When I was about eight, my mother discovered Shepherds Bush Market. A teeming and seemingly enormous street market under the railway bridge and arches in a very cosmopolitan part of West London.
We’d always go to there just before Christmas. It was the height of excitement, so full of potential for presents not yet bought – for me, of course. Each of the stalls lit by bare light bulbs, glaringly bright in the dark afternoon. Strings of lights winding across the canvas covers of the traditional market barrows.
Chestnuts roasting over glowing charcoal and pushed into tiny bags overflowing with the too hot nuggets. Sweet and soft, we’d share a bag as we wandered from stall to stall buying the Christmas essentials.
I loved the ‘beautiful’ wax carnations in fabulous retro pastels edged in glitter, both gaudy and wonderful in a way that only a child really appreciates. They lived in a vase on my windowledge until the sun got the better of them some months later.
On another stall the tree decorations pulled me to wonder at the colours and sparkle. Nestled in the curls of the tinsle was a pink faced, moulded haired angel, complete with sparkly halo and gossamer white dress. I had to own her!
As enticing were the foil wrapped satsumas spread across the stalls beside Christmas nuts and dates. All the things that as an eight year old I’d be looking forward to in my stocking. Bright fuchsia, turquoise and brilliant blue wrapped satsumas. Beside them nestled tissue wrapped oranges resplendent in their multi lingual gilt papers, making the everyday appear very special.
Yesterday I spotted large oranges wrapped in that same ‘special tissue’ and my memories of Christmas as an eight year old, stamping my feet for warmth in a damp London afternoon and gazing at the Christmas wonders, came flooding back. Pecan Puffs are an easy Christmas treat but with the addition of orange zest they make a perfect gift, fragrant with the aromas of Christmas; gift wrapped in the gilt tissue from the oranges I bought.
Orange Pecan Puffs
- 110g pecan nuts finely ground
- 110g unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Finely grated zest of one large (2 small) orange
- 150g plain flour
- 3 tablespoons icing sugar (for dusting the cooked puffs)
- Heat the oven to 150c or 140c fan
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Cream the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy
- Add the vanilla paste, nuts and orange zest. Stir well to combine
- Add the flour and mix into the batter. The mixture will be quite stiff and come away from the edge of the bowl when ready
- Take a teaspoon of the mix at a time and roll into a ball, place on the baking tray about 2 cm apart
- bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown
- Remove from the oven and toss in the icing sugar, replace on the sheet and in the oven for 1 to 2 minutes to ‘set’ the sugar
- Place on a rack to cool completely, store in an airtight container
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