(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.)

My grandmother was from Pennsylvania, and I remember her always bringing stollen for the holidays.  I’ve been talking about trying one for a few years now, but I always spend my days before Christmas frantically making chocolate.  This year, instead of chocolate gifts, I made jams.  The jams were done in advance, so I had plenty of time this year.

It wasn’t a difficult bread – it actually reminded me a lot of a cinnamon-raisin challah that a local bakery makes.  Just a basic egg yeast bread, slow-risen, with fruit.  I used candied peel and cherries from the grocery store, and raisins that were rehydrated in orange juice. 

Mixed and in my bread-rising-bowl, it looked like this:

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I let it rise, then rolled it out into a big square.  It was almost too big for my silicone rolling mat:

Christmas Stollen

I rolled it up from the long side, then formed it into a round.  I tucked one side inside the other, then "glued" them together with a tiny bit of egg wash.

Christmas Stollen

I snipped around the outside, let it rise one more time, then baked.

Christmas Stollen

Have a close-up:

Christmas Stollen

It was very good. I remember my grandmother’s having more fruit in it, and a glaze on top.  Next year, I’ll make my own candied zest, which should make it a bit more citrus-y, and add another kind of fruit besides the raisins and a few candied cherries. And maybe I’ll replace the powdered sugar with a citrus based glaze, with more fruit on top for decoration.  But those are all just tweaks – it really was quite good just the way it was.

( see the recipe )

I had people over for Christmas treats last weekend, and my next few posts are going to be about all the cookies and pies I made. 

Today, though, is about fruitcake.

I make fruitcake every year, using the Good Eats Free Range Fruitcake recipe.  It’s really very good, but it’s a little alcoholic for my friends with kids, and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like fruitcake without terrifyingly-red candied cherries:

Cherries

But I’m also not a fan of fruitcakes that contain nothing but raisins and Scary Candied Fruit.  So I was going to skip making fruitcake altogether this year.  Then I saw this Chocolate Cherry Fruitcake from King Arthur.  It looked like the solution to all my issues – it had real fruit and nuts, it had candied cherries, and who can complain about the addition of chocolate?  My only worry was the "Jammy Bits", but they had a free-shipping special, and I figured it was worth a try.

When I got the box, they turned out to be just like little tiny fruit-flavored gumdrops.  I have a good recipe for fruit-flavored gumdrops, so next time I’ll just make my own. 

The fruitcake went together easy enough.  It said to soak the dried cherries in brandy, rum, or water, but apple cider would have worked just as well and added more flavor then water.  Once the dried cherries were soaked, the rest of the batter ingredients went in the stand mixer – butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla and almond extract first, then 3 eggs. 

Then the flour got mixed in, alternating with the milk.  Once the batter was done, I mixed in the fruit, nuts, and chocolate by hand.  I’ve had trouble in the past with the mixer being too violent and breaking up chocolate chips, and I wanted them whole.

I used two baking pans – a 8×4 and a 10xsomething loaf pan, because that’s what I had.  They both took about the same time to bake – just over an hour.

I had some trouble getting them out of the pans – next time I’ll line them with parchment paper, at least on the bottoms, to make it easier.

Once they were cool, I brushed them with simple syrup (one part water, one part sugar, cook until the sugar is dissolved, then cool).  I brushed them with one more coat just before serving.

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I was impressed.  The chocolate made it different enough to be interesting, and I thought the ratio of real fruit to candied fruit was just right.  It had just enough batter to hold all the fruit together.  I had been tempted to toss some cinnamon in the batter, but it didn’t need it – the fruit carried it just fine on it’s own.

I’ll make it again. Next time, in the little paper pans so I can give them out as last-minute gifts.  Because fruitcake doesn’t have to be awful!

( see the recipe )

This may be the silliest recipe I’ve ever posted.

I saw it on Tasty Kitchen and I couldn’t resist the urge to try it.

Take one pint ice cream – I used butter pecan – and let it sit until it’s soft enough to be squished around with a wooden spoon.

Then add 1.5 cups self-rising flour.  Mix until it’s thoroughly combined.  Dump into a 8×4 loaf pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

You get this:

Is it a great gourmet masterpiece? No. But it was solidly good.  I’ll probably never make it again, but it was a fun thing to do once.  And it would be a great project for a kid on a rainy afternoon!

Biscuits, like BBQ, can be a contentious issue, so let me be clear about where I stand:  I’m in the south, so they should use lots of buttermilk and baking powder – no yeast! 

The recipe in my database says “Touch-Of-Grace Biscuits”.  That’s actually the name of a Shirley Corriher biscuit recipe, from CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking.  It’s an amazing book, but when I looked up this recipe there, my version is different.  I suspect that years of internet modifications have changed it a bit at a time, and now it’s evolved to a higher level. 

A few remarks on ingredients:  You can make this with low-fat buttermilk, but you shouldn’t.  My local stores sell Borden Country-Style Buttermilk (I tried to link to the Borden website, but it’s infested with Flash and you can’t link directly to a product!), which is very good but also very often out of stock.  I’ve done it with low-fat buttermilk, and they come out okay but not great.  The recipe has 1/4 cup sugar in it – I almost always leave it out, unless I specifically want them to come out sweet (for shortcake or jam or such).  I use butter-flavored Crisco as the shortening, but I’ve also done them with Organic Spectrum shortening and there wasn’t any significant impact on the flavor either way.

Now, to the recipe:

Start with 2 cups of self-rising flour and add the salt.  If you want sugar, this is where it goes in.  Mix in the shortening with a fork or a pastry cutter, then dump in the buttermilk and cream.  You can mess with the proportions here if you want more or less buttermilk flavor, as long as you come up with a total of 1 and 2/3 cups.

It will be very, very wet:

Biscuit dough

You can scoop it out with your hands, but it will be messy. You can use a big cookie scoop or disher if you want to be neater.  However you do it, drop each biscuit into the bowl of all-purpose flour, and roll it around a bit until covered, then drop into a greased cake pan.  I’m a little short on cake pans at the moment, so I use this pie pan (which looks pretty, but it’s impossible to actually get a piece of pie out of it intact!).  Don’t worry if some of the flour ends up in the bottom.

Biscuits

Brush the tops with melted butter. I forget this step sometimes, which is why the tops of mine aren’t as brown as they could be. Then bake at 475 for 20 minutes.

Biscuits

Then eat. Covered in sausage gravy or smeared with butter and jelly. They’re best just out of the oven – but what baked good isn’t?

( see the recipe )