Friday, December 24, 2010

Daring Bakers-Christmas Stollen

I love Stollen! This delicious German sweet belongs to a family of European breads made with eggs, butter, and lots of dried fruit. Panettone and Gubana are other examples, and they probably all generated in the middle ages, when spices, nuts, and dried fruit were used to add nutrition to winter breads. I have made this bread few times when I was in Venice last year, using Whild Yeast Susan's recipe. They were very well received and went quickly. Stollen is normally eaten at Christmas and it represents the blanket the baby Jesus was wrapped in. We were challenged to shape the dough as a wreath, which works really well too.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Sadly I had to give up gluten, so I made this bread but didn't eat it, it was torture let me tell you. I brought it up to the West Point Inn, an amazing place up on Mount Tamalpais, reachable only by foot, where we spent last night. I knew that our friends and their children would love having it for dessert or even for breakfast. We ate it at night and as french toast this morning, delicious! And to make you want to visit San Francisco, here are two pictures of this morning's sunrise, from the Inn, totally priceless!

Amazing views of San Francisco at sunrise

Penny challenged to package the stollen for gift giving so I cooked few mini stollens in these super cute paper molds and gave them as gift to few of my neighbors.

You can find the complete recipe and instructions at the daring kitchen site, but below is just the recipe, edited to make the ingredient list easier to read.

I candied my own peel using the method I normally use, and used grapefruit and lemon peel since that is what I had at home.

I made few changes to the recipe, first in the mixing. I omitted 3 ounces of flour to the dough as the original 27 ounces seemed too much, I prefer a wetter dough in general, plus you can always add more flour if it is not enough. The amount I used, 24 ounces, worked well. Then I didn't add the butter until after the gluten started developing. Fat inhibits gluten development, by adding the butter slowly after the dough has been mixed a while you create a softer, more elastic dough. I used cranberries instead of the raisins to make the bread even more festive (the Germans don't use cranberries as they are a Northern American fruit), and didn't use the cherries the recipe suggests. Last change was in the spice, I used ground cardamom instead of the cinnamon, because it goes so well with the citrus flavor.

Stollen Wreath

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves.
Serves 10-12 people


1/4 cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages/4.5 teaspoons/14 gr/.5 oz active dry yeast
1 cup milk
5 oz/10 tablespoons/140 gr unsalted butter
5.5 cups/27 oz/770 gr all-purpose flour
½ cup/115 gr sugar
3/4 teaspoon/4.5 gr salt
1 teaspoon/6 gr cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons/10 ml vanilla extract
1 teaspoon/5 ml lemon extract or orange extract
3/4 cup/4 3⁄4 oz/135 gr mixed peel
1 cup/6 oz/170 gr firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons/45ml rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional) I didn't use them
1 cup/3.5 oz/100 gr flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath


Soak the raisins
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.

To make the dough

Pour 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.

In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.

Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick.
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 11⁄2 times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!

When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookies-Just a Few...

I started making cookies for Christmas years before I changed my career from science to pastry. Maybe I was already moving in that direction, who knows. I grew up eating tea cookies in Italy, there are so many types, and many have either almonds or hazelnuts in them. I love to recreate the look and taste of those little morsels, and to lean new recipes from around the world.

Linzer Cookies

Every year I can't help but buy one of the cookie publications that come out just for Christmas, as a result I have a huge collection of recipes, some that I may never try, and they are all over the place. Recently though I started moving all the cookie recipes I make over and over into a little binder so I know where they all are. I am looking forward to adding to it years after years.

Checkerboard Cookies

This year I have made the cookies you see here, some are gluten free for my friends who don't eat gluten, and for me as well (being gluten free for a month, more on another post....).

Chocolate macaron/Coconut macaroons/Marasche

By far the recipe I have made the most is Dorie Greenspan's Korova cookies. I first saw them in her beautiful book Paris Sweets, then realized they are probably the best known cookies in cyberspace, even renamed World Peace Cookies because they induce such bliss and pleasure that the world would be a different place if we all ate them (I wish it were so simple...). I used to sell these cookies at a local farmers' market and they always sold out, I still get orders once in a while. The expression on people's faces when they first taste them is priceless, some sounds I heard cannot be repeated here, if you know what I mean....

Korova Cookies

If you google Korova cookies you get 13,600 links, if you google world peace cookies you get 848,000 (and if you google world peace only, the search engine puts them second). Incredible, isn't it? If you are still not convinced try them, they are amazing!

Use only the best quality of cocoa powder and chocolate, it makes a huge difference, and don't use regular salt, otherwise you lose the contrast of the two flavors.

Korova Cookies
a.k.a. World Peace Cookies
adapted from Dorie Greenspan


5 1/2 oz-150 gr butter, softened
2/3 cup-120 gr brown sugar, packed tight
1/4 cup-50 gr granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup-175 gr all purpose flour
1/3 cup-30 gr cocoa powder (the darker the better, I use Valhrona)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 oz-150 gr chocolate (use the best quality you can find, at least 64% cocoa)


Pre-sift dry ingredients. Chop chocolate into small pieces. Beat butter and the two sugars until fluffy. Add the dry mixture and the salt. Mix just until the dry ingredients start getting incorporated. Add the chocolate and bring together, without over mixing the dough (the texture will be too tough if the dough is over mixed). Roll into three 12" logs, wrap, and freeze. Makes 1.5 pounds of dough. I normally double the recipe, roll it in six thin logs, and roll each on the short side of a sheet of parchment paper (which is 12"). They keep in the freezer for few weeks. Temper the logs for few minutes at room temperature before cutting thin slices. Bake at 325F until barely set (this is tricky as they are really dark, when you test them they should not be super soft, but still give a little, if they are completely set/hard when you take them out of the oven they are over cooked).

Happy Holiday and Peace to all!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Doughnuts Round II-Jelly Doughnuts that is...

I brought these fantastic jelly doughnuts to my friend's Suzanne's house for Hanukkah, needless to say they didn't last long. As you may remember, I decided to try all the doughnut recipes of the October Daring Baker's challenge since I wasn't able to participate, and started with the pumpkin doughnut recipe. I was about to try a second recipe but when I saw these in Elra' s blog, I had to try them, they looked so tasty. I used the recipe as given by Martha Stewart, but let the dough rise during the day, for about two hours. I tried both the method given in the recipe of sandwiching the jam in between two disks of dough, and the method of injecting the jam after the frying. Injecting not only is faster, but results in better looking doughnuts. If you don't have a pastry bag and the tip to inject the jam, use the method given by MS.

Happy Hanukkah!


Makes about 20.

  • 3/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for coating
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Peanut oil, for frying, plus more for bowl
  • 1/4 cup raspberry or strawberry jam or jelly


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the warm water and yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt; mix until well combined. Add egg yolks and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour. Mix until combined, then knead dough in bowl until all flour is incorporated. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead a few minutes until smooth. Knead in margarine until incorporated.
  2. Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl, turning several times to coat entirely with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Bring dough to room temperature, about 30 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into an 11-inch square, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out about 24 (2-inch) rounds. Reroll scraps; cut out about 16 more rounds.
  4. Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Brush edge of a dough round with egg white, then mound 1/2 teaspoon jam in center. Top with another round; press edges to seal. Repeat with remaining rounds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; let rise until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Heat 3 inches of oil in a large, heavy pot until it reaches 360 on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches of 4 or 5, slip doughnuts into hot oil. Fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain.
  6. While doughnuts are still hot, dip them in remaining 1/2 cup sugar, turning to coat. Serve immediately.


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