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Archive for December, 2011

We’ve reached the end of the stollen story, and really, it’s pretty anticlimactic. After two days of resting, you sprinkle on about another 1/2 cup to a whole cup of powdered sugar, slice, serve, and enjoy. It isn’t the prettiest or most photogenic of holiday treats, but it istasty.

Moist and tender. Boozy and fruity. Sweet, but not too sweet. It really is a delicious holiday bread. But don’t just take my word for it…

Slate just published an article hailing Stollen as the best Christmas bread. The author, L.V. Anderson, begins the article: “There are certain things Germans do better than everyone else. Not incurring massive amounts of public debt is one of them. Christmas baking is another.” Public finance aside, the article even mentions Melissa Clark’s recipe from 2009, which is the recipe featured here.

Since I began this holiday baking over a week ago, I’ve been feeling a mix of emotions: anticipation as I shopped for the ingredients and soaked the fruit and nuts; excitement as I started mixing the bread; panic and frustration when it all went awry; fear that the bread wouldn’t rise at all after sitting in the refrigerator all night; hope that it would turn out ok; relief when it did; and finally, pride. I succeeded in making an edible, even delicious, holiday stollen. And I shared the experience with you.

I’m  headed home to Iowa Friday, where I’ll be for a few days and I plan to take the second loaf of Stollen home with me. Hopefully my family will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the experience of making it.

I want to wish all of my readers, friends, and loved a very happy, restful, and tasty holiday season.

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holiday stollen – day four

Well friends and readers, the story of the stollen is winding down. In fact, all day four requires is coating the two loaves with 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, wrapping them well in plastic, and storing for two days before finally serving. Really – the story reached it’s climax in day two – the mixing stage.

The loaves aren’t very pretty (see above), but Chris and I were both tempted to cut into the bread before it had time to “ripen.” We waited.

And you will be waiting too! See you in two days.

Day Four: “Holiday Stollen” by Melissa Clark

After the loaves have sat for 8 hours or overnight, sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar over loaves, rolling to coat bottom and sides evenly with sugar. Wrap each loaf in plastic and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 days before serving.

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holiday stollen – day three

Now it’s day three of the holiday stollen baking extravaganza!

After mixing the dough and letting it rise and rest, it is now time to bake the bread. As I mentioned yesterday, I might have been able to do this on the second day but I ran out of time.  Here’s what you do when you are ready to the bake the bread.

Day Three: “Holiday Stollen” by Melissa Clark

If you refrigerated the dough overnight, take out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic covering loaves and bake for about 1 hour. Loaves should look uniformly dark golden brown. As you might notice in the picture above, my loaves ended up a little darker than dark golden brown. I wasn’t too worried because of the vast quantities of butter involved.

While the bread is baking, whisk together  3/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger.

When stollen is done, transfer top pan holding loaves to a wire rack (leave stollen on pan). While still hot, brush stollen with remaining 1 cup of melted butter, letting butter soak into loaves. Sprinkle ginger sugar on tops and sides of loaves.

When loaves are completely cool, cover loosely with waxed or parchment paper or foil and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

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holiday stollen – day two

Welcome back for the second installment of my adventures in holiday baking featuring stollen. After shopping for ingredients and letting the nuts and dried fruit soak overnight – I was now ready to actually mix the dough for the bread.

I started mixing the bread last Saturday – but I had a very strict window of time between 10:30 and 3:30 to mix the dough, let it rise, bake it, and glaze it. It was ambitious but doing the math in my head accounting for the rising and baking time, I thought I could make it work in between my spinning class and a play Chris and I were going to attend.

All was going well. I had even mixed up the spices, including grinding cardamom and grating nutmeg the night before to cut down on that time on the mixing day. Then – in my effort to hurry, I misread the recipe and added a full 2 cups (!!!) of melted butter to the dough instead of the one cup. It was ruined.

(By the way – two cups of a butter is a lot! See:

This holiday stollen is certainly an exercise in indulgence. Oh well, it is the holiday season)

Luckily, I had enough spices and flour, and 1/2 of a vanilla bean left, to mix the dough again – paying close attention to the amount of butter added. Then the next challenge arose.

My dough was not coming together. I’ve never wished for a brand-new, super fancy Kitchenaid mixer before last weekend. The recipe says to use a paddle attachment on a standing mixer to mix the dough. Well, I have my mom’s old stand mixer that just has the regular old beater attachments. So that’s what I used. Well the dough was so dry and stiff that it was just not holding together. I even transferred it to my food processor with the dough blade to mix it – but it was way too thick. I was splattering dough everywhere, and working quickly, I was not cleaning as I went. My kitchen turned quickly into a disaster.

And the time kept ticking away. At this rate I was not going to be done with everything in time to leave for the play.

I ended up mixing the dough by hand, slowly… and adding all of the almonds and dried fruits and ginger by hand as well. It was hard work, but it did work.

Finally, the dough was mixed and ready to rise – but I did not have time for it to rise and bake it too. I ended up taking it through the final resting time and then wrapping it in plastic and refrigerating it overnight and planned to bake it the next day. I learned this trick in this helpful post from The Kitchn.

So – plan to spend about 5 or 6 hours putting this bread together today. If you don’t want to continue you could always use those rum-soaked raisins and almonds for bread pudding… or oatmeal?

Day Two: “Holiday Stollen” by Melissa Clark

For planning purposes, I’m posting all of the ingredients here. For those of you in Louisville, you can find find all of the nuts, dried fruit, vanilla beans, and candied ginger (as well as any of the spices and flours you might need), at Nuts n Stuff.

2/3 c. black raisins

2/3 c. golden raisins

1/2 c. dried cherries

1/3 c. dark rum

1 c. slivered almonds, lightly toasted

1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)

1/2 c. milk, at room temperature

4 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 c. plus 3 T. sugar

2 3/4 t. ground ginger

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground cardamom

1 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1 t. freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved

2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, divided

1 large egg yolk

1/2 c. chopped candied ginger

1/2 c. mixed candied citrus peel (optional, you could omit this and use one cup of the candied ginger)

2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

In an electric mixer with paddle (or mixers! – but if you have a paddle, use it), set on low speed, mix yeast with milk until dissolved.

Add 1 cup flour and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. This is the “starter.” Transfer starter to a lightly greased bowl, cover with greased plastic, and let rest for 40 minutes at room temperature.

In an electric mixer with paddle and set on low speed, mix remaining 3 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla seeds. With motor running, pour in 1 cup (not 2!) melted butter. Mix on slow for 1 minute, then add egg yolk. Mix until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute more.

Divide starter dough into 3 pieces. Add starter to mixture in bowl, 1 piece at a time, mixing on slow until each addition is thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes after each addition. After starter is absorbed, mix dough on a medium speed until glossy, 4 to 5 minutes. As I mentioned above, my dough never reached this point. It was a crumbly mess – so I turned it out onto a board and kneaded it until it became softer and a little glossier.

Add almonds, candied ginger and citrus peel if using, and mix on slow until combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add raisins, cherries, and rum and mix on slow until combined, 2 to 3 minutes more (or knead by hand).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until fruit and nuts are inside dough rather than stuck on surface, and dough is smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes. Place dough in a medium bowl and cover with plastic. Rest for 1 hour to let rise slightly. Then knead it once or twice, cover with plastic and let rest for another hour.

Divide into 2 equal pieces and shape each into an oval loaf about 8 inches long. Stack 2 rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, lining top pan with parchment. Place loaves on doubled pans and cover with plastic. Allow loaves to rest 1 more hour at room temperature.

By this time, I ran out of time. If you run out of time too – just refrigerate the dough after the final rest. You can bring it to room temperature and bake it the next day.

Tomorrow – we’ll bake the bread. But don’t get too excited, you will still have to wait several days before consuming.

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holiday stollen – day one

This last weekend, I embarked on a holiday cooking adventure — I started a six-day project (seven-day if you count the day I bought the ingredients) baking a holiday treat that my mom would not make for me because it was too much of a pain.  This is holiday stollen, a dense, German fruitcake flavored with cardamom, rum, and lots of dried fruit and slivered almonds.

I’d never had a fruit cake I liked until this. Two years ago I saw it featured in the New York Times and knew I wanted to try it. My mom usually takes requests for her holiday baking, and my sister, brother and I each get to choose a treat for her to make. Michael, before his tastes matured, used to request the slice-and-bake Pillsbury sugar cookies. Now he requests peanut butter cookies filled with a mini peanut butter cup. Kristen chooses peanut clusters (right?). That year I chose the stollen. My mom agreed to make it, not realizing what a pain it would be at the time. It was delicious, but I didn’t really appreciate it and all of its complexity. Since then I’ve been baking significantly more and now realize the time and work (and love) my mom put into that holiday bread – just for me.

This year – I found myself craving stollen, so I asked my mom to make it. She said, “Hell no,” or something akin to that. I decided to embark on the culinary adventure myself.

So – in the next several days, I’m going to post pieces of the recipe. In six days, you will have the whole thing. And stay tuned, because I ended up averting what could have been a disaster last weekend.

For those of you that can’t wait 6 days, here’s a link to the original New York Times article. Melissa Clark, one of my favorite recipe-authors, wrote the article and adapted the recipe, so you know it’s going to be good, if you have the patience.

Day One: “Holiday Stollen” by Melissa Clark

For planning purposes, I’m posting all of the ingredients here. For those of you in Louisville, you can find find all of the nuts, dried fruit, vanilla beans, and candied ginger (as well as any of the spices and flours you might need), at Nuts n Stuff.

2/3 c. black raisins

2/3 c. golden raisins

1/2 c. dried cherries

1/3 c. dark rum

1 c. slivered almonds, lightly toasted

1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)

1/2 c. milk, at room temperature

4 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 c. plus 3 T. sugar

2 3/4 t. ground ginger

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground cardamom

1 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1 t. freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved

2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, divided

1 large egg yolk

1/2 c. chopped candied ginger

1/2 c. mixed candied citrus peel (optional, you could omit this and use one cup of the candied ginger)

2 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

The day before baking, make sure you have all of your ingredients. And pick a day for baking that you have at least 6 hours to spare.

The night before, mix raisins, cherries and rum in a small container. Mix almonds with 1/4 cup water in another container. Cover both and let sit overnight at room temperature.

That’s it! Now get some rest, you have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.

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When I saw my family in Indiana over Thanksgiving, my mom brought an early Christmas present for me… a new cast iron skillet. I was thrilled and eager to use it. I was also eager (with Chris’s constant prodding) to start clearing out our freezer of the CSA meat shares we had piling up. This is a warm, one-skillet, stove-top to oven meal perfect for busy and chilly/cold pre-holiday nights. It comes together quickly, tastes great, and makes great leftovers.

It does contain a potentially contentious ingredient – anchovies. The first time I ever had anchovies, besides in Caesar salad dressing, was on a cheap take-out pizza during a history seminar in college. I accidentally picked up a piece of the fishy-speckled pizza, thinking it was cheese. The anchovies were buried beneath. The first time to have anchovies is probably not on a cheap, take-out pizza. I’m not one to be picky, and tend to be adventurous when it comes to food, but this was gross.

Then I started appreciating them more as I read more about cooking that included anchovies. I think my first adventure in cooking them was adding them to a pasta sauce of broccoli and Parmesan. The anchovies dissolve in the sauce, creating a salty bite. They added the same when they dissolve into this simple sauce of rosemary, tomatoes, red onions and garlic.

The original recipe says it serves two, but Chris and I had it for dinner along with a salad and again for dinner the next night.

braised pork chops with tomatoes and rosemary (and anchovies), from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, by Melissa Clark

serves 2 for dinner with leftovers

2 thick bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

kosher salt

ground black pepper

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

3 large rosemary sprigs

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 pounds roma tomatoes, roughly chopped

6 anchovy fillets

Polenta, pasta, or rice for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat pork chops dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. In a large, ovenproof skillet, like a cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat, place 1 tablespoon oil. Sear chops until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes each side Transfer to a plate.

Add onions and rosemary to the skillet and saute until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Add anchovies, additional salt and pepper, and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down, about 8 minutes.

Add pork chops to skillet, covering with the sauce.

Cover skillet with a lid or tightly with foil and transfer to oven to bake until a thermometer inserted into center of meat reads 145 degrees, about 15 minutes. Allow chops to rest for 5 minutes in pan. Serve with polenta, noodles or rice to soak up sauce. I served it with polenta which was a nice, quick side dish.

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turnip casserole

After a tumultuous November, I’m trying to settle back into a somewhat normal work and life routine. This means catching up on my growing stack of papers at work, and the growing supply of hearty CSA vegetables at home. I say “hearty” because these are the vegetables I chose not to cook during particularly busy weeks, opting to first cook the more perishable veggies, like kale and mustard greens.

Because of this logic, I now have four large winter squash sitting on my counter, and I had a produce drawer full of turnips, some shriveled, some still cookable.

I set out to use the turnips, because they were shriveling faster than the almost forever-lasting squash. I think I’ve talked before about how I can fall into cooking and cookbook ruts. Last Christmas, my cohabitant’s mother gave me a wonderful gift basket full of goods from New Orleans and Louisiana, including spices, beignet mix, and Tabasco. The overflowing basket also included the cookbook Crescent City Famers Market Cookbook, by Poppy Tooker. It’s full of Cajun and Creole-inspired recipes with a fresh, seasonal spin. I’ve looked through it before, but kept turning to my “usual” cookbooks for meals. I had yet to make anything from it until this week, and I’m sorry I waited so long.

Before the CSA, I rarely purchased and cooked turnips. I think I once made a roast chicken with roasted turnips, potatoes, and rutabaga. I also braised them with other root vegetables once. I was looking for a way to use up all my turnips in a substantial, main-dinner-dish kind of way. Then I found this recipe from the above-mentioned cookbook. It combined cooked turnips with a flavorful, cheesy white sauce, and topped with breadcrumbs. It sounded great.

And it was. Warm, filling, and healthful. I used low-fat milk and a moderate amount of cheese. This is a great meatless main-dish recipe to make if you are drowning in turnips, or want a new way to try them.

turnips casserole, from Crescent City Famers Market Cookbook, by Poppy Tooker

Serves about 6 as a light main dish

1 1/2 lbs. turnips, peeled and thinly sliced

2 T. butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/3 c. chopped celery (about 1 stalk)

3 T. flour

1 1/4 c. milk

1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar

1/4 c. grated Asiago

salt and pepper

3 T. fresh bread crumbs

creole seasoning, like Tony Chachere’s

First, cook your turnips. Place them in  a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender – mine took about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

If you haven’t grated the cheese, do that while the turnips are cooking. You can chop up the other vegetables during this time too if you haven’t yet done that.

Preheat the oven to 400. In the same pot you used to cook the turnips, heat the butter. Add the onion, green pepper, and celery. Saute until tender. Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend. Cook for about 2 minutes.

While stirring, add the milk. Cook and continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in cheese and some salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir until smooth.

Add the drained turnips to the cheese sauce in the pot and stir to combine. Then put mixture into a greased baking dish and top with bread crumbs and some shakes/sprinkles of creole seasoning. Cook until browned and bubble – about 15 minutes.

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