VARIETY: Ann Cummings and the Pudding Lady staff at the ready.ACROSS the Hunter Region, Christmas trees are being decorated, shopping lists ticked off and presents wrapped.
Nanjing Night Net

There’s also countless bakers and patissieres busy behind the scenes preparing a range of Christmas treats from gingerbread houses to Christmas puddings and festive cupcakes ready for the silly season.

Whether you’re buying for someone special or treating yourself and your family, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to Christmas goodies.

Petersen’s Bakehouse

OWNER of Petersen’s Bakehouse, Danish patissiere Birger Petersen has been making gingerbread houses since 1987.

Later he shifted from Sydney to Newcastle and continued selling the houses privately, before taking over the Tenambit bakery almost two years ago.

Last Christmas the bakery made more than 500 fully-assembled houses and do-it-yourself kits, with numbers this year also likely to exceed 500.

‘‘The gingerbread houses make an excellent centrepiece in the middle of the table and then towards the end of your Christmas dinner you have your coffee and the kids get to smash it, that’s the best part,’’ he laughed.

Working up to 18hours a day in the lead-up to Christmas, Petersen makes the gingerbread from scratch, baking the pieces and making the fondant while the house cools. Then the decorating begins.

The kits are popular with school groups but Petersen said they had also been used by businesses as a team-building exercise and were ever-popular with families.

‘‘People love to build them, it’s a family thing, they can all get together and have a bit of fun for a few hours. Kids can stick the smarties on,’’ Petersen said.

His top tips for putting together a gingerbread house?

‘‘When you have the piping bag, don’t cut the hole too big and don’t pipe too much icing on. Just do a little bit at a time and have the sides set before you put the roof on.’’

Petersen’s Bakehouse also has Kahlua balls, Christmas cakes, puddings and rocky road for other gift ideas.

Newcastle’s Pudding Lady

IF your Christmas dinner isn’t complete without a pudding like Nan used to make, then a visit to Newcastle’s Pudding Lady is a must.

‘‘Everybody’s family has a Christmas pudding story, it could be about who was the pudding maker, the year that it went wrong, the year they didn’t do it in time. It’s that collection of family history that makes everybody’s Christmas just that little bit special,’’ Newcastle’s Pudding Lady Ann Cummings told GT.

Cummings said the company had been making the Christmas treats for more than 30years.

‘‘We do everything by hand, from mixing the fruit, to tying the puddings up by hand and not cutting any corners. Add to that not cutting any corners with ingredients, not using artificial shortenings, using premium-grade brandy. We use brandy at 68per cent proof, and if we use rum it’s Bundaberg Rum, which is 58per cent. You’re getting the real thing. It is Christmas time, it’s the way it should be.’’

She said the most popular pudding was the Traditional Christmas Pudding made with a recipe handed down over five generations.

Even better, there’s the Vintage Christmas Pudding which is aged and uses Australian dried fruit matured in brandy and rum for a longer period than other puddings.

There are also Christmas puddings with rum and fig, whisky and marmalade, and port and prune.

For those on a restricted diet, including coeliacs and diabetics, there is even the Perfect Plus Christmas Pudding which has no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no gluten, low salt and is dairy free.

Newcastle’s Pudding Lady also makes sauces, Christmas cakes and gift packs, including one with a small pudding and Christmas cake and another with a pudding and sauce included so all you have to do is heat it up.

Euro Patisserie

THEY are the go-to bakery for wedding and birthday cakes and Euro Patisserie has plenty more to offer at Christmas.

They have a selection of gateaux, tarts, yule logs, fruit cakes and puddings, as well as plenty of other Christmas treats.

Owner Jenny Smith told GT the patisserie had adopted a purple and silver theme in decorating this year’s Christmas treats.

‘‘All of the fruit cakes, puddings, the rum balls, the fruit mince pies and hampers are all individually gift wrapped so you can just come in and choose and give them to your teachers or workmates,’’ Smith said.

For those with fussy eaters or kids who might not like dried fruit, Euro Patisserie has the Chocylicious Log – chocolate mud cake rolled with chocolate ganache and pieces of dark chocolate.

One of Smith’s favourites from the Christmas menu is the tropical cheesecake with a macadamia biscuit base filled with coconut cheesecake and mango sauce swirl. This summer dessert would finish off a seafood-centred Christmas meal nicely.

You can place an order for Christmas with Euro Patisserie until December 23, but Smith said there were also plenty of options available over the counter to finish off a Christmas dinner or give as gifts.

Cupcake Espresso

THE purveyors of sweet treats in Newcastle’s CBD are expanding their tasty range of cupcakes for the silly season.

The red velvet and chocolate cupcakes adorned with Christmas trees, snowflakes and candy cane sugar candies will be in store from December 12.

But you can place an order to beat the Christmas rush, opting for a single cake in its own box, a half dozen, or splash out on a full dozen.

Cupcake Espresso also has gift vouchers available to let people come in and choose their own cupcakes from their regular range, which includes raspberry white chocolate, cherry ripe, hazelnut chocolate and banana toffee.

Ma Belle

BROADMEADOW’S Ma Belle patisserie is producing chocolate rocky road puddings for the silly season.

Pam Thomas’ gluten-free bakery will also be making cakes, truffles, shortbreads and a range of terrines, mousselines and pates.

This is in addition to their usual sweet and savoury pastries in the lead-up to Christmas, including fruit flans, Portuguese custard tarts and delicious slices.

There’s also plenty of savoury treats to save you slaving in the kitchen for Christmas parties, including spinach and feta quiches, corn, leek and potato, and smoked salmon and dill quiches, as well as pies in tasty flavours including butter chicken, Mongolian lamb and vegetarian varieties.