Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dad's Christmas Stollen

This makes six loaves of the German-style Christmas bread, each enough to serve six or eight people, with coffee. Dad makes the big batch because they freeze well and make good Christmas gifts for people like the choir director, the neighbor who checks the mail for you while you’re away and the kids’ piano teacher.
“Keep one for yourself, and have five good friends,” he suggests.
2 pkgs. Active dry yeast (or equivalent)
½ cup warm water
2 cups milk, scalded
1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter, melted (can melt it in the scalded milk)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cardamon
8 cups, approx.., sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups seedless raisins, black or white or both
½ cup currants*
½ cup chopped, mixed candied fruit*
4 Tbs grated orange peel
2 Tbs grated lemon peel
½ cup chopped, blanched almonds (
More candied fruit to decorate
For the glaze: 2 cups confectioners sugar, 4 Tbs. milk and a dash of salt.
*can use dried fruit such as cranberries “rehydrated” in simple syrup, make your own candied lemon and orange peel in simple syrup. Candied pineapple is nice but pieces need to be chopped up smaller than the chunks it usually comes in
Combine milk, butter, sugar, salt and cardamom and set aside to cool. Cool to lukewarm. When lukewarm, stir in four cups of the flour. Beat well. Add softened yeast and eggs and beat well. Stir in raisins, candied fruits, peels and nuts.
Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, eight to 10 minutes. (Really knead that dough; besides making the bread better, it will help you get rid of the tension of Christmas shopping.)
Place dough in large greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover and let rise in warm place to double size (1-1/2 to 2 hours). Punch down.
Turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide into six equal parts. Cover with towel and let rest 10 minutes.
Roll each part into an oval (about 10 inches long by 6 inches wide) to about 3/8 inch thick. Take one end and fold it over to within about an inch of the other end. This is what gives it the “stollen” shape.
Place stollen on a greased baking sheet. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place until almost double, about an hour.
Bake in moderate oven (375) for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with glaze (see below). Decorate with cut up candied cherries, candied pineapple and citron, or any combination of the above, or with your home-made candied fruit if you are avoiding artificial coloring and flavoring.
Glaze: Mix 2 cups confectioners sugar, 4 Tablespoons milk and a dash of salt. Stir into thin glaze.

Serve in slices and provide plenty of butter. Frozen stollen can thaw in about half an hour at room temperature, or they can be wrapped in foil and heated in the oven.
Here's how they look as they came out of the oven and are cooling off. Do not try to ice them when they aren't cool -- the icing will soak in and or drip completely off. Even after they cool, I will put a tray or waxed paper underneath to catch drips.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Homemade candied fruit

If you have recipes that call for candied fruit (Christmas stollen recipe to come later) but don't like the idea of those gummy-bear-artificial-colored candied fruits at the store, make your own. It isn't difficult, but it is time-consuming. But if you can boil water and peel an orange, you have the skills.

A large saucepan
A medium saucepan (optional, but it reduces the time requirement)
Measuring cup
Wooden spoon (or other non heat-conductive stirring device, although anything would serve in a pinch) 
A wire rack, such as a cooling rack
A cookie pan or some other device to put under the wire rack
Parchment paper (actually, optional, but speeds cleanup) 
Paring knife
Vegetable peeler
Chef's knife
Colander or sieve
Measuring cup

Two methods: One is for candying fresh citrus peels. The second is for candying any dried fruit, such as dried cherries. (Most dried fruit is actually sweet enough for me, but you can up that by poaching briefly in simple syrup. )

For candied orange, lemon or lime peels:
Peel the fruit and cut into strips. (If you dice it now, it will fall through the wire rack, and you don't want that.) I found that peeling the orange the regular way is fine, but for the lime and lemon, I used a vegetable peeler. You don't have to worry about  not getting the white part, the pith -- it will get taken care of in the process.

I need each fruit peel separately, which is probably not necessary, but I wanted to keep them separate for later use.

Put the peels in cold water in the big saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or so. Drain in the colander and put back in the saucepan with fresh, cold water. Repeat. Taste. It will taste pretty awful, but is it crunchy or has it softened?  If the peel is still too crunchy, repeat again. This process is called blanching. I put each different peel in a separate bowl once it was blanched, then moved on to the candying part.

Meanwhile, make a simple syrup. It's simple. Equal parts sugar and water, so I used 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water to start with. If that more than halfway fills your saucepan, better keep an eye on it. You only have to bring this to a boil so the sugar dissolves completely, but it will try to boil over if your pan is too small or you walk away. So don't let that happen.

the peel of 4 oranges, 4 lemons, and 4 limes, plus 2 packages of dried cherries, I made two batches of simple syrup, so 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water total. I happened to have some vanilla beans, so I tossed one in while making the simple syrup. Totally optional. I'm sure you could also throw in some spices, maybe a cinnamon stick? I'd make it plain, first.

In the larger saucepan -- because we don't want boilovers -- put about 2 cups of the simple syrup and the fruit peel of your choice. Bring to a low boil and boil for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it so you don't end up with caramelized fruit peel, although I'm not sure that would be a bad thing. Having it boil over on the stove, that would be bad. When you have extracted and cooled a piece of the peel and it seems ready -- soft and a little sweet, but still fruit and not a gummy bear -- pour into the sieve over some sort of bowl or vessel to save the simple syrup (more on that later) and dump the peels to the rack which you have set over the baking pan lined with parchment paper. Or whatever rig you can assemble so the excess can drip off of the peel without making a huge mess. While it is still hot, you can sprinkle the peel with a little more sugar. Or not. Tastes vary.

For things like the dried cherries, I just poached them in some simple syrup for a few minutes to plump them up and sweeten them a little. Do this last -- the cherries will turn the simple syrup into cherry-colored and flavored simple syrup.Which leads to ....

Save the simple syrup that you drain from the fruit! You now have citrus-flavored and/or cherry-flavored simple syrup. I haven't decided what to do with it, but I think a bartender friend of mine may have some ideas.

When the candied peels and fruit have cooled, put in airtight containers or baggies and refrigerate. I chopped them before putting them in storage so I wouldn't have to do it when I was ready to use them.. 

I kept one batch of candied lemon peel for months, but mostly because I forgot I had it. My nephew and I found that it makes a good snack if you have leftovers after baking.



About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.