What's Christmas without pastries, puddings and pies? Sangeetha Devi Dundoo surveys the goodies

The pastry chef at a patisserie in Banjara Hills listens keenly as a young lady specifies the consistency of plum pudding she is placing an order for. “Let it be moist and gooey and not hard like a cake,” she says and orders for a kilo of plum pudding drizzled with brandy.

In the see-through kitchen adjacent to the special counter that stocks large star-shaped gingerbreads, puddings, Yule logs and mince pies, two young chefs methodically work on a ball of dough, dusting it with flour and kneading the mass into long spindles. A plate of twisted bread rolls coated with molten chocolate lies nearby, giving you an idea of the end product.

The cheer of Christmas has bathed the city, trying to camouflage the tempers of a city that's at a political crossroads. The famous John's Bakery at Abids, Deli 9 outlets at Begumpet and Banjara Hills, Ofen, outlets of Karachi Bakery, Country Oven, Vac's, Baker's Inn, Simpson House at Jubilee Hills and several other bakeries paint a busy picture. BMWs, small cars and two wheelers struggle to find parking spaces as customers pour in placing orders or simply pick up attractively packed goodies. Plum cakes remain the most popular with prices from Rs. 100 to 400 for 500gm. To whet the appetite of the well-travelled Hyderabadi, the Christmas menu in most bakeries offer a surfeit of goodies — stollen and panettone breads, mince pies, chocolate Yule logs, plum puddings and moulded chocolates. Want more? There are Simnel cakes (never mind that these marzipan covered cakes are Easter specials), apple and cinnamon rolls and the regular chocolate, chocolate-fudge cakes with Christmas decorations, earl grey chocolate cakes, baked peanut cheese cake and passion fruit mud cakes. Special preparations are priced higher. Puddings are priced between Rs. 75 and 150 for 100gm, mince pies at Rs. 30 to 80 per piece and Simnel cakes at Rs. 900 per kg.

At five star hotels, preparations began two to three months ago. Apart from the regular ritual of cake mixing, plans were on for gingerbread houses. Hotel Kakatiya boasts of a gingerbread house made with more than 2000 cookies while Novotel prides of having a 250-sq ft gingerbread house with an in-built pastry shop, clad with 300 kgs of gingerbread. Fancy a tour inside a gingerbread house?

Parallel to this, there's an adventurous lot that is busy with home-made bakes. Cherie Blair, during her visit to India early this year, rued how she usually spends most of her Christmas holidays cooking. Christmas holidays may not bring Indian cities to a halt, but newbie bakers participate in the fun. Those who haven't done the groundwork for plum cakes a few months ago turn to ready-to-bake oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie mixes adorning supermarket shelves. Easy-to-bake brownie mixes don't hurt too.

Finally, here's an incentive for weight watchers shuddering at all those extra calories. New Year is round the corner, just in time for another fitness resolution. Till then, tuck in.

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