What does Christmas at Vaniye look like? Sonia answers a few questions on how she comes up with our Christmas menu, and what Christmas looks like for her and her family.
When do you start dreaming up the delights Vaniye will offer over Christmas?
Around mid-year, I’ll start having images and ideas bombarding my head, which makes it quite difficult as well as we only do 3 Christmas Buches varieties, so cutting that down to 3 is not easy! Apart from the Buches, we do have the traditional Christmas classics that we do every year such as the Stollen, Lebkuchen and Pain d’Epices. So for these, I had to put my thinking hat on on how we can present them differently to the past years.
How do you start the creative process?
The flavours is the first aspect I think of, so testing all the combinations of flavours and also taking into consideration what our customers feel like having towards the summer months. Their input is a big part of the final decision. After the flavours are defined, I start to put ideas together for the colour theme and the final design/look. It’s not easy either, as I don’t like to use coloring in my cakes. I have to make sure that there is enough contrast in all the 3 Buches and that they don’t have the same styling.
Do you trial all of your ideas or how do you come to decide what will make the final cut?
I don’t trial all the cake flavours, so I just decided on the top 3. After that I write and trial different recipes to get the right flavour strength and texture. For the look, however, I do end up trialing many different looks. I would end up with lots of drawings, which end up making it harder to decide which to go for. Everything has to also go pass Laurent. He is the toughest critique, very hard to please! But that’s great though, as he wouldn’t let me settle on anything that sits below our standard. All our team members also take part in this. They will give their input on the final trials and then it comes down to voting which versions are better.
Have there been any ideas that didn’t quite make it/didn’t turn out the way you hope?
At times, certain designs look great and exciting on paper, and when I try it for real it just doesn’t look as great. That happens way too often. Sometimes I’ll be stuck for so long trying to make them look great but I’ll be stuck with no answers. All of a sudden the idea will come to be out of nowhere while I’m playing at the playground with my son, and that’s when I have to put it down on paper or phone before I forget so that I can try it out straight away the next day in the kitchen.
Do you have a favourite? If yes, which and why?
The ‘Paris Brest’ Buche! It is one of the classics in France with Choux pastry profiteroles and Praline cream (see below). It’s just to-die-for. The design I created for this is also more classic and rustic, creating a sense of nostalgia for me, back to the days when I used to live in France. I’ve also added an additional layer of moist light sponge with brandy infusion coated in thin chocolate. Just to make it even more special.
Are there any classics that Vaniye makes every year that long-time customers can look forward to enjoying again this year?
Our Stollen and Pain d’Epices are now ready for order. This year we have beautifully wrapped up the Stollen in red/white, making it more special for gifts. That’s one of our best sellers and we found that people love to buy one for their family and also as gifts for their friends or clients, that’s why we made more effort with the packaging this year.
When is the last day to get Christmas orders in?
We accept orders until and including Sunday 15th December. We highly recommend pre-orders by this date as we cannot guarantee all orders after this date. However, we’ll do out best for everyone to be able to have our products for Christmas, but it all depends on availability and our production capacity in the small kitchen we have!
What does Christmas mean to you and your family?
It’s the time of the year where apart from working very long hours in our business, just like everyone else in the hospitality world, we slow down and think about our family. We look back at great memories, and enjoy and value each other’s presence. For Laurent, it also bring all his childhood memories of going to Christmas celebration at midnight after a 3 hour dinner with his family, through his village streets covered in snow.
How will you celebrate this year?
We are actually on the plane every year on Christmas Day, so leading up to Christmas, all that’s in our head is making sure that our production runs smooth adn that all our customers get to have what they want for Christmas to share with their family. Once we’re on the plane, we stop thinking business and that’s when we think about being together with family, the stories and laughter we would share over beautiful home-made meals. Just having quality time together. There’s nothing more special than being with family on the big dining table. We don’t plan too far in advance the menu, but it’ll definitely be a multi-course menu followed by some French cheese and bread and desserts! But before all that, we have a 42-hour door-to-door flights, train rides, and bus rides before arriving at our hometown in the small village East of France.
From all of us at Vaniye, Joyeux Noel