today is a very special day, it’s Holly Martin’s publication day! ‘Christmas at the Lilac Cottage‘ , book one in the White Cliff Bay series is released today and you can head immediately to amazon to download a copy. I don’t know about you, but just looking at its gorgeous cover is getting me in the festive mood. Holly’s here with us today sharing a rather unusual experience, how she cheated on a Charity Christmas Bake-Off. Holly’s full of surprises, as ever 🙂 Read on for her post and Chapter 1 of her new release, Christmas at Lilac Cottage’. Oh, and at the bottom of the post I’ve included buy links and ways to connect with Holly.
And finally, massive thanks to Holly for her lovely guest post and happy publication!
I had just started work as a teacher in a new school and understandably I wanted to make a good impression. I needed to show them that they had made the right decision in hiring me for the job so this involved volunteering for everything in the first few months, including the Great Charity Christmas Bake-Off.
Every year, a week before school closes for the Christmas holidays, there was a week of Christmas themed fundraising activities to raise money for local charities. The Bake-Off was the pinnacle of this week. Five teachers would compete with their mince pies in front of a panel of judges of children. I did think it was weird that the other teachers weren’t keen to volunteer for it, preferring to sign up for being gunged, dressing up in fancy dress and other humiliating escapades. Then I found out that Old Mrs Lauderdale had won the Bake-Off every year for the last four years and there was no one willing to go against her.
Well there was no backing out now. How hard can it be, I thought. Jar of mincemeat, roll out pastry, job done. That was until I received The Rules. The Rules that I didn’t have time to read until the night before. The Rules that clearly dictated that the mince pies had to be made from scratch!!!
After some very choice words and several phone calls to my mum, and some very hasty research into how to make the mincemeat, I made a quick dash to the supermarket and bought the ingredients. Cloves, cinnamon, sultanas, raisins, apples, brandy, orange peel, apple juice, nutmeg and sugar went into the saucepan with gay abandon. Sure I probably should have measured out the ingredients with more accuracy but there was no time for that, I still had pastry to make and it was already ten o’clock. The ingredients started to bubble and smells started to drift out of the pan. The smell was not good. There was something that smelt like burnt rubber or dirty socks. The smell was so bad, it literally made my eyes water. Following the instructions to let the ingredients simmer, I put the lid on the pan and set about making the pastry.
Now this was something I was experienced at. (Note I use the word experienced here, not good) As a child I had spent many hours making my own jam tarts, I knew how to make pastry from scratch. I mixed the flour and butter together, rolled it out into pastry and cut out the top and bottoms ready to spoon in the mixture.
I returned to the mincemeat, and to my horror realised the mixture had turned into a black tar like treacle and most of it was welded to the bottom of the pan.
Things were getting desperate. I managed to scrape off some of the black putrid treacle and spoon it into ten mince pies and stuck them in the oven.
I clearly wasn’t going to win but I certainly didn’t want to annoy Old Mrs Lauderdale by stealing her crown so I was OK with coming last.
Thirty minutes later I pulled the mince pies out and thought I should test drive one. The pastry was so hard I nearly broke my teeth, it was dry and sticky and tasted predominantly of flour. The mincemeat was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. It tasted like a mix of five day old cooked cabbage and rotten beetroot.
There was no way I could submit these for the poor innocent children to eat. It would more likely poison them than make them think fondly of Christmas. I couldn’t not enter the competition either, that wouldn’t look good at all. So I did the only thing I could do.
The next day on the way to school, I stopped off at a bakery and bought every single one of their homemade mince pies.
The competition started and the judges started to eat the mince pies. I wasn’t expecting to win. Old Mrs Lauderdale was clearly a culinary whizz in the kitchen.
Unfortunately Greggs bakery was even better in the kitchen than she was and I was declared the winner, crushing her dreams of a being five times champion in a matter of minutes.
Did I do the decent thing and tell the truth? The prize for the winner was a triple chocolate cupcake so I’ll let you make your own mind up on that one.
This did however inspire me to write a scene in my upcoming Snowflakes on Silver Cove (Book 2 in the White Cliff Bay series) when George and Libby try to make their own mince pies.
Christmas at Lilac Cottage (Book 1 in the White Cliff Bay series) is out today and here is chapter 1 of this sweet and funny book.