don’t enjoy, create your own traditions by putting a festive spin on your favourite comfort foods.
Christmas is a time for family, friends, and tradition. It’s also a time for food.
Many people feel the pressure to cook a full roast dinner for their family on Christmas Day, despite it being a time-consuming and stressful way to spend the holiday.
However, there are plenty of other options to explore with skipping a festive-inspired spread altogether, according to Liam Charles, the “Great British Bake Off” contestant who arguably became the biggest star of the show’s 2017 season despite placing fourth overall.
Rather than getting swept up in traditions you don’t enjoy, Charles believes that you should concentrate on the foods you like to eat instead, as well as the traditions that make you comfortable and happy – even if that means scrapping the sprouts and roasted turkey for something less time-consuming.
“Christmas is one of those times where you can just be as creative as you want, so just do whatever you want,” Charles said. “You can have burgers for Christmas if that’s what you want.”
Give your favourite foods a seasonal makeover
Cutting out tiresome traditions doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out the Christmas cheer. All of your favourite foods can be made seasonal with a little bit of creativity, according to Charles, who wowed “Great British Bake Off” judges with his creative approaches to baking including a cake disguised as a stack of American pancakes.
The 20-year-old recently turned a full Christmas dinner into a savoury “cupcake” made out of a turkey and bacon pie topped with mashed potato “icing,” cranberry sauce, and seasonal veg.
He thinks Christmas is the perfect time to get creative and rustle up something special.
“One year I made mince pie doughnuts, which were great,” he told Business Insider. “And another time I combined [apple and herb] stuffing with an apple pie we were having for dessert. The stuffing went so crispy, it was like a herby, apple crumble pie.”
He added that if you don’t mind the cold weather, you can even opt for a Christmas BBQ.
“Make your own turkey burgers with cranberry sauce and cheese. You could also make some festive chips – parboil parsnips, carrots, and potatoes, then fry them into chips. Serve them up with ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue [sauce] – whatever you fancy.”
Charles recently created mince pie cheesecakes in conjunction with Sony, inspired by his love of mince pies as well as his mum’s love of cheesecake.
“I have a massive love for cheesecake, and that was one of the bakes I first got introduced to because my mum loves cheesecake,” he said. “I absolutely love mince pies as well, and I thought, ‘Why not combine these two things together?'”
You can see him make his miniature cheesecakes – with cranberry and chocolate-studded shortbread base and ripples of mincemeat – here:
Traditions aren’t one-size-fits-all
Every family has its own Christmas traditions and rituals which vary hugely from house to house.
“Christmas traditions are pretty important for me,” said Charles, whose idea of a perfect Christmas is a table full of roasted meats and an apple strudel.
“All of [my family] go to my nan’s house, and she makes a massive spread with every single type of meat you can imagine. There are board games, Bailey’s, and there’s always an apple strudel,” he said.
But traditions aren’t one-size-fits-all. For Charles, traditions don’t equivalate to having what everyone else around the country is having for their dinner, too.
Instead, the 20-year-old baker thinks the best traditions are the ones your family invents themselves. Macaroni cheese has slowly wormed its way into his own family’s traditions, and now he can’t imagine Christmas without it.
“My nan cooks most of the dinner, and my sister brings the macaroni cheese, so we have that, too,” he said.
And not all of his favourite traditions are about the food on the plates – he mostly values the time he gets to spend with his family, including his young nephews.
“I’d say the most important thing for me is when all the family get together to have dinner because there are [plenty of] times where we don’t get to see each other throughout the year, but Christmas is always the time everyone makes an effort to get together to socialise and enjoy each other’s company.”
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