Local Gift Guide

We asked our musicians and staff to come up with their favourite local spots for holiday shopping. Looking for some last minute gift ideas? Check out our local gift guides! You can visit our retail page for gift cards, prints, and more!

Our Favourite Holiday Films

One of our favourite holiday pastimes is to gather together and watch Christmas movies as a family. While we can’t gather in person it doesn’t mean we can’t keep up the tradition! There are different apps to synch your film viewing (like watch party or scener), or you can use your favourite method of video chat and press play at the same time on your viewing platform of choice. However you choose to watch those Christmas classics, the hardest part is picking one. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites for you to watch (once you’ve finished watching our concert films of course).


A Christmas Carol

While there are several film retellings of this famous Charles Dickens novel, ranging from 1901 Scrooge, Or, Marley’s Ghost to the 2009 animated film starring Jim Carrey, only one reigns supreme; A Muppet Christmas Carol

While some of you may not agree (like this person who ranked all the Christmas Carol film adaptations), we are pretty sure this one is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s fun for the whole family, full of great music, and muppets! What more could you want?

Special mention goes out to Scrooged mainly because this post writer loves almost any movie with Bill Murray in it.


It’s a Wonderful Life

This, now classic, holiday film was directed by Frank Capra and released in 1946. Starring Jimmy Stewart in his first post war-role, the movie was not the instant classic that the studio had hoped for. Even though it won five Academy Awards it wasn’t until the film became public domain that It’s A Wonderful Life grew into the Christmas classic we all know and love. Because films in the public domain can be broadcast without licensing or royalty fees broadcasters played the film repeatedly over the holiday season. The more people saw the 1940s film, the more popular it became. Now it’s hard to think of holiday films recommendations without this, now, classic!


White Christmas

When Irving Berlin wrote the music for Holiday Inn the winning number was White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby.  It was so popular that it took very little convincing for Paramount Pictures to agree to another film based on the song White Christmas. It’s a loose remake of Holiday Inn (because why mess with a good thing), and once again starred Bing Crosby as the lead. While working on songs for all the holidays Irving Berlin actually found that writing a Christmas tune was the most challenging due to his Jewish upbringing. His struggles were worth it as we are fortunate to have a film and hit song synonymous with Christmas.


Charlie Brown Christmas

The 1965 animated TV special was based on Charles Schultz’ comic strip Peanuts. Charlie Brown is feeling down despite it being the holidays. His attempt to direct the Christmas play don’t go over well and nothing seems to bring him good cheer until Linus explains the true meaning of the holiday. This special has an incredibly iconic and jazzy soundtrack that was created by pianist Vince Guaraldi.

Fun fact: Did you know this special was commissioned and sponsored by Coca-Cola?


More of our favourites include:
Shop Around the Corner – A 1940s film that inspired You’ve Got Mail.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 
– We’re partial to the original, but there are several remakes to explore!
A Christmas Story – As we get older we find we agree with Ralphie’s mom more and more, but who can forget that Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun or that leg lamp.
Elf – Who doesn’t love Will Ferrel running around in New York City in yellow tights. This film was heavily influenced by another classic Rankin & Bass’ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Meet Me In St. Louis
– Judy Garland sings well known hits including Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. We’re all for the original lyrics as we muddle through the end of 2020.
Die Hard – Christmas movie? Not a Christmas movie? Who can really say. This year we vote that any movie we watch in December is a Holiday film. We’ve earned it.

What holiday movies are you watching this year? Tag us on social media @ssoyxe with your picks and let us know if you watch our holiday concert films!

 

Ice Lanterns for Christmas

When we first started planning our Candlelight Christmas concert, we had this beautiful idea of lining the walkways up to St John’s Cathedral with ice lanterns. Patrons would have arrived to our special candlelit evening with beautiful frosty candle light…

Well we decided to do it anyway, even though  we don’t have an audience arriving!

And the result…well, you’ll see in the live stream!

We loved it so much we thought that you should try it at home to give your yard a magical glow for the holidays.

What you’ll need:

  • balloons
  • water from the tap
  • a cold night
  • water proof LED lights – like these

This is something so easy, anyone can do it!

Essentially, make a bunch of water balloons – just big enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Pick a nice cold night, and put your balloons out in a snow bank for the night.

Armed with your waterproof led lights (warm white for the effect we got), remove the  ice globes from the balloons and decide how you want to place them.

Then place the light in the snow, and the ice globe on top.

It’s really that easy – and it’s down right magical!

 

Toffee for Christmas – Watch Party Idea

At the SSO offices, December means one thing…our Director of Administration is bringing Toffee to work.

Natal Laycock’s role at the SSO is an important one (not just because of the toffee!), and we all think she’s part super-human as she handles work, home, kids, even piano lessons! In her 5 years at the SSO, her toffee has become the stuff of legends – its not every day that someone has made toffee for you, so when it happens its a memorable moment.

We invaded Natal’s toffee making this year to steal her recipe for you to give a try as a pairing with our Candlelight Christmas concert!

 

Delicious – let’s get started!

Here’s what you need – Ingredients:
1 can condensed milk (Orignal, not low fat)
1 cup cane sugar (ie Roger’s Brand)
1/2 cup butter (scant)
2 cups golden or brown sugar

But you’ll also need…
Heavy bottom sauce pan (2.5L or larger)
Long handled wooden spoon
Candy thermometer (optional, but recommended)
cookie sheet
parchment paper (or extra butter)

Optional – up to you, but not in ours:
chopped nuts

Now let’s get to it!

Step 1: Line the cookie sheet with parchment, or grease with butter and set aside. If using nuts, sprinkle on the sheet now.

Step 2: Combine all ingredients into sauce pan, and set the burner to at least med-high.

Step 3: Stir continuously, scraping the bottom, so the sugar does not burn to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will begin to change color, and fleck with darker pieces.

Warning: boiling candy splatters, and it burns!

The mixture will need to boil until it reaches over 300*F (hard crack). This will take roughly 20 minutes, depending on your burners. Keep stirring and scraping! Stick the candy thermometer in after about 10 minutes, ensuring it stays below the surface, and off the bottom of the pan to get an accurate read.

Step 4: Once the mixture has reached hard crack, remove from heat and pour over prepared cookie sheet.

Optional step: ‘score’ the toffee when it is partially set. Leave the toffee out at room temperature. Drag a butter knife across the surface to create break or ‘score’ lines in roughly the size of the pieces you want to make. If the toffee sticks to the knife, or the lines fill back in, it’s still too hot.

Step 5: Set tray in fridge/freezer/snow bank until set and then break apart. If you’ve scored it, turn the toffee upside down so the score lines are facing down.

Step 6: Break it up! As you can see from the video, even a screwdriver works…

Important: Store in a ziploc bag, or sealed container, and keep refrigerated.

It’s an incredibly tasty treat that is worth all that time standing over the heat! And once you’re done, it can be enjoyed with a number of classic holiday drinks…hot cocoa, milk, tea, coffee (Baileys optional!), and peppermint schnapps.

If you’ve never tried to make homemade toffee, this is your year. Let us know how it turned out!

Watch party ideas for a Night at the North Pole!

We all need a little Christmas this year – so for our live stream concert of A Night at the North Pole, we have a few ideas to get you in the holiday spirit!

Let’s start with something to drink – hot cocoa is pretty much the must here. It looks like the weather outside during the live stream won’t be frightful, but that does not mean you shouldn’t enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

This recipe is made with a combination of cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The cocoa powder adds the distinct “hot cocoa” flavor, and the chocolate chips melt into the mixture making this drink extra creamy, rich and luxurious. A splash of vanilla extract rounds out all that chocolaty flavor and makes this what we consider the perfect Homemade Hot Chocolate.

  • Place the milk of your choice in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Using milk instead of water, makes this hot chocolate extra creamy and flavorful. We prefer whole milk or 2% milk, but you can choose any milk that you choose (You could even use unsweetened almond milk).
  • Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar, and heat until warm.
  • Once the milk is warm, add chocolate chips, whisking until they melt into the milk.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Serve immediately, topped with your favorite garnishes: marshmallows, whipped cream, chopped chocolate, crushed candy canes or more.

Now, the reindeer notably enjoy their cocoa with some Bailey’s, or Kalhua, or Peppermint Schnapps….merely spirited suggestions…

For a special treat, we turned to the SSO’s Principal Bassoon for inspiration!

As Stephanie notes, this recipe gives you a delightful light (and pretty easy!) shortbread cookie to enjoy.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/4 cup of corn startch
  • 1/2 cup of icing sugar
  • 1&1/2 cups of flour

 

Place all your ingredients into a bowl, and beat for 10 minutes with an electric mixer.

Once the dough is consistent, drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet.
(this is where you can add an extra topping if you want!)

Bake for 10 minutes at 320°F (160°C)

 

Sachertorte for a Watch Party

For our year of musical tourism as part of our reimagined 90th season, we have been so thrilled to see people enjoy fondue for a trip to Paris, bison meatballs for Paris of the Prairies, and pretzels for our Oktoberfest event. Now that we’re off for a Visit to Vienna, there’s a few tasty treats you can try….but one of them is a must!

When in Vienna, you become intimately familiar with Wiener Schnitzel (it even has Vienna in its name!), apple strudel, spargel, tafelspitz, and of course enjoying their addition to Melange.

No trip to Vienna would be complete without enjoying a piece (or two…or three….) of Sachertorte.

Popular all across Austria, this rich chocolate cake is as important to a trip to Vienna as seeing the works of Klimt and hearing the Vienna Phil!

SACHERTORTEN Ingredients
130 g – dark couverture chocolate (min. 55% cocoa content)
1 – Vanilla Pod
150 g -softened butter
100g – Icing sugar
6 – Eggs (its definitely an indulgent cake!)
100 g – Castor sugar
140 g – Plain wheat flour

FAT AND FLOUR FOR SPRINGFORM
200 g – apricot jam
200 g – castor sugar
150 g – dark couverture chocolate (min. 55% cocoa content)

Unsweetend whipped cream to garnish

Ok – here we go!

  • Preheat oven to 170°C. Line the base of a springform with baking paper, grease the sides, and dust with a little flour.
    Melt couverture over boiling water. Let cool slightly.
  • Slit vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Using a hand mixer with whisks, beat the softened butter with the icing sugar and vanilla seeds until bubbles appear.
  • Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks into the butter mixture one by one. Now gradually add melted couverture chocolate. Beat the egg whites with the castor sugar until stiff, then place on top of the butter and chocolate mixture. Sift the flour over the mixture, then fold in the flour and beaten egg whites.
  • Transfer the mixture to the springform, smooth the top, and bake in the oven (middle rack) for 10–15 minutes, leaving the oven door a finger’s width ajar. Then close the oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes. (The cake is done when it yields slightly to the touch.)
  • Remove the cake from the oven and loosen the sides of the springform. Carefully tip the cake onto a cake rack lined with baking paper and let cool for approximately 20 minutes. Then pull off the baking paper, turn the cake over, and leave on rack to cool completely.
  • Cut the cake in half horizontally. Warm the jam and stir until smooth. Brush the top of both cake halves with the jam and place one on top of the other. Brush the sides with the jam as well.
  • To make the glaze, put the castor sugar into a saucepan with 125 ml water and boil over high heat for approximately 5 minutes. Take the sugar syrup off the stove and leave to cool a little. Coarsely chop the couverture, gradually adding it to the syrup, and stir until it forms a thick liquid (see tip below).

 

HOW TO TEST WHETHER THE GLAZE HAS THE RIGHT CONSISTENCY
Let a little of the glaze run over a wooden cooking spoon. It should now be covered by a layer of glaze approximately 4 mm thick. If the glaze is too thick, add a few drops of sugar syrup to dilute it (to do so, loosen any remaining sugar in the saucepan with a little hot water). Make sure the glaze does not get too hot, or it will be dull when cooked and not glossy.

 

We know that this is a big baking challenge, but Sachertorte is worth every single ounce of love put in to it! Let us know how you made out with your torte by tagging us in your photos on social media @ssoyxe #SSOVienna

Happy baking!

Pretzels for Oktoberfest!

Well it isn’t Oktoberfest without a Bavarian pretzel – the tasty golden brown salty treat is iconic. If you’re like us, you’re too intimidated to make them from scratch…but thanks to a friend of the SSO we found out it’s easier than we thought.

Educator, author, and illustrator Peter Cowan helped us build our kids show Little Ludwig (released in just a few weeks!), and now he’s helping us learn how to make delicious Bavarian pretzels. We’re grateful that he let us invade his home to learn how to make amazing pretzels!

 

FOR THE PRETZELS:

  • 3/4 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup water, lukewarm
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar or malt extract
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant or active dry yeast
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp table salt

FOR THE BATH:

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp baking soda

TOPPING:

  • 2 Tbsp coarse salt (we used Maldon salt as we find it works the best)

 

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment combine lukewarm milk, water, and brown sugar. Stir together with a fork then sprinkle instant (or active dry) yeast on top. Give it a swirl with the fork and let sit for about 5 minutes until foamy.

2. In the meantime melt the butter over low heat, then let cool for a few minutes.

3. Add flour, melted butter, and salt to the bowl with the yeast and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover bowl with plastic wrap put it in a warm place and let the dough rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

4. Punch down the dough and divide it into 8 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 16-inch (40cm) long rope, the middle part (about 2 inches or 5 cm) should be bulged to a diameter of about 1.2 inches and the ends should be thinned out to about 0.3 inches (0.75 cm).

5. Bring the ends together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends together twice then fold them down onto the bottom curve. Press ends into the dough and shape into a perfect pretzel shape.

6. Let the pretzels rise uncovered for 30 minutes in a warm place.

7. In the meantime preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C) with a baking sheet inside in the lower third.

8. Once the pretzels have risen, put them next to an opened window so the surface dries out and the pretzels develop a skin. This step is important for the texture.

9. Bring 4 cups water in a medium pot to a boil then add the baking soda. With a slotted spoon dip the pretzels one at a time carefully into the simmering water.

10. Take them out after about 5 seconds and place on a sheet of parchment paper.

11. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and cut the dough with a sharp knife about 0.2 inches deep in the thick middle part at the top-back.

12. Transfer the parchment paper with the pretzels onto the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until nicely browned. You want them to be really brown and not golden.

13. Remove pretzels from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. If you want them to be shiny brush them with a little bit of melted butter.

 

Make sure you plan for some mustard or cheese dip to go with them – click for dip ideas

Give it a try – its not too hard!
Making these soft pretzels and enjoying a beer is the ultimate way to enjoy the SSO’s Night at Oktoberfest