Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Stollen

The darkness of winter is closing in and with that, the Christmas of 2011 is almost over.  Last night we had dinner with a family friend; their kids played with mine, the adults talked in front of the fireplace.  It's the most peaceful moment during the week leading to Christmas.  The food was superb, the desserts were equally delicious.  My panettone obviously needed tinkering, but the stollen came out beautifully.  It will no doubt be one bread that make it to my Christmas baking ritual.  To prove that I can make stollen, to prove to my walking friends that stollen is not an ordinary dried fruit-nut bread :)

Christmas stollen-1-2

And the kids, who were happily entertained by Tintin comic books.

Happy kids-1


Makes 2 large breads


3/4 cup dark raisins

3/4 cup golden raisins

4 ounces whole candied citron, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup dark rum or brandy


1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) rapid-rise yeast

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved

3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup blanched whole almonds, chopped into medium-sized pieces

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

12 ounces marzipan, homemade or canned

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

The night before or even 2 or 3 days ahead, combine the raisins, candied citron, and liquor in a 2-pint jar with a screw-cap lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  Turn the container several times to distribute the liquor evenly.  Set aside at room temperature to soak.

To make the sponge:  scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat-you will see steam rising from the surface and small bubbles forming around the edges.  Remove the pan from the heat and let milk cool to between 120 degree and 130 degree F.

Put the flour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Whisk in the yeast and sugar.  Add the milk and whisk briskly to make a smooth batter.  Add the egg and whisk to combine well.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise until it more than doubles in volume and then collapses on itself, about 2 hours.

To make the dough with a stand mixer:  attach the flat beater and beat the butter into the sponge in 2-tablespoon installment on medium speed, beating until incorporated after each addition.  Add the sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla seeds, almond extract, and salt and beat on low to medium-low speed until the dough masses on the blade, abut 5 minutes.  Scrape the bowl and beater, and stir in the raisins and citron, along with any unabsorbed liquor.  Add the almonds.  Switch to the dough hook.  Beating on low speed, gradually 2 cups of the flour and then knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on your work surface and scrape the dough onto it.  Knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated.  The dough should feel fairly firm and only a bit tacky.  If it is too sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour.  Push any fruit that falls from the dough during kneading back into the dough.

Wash and dry the bowl and either oil it lightly or coat it with cooking spray.  Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning to coat all surfaces.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and divide it in half with a pastry scraper or sharp knife.  Shape each piece into a all, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

To shape the stollen:  divide the marzipan into 2 pieces.  Roll each under your palms into a cylinder about 11 inches long.  Pat or roll each piece of dough into an oval measuring 12 inches long and about 9 inches wide at the widest point.  If the dough sticks at any point, dust it very lightly with flour.  Make a shallow depression down the center of each oval with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Place a roll of marzipan in each depression.  Lift one side of dough over the marzipan, covering it completely.  The edge of the top flap of dough should just reach the other edge of dough.

Line a large baking sheet (18 x 12 x 1 inch) with a silicone baking pan liner or cooking parchment.  Put the stollen crosswise on the prepared sheet, placing them about 3 inches from each end of the sheet and leaving about 4 inches of space between them.  Coat the stollen with cooking spray and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise just until they have increased in volume by about half, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

When the stollen are ready, remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the oven.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the stollen are nicely browned.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register 195 degree F.  Remove the pan from the oven and immediately brush each stollen with half the melted butter.  Put the confectioners' sugar in a fine-meshed sieve and sift a generous layer all over the top of the stollen.  Repeat in a few minutes if you see the sugar melting in spots.  Cool the stollen completely on wire cooling racks.  To serve, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a sharp serrated knife.

Notes:  to age the stollen, bake in advance before Christmas arrives!

Source:  A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Eating sweetened tangyuan or onde-onde (in Bahasa Indonesia) during Chinese Winter Solstice Festival may become a yearly occurrence now. Before my parents moved close to me, I didn't always remember to make onde-onde in the month of December; or sometimes I was too lazy to make some. But now, my mom is my motivation to make this something to look forward to every year. Celebrating one, if not all, traditional Chinese holidays means we are keeping our cultural heritage alives in the family.

My mom usually make sweet, syrupy broth from sugar, water, lots of ginger, and kaffir lime leaves. In some of the onde-onde, she'd put ground peanuts mixed in with sugar to form some kind of paste. Last night I helped her roll those balls, small and large; red, green, brown, and white, for us to eat today; my hands were sticky from the glutinous flour but I enjoyed it.

We all ate too much of the onde-onde but we didn't mind it at all since we tried to eat them only once a year; though my mom sometimes break the tradition by making it again during winter time. When eaten hot, these onde-onde are so good; chewy, sweet, and a warming sustenance. Only my son who doesn't quite like the texture of the onde-onde; nevertheless he loves the syrupy broth.  I just hope he'll still remember this moment when he's grown up.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Almond Truffle Bars

I finally had a time to bake sweets for Christmas...ah, the joy of having two-week break from work.  It gave me a motivation to bake, it prepared me to be ready for Christmas.  Thus the sweet is aptly named Christmas almond truffle bars.  I've made this actually years before, don't remember anymore if I've ever blogged about it; but it doesn't matter, does it?  A recipe is a recipe; especially this type of recipe, everyone are always happy to be reminded to use it again.

I have big plan to do during the break, aside from doing some shoot for work that is.  I'm hoping that will be done quickly so I can focus on baking leisurely.  My mom also wanted to do baking together with me, so why not make several if time allows.  My plan is to try making panettone and stollen before Christmas.  It's an ambitious plan, isn't it?  I mentioned this plan with two of my walking partners, and they all said that these two bread were basically fruitcakes because they contained candied fruits!  I was mad at them in a good way, trying in vain explaining that they were different.  One of them was a performer and she just did a Christmas show which she sang about fruitcake in it.  Nobody likes them, there are  suspicious things in fruitcakes, and those funky stuff stuck to your teeth.  She is a funny gal and I still like her despite our different food preferences.

For now, let's have this recipe written down.

Christmas Almond Toffee Bars

Makes one 13 x 9" pan


For the crust:

2 cups vanilla wafer cookies, crushed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the caramel:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

For the topping:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup chopped almonds


Preheat oven to 350°F; butter a 13 x 9" glass baking dish.

Process vanilla wafers in a food processor until smooth. Combine the crushed cookies with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter in a big bowl.

Press the mixture into the prepared dish, tamp it down with bottom of a glass or a measuring cup. Bake for 8 minutes, or just until set.

Meanwhile, heat 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat; stirring to blend. Bring mixture to a boil and boil 1 minute without stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture over the cookie crust, then return the dish to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes, remove and cool for 2 minutes.

Combine both chocolate chips in a bowl and sprinkle them over the toffee and let stand until they're glossy, about 5 minutes. Spread the chocolate over the toffee using an offset spatula, then sprinkle the nuts on top. Tap the nuts down with your fingers so they will adhere better to the chocolate. Cool bars completely.

Remove the toffee from the pan. To break it into pieces, cut with a sharp knife into bars.

Source: adapted from Holiday Cookies by Cuisine At Home

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bittersweet Truffle Tart

I shared this tart with my Bunco friends a few weeks ago. Rich, chocolaty, and creamy; those three words pretty much summed up the end result.

There's so much to write but I'm still finding the time; it's been a long week and busy month.  I'll leave with a recipe to share, though.  Until later.

Bittersweet truffle tart

Bittersweet chocolate tart

Bittersweet Truffle Tart

Makes 10 servings

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup ground blanched almonds

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup strawberry jam

Whipped Almond Mascarpone, recipe follows

Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate shavings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, ground almonds, butter, and cocoa powder. Beat with an electric mixer until combined. Knead gently with hands until mixture comes together. Press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9- or 9 1/2-inch fluted square or round tart pan that has a removable bottom or a 9-inch pie plate.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until crust is slightly puffed. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

In a medium saucepan, combine whipping cream, the 12 ounces chocolate, and granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat just until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in strawberry jam. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until mixture is cooled and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Beat cooled chocolate mixture about 30 seconds or just until the color lightens slightly. Pour into crust, spreading evenly. Cover and chill about 2 hours and until firm.

Prepare Whipped Almond Mascarpone. Using a small sharp knife, gently loosen edges of crust from side of pan. Remove sides of tart pan. Spread the whipped mascarpone over top of tart. If desired sprinkle each serving with chocolate shavings.

Whipped Almond Mascarpone: In a medium bowl, combine half of an 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 whipping cream, and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat on high speed until mixture is thick and holds firm peaks.

Source: Holiday Baking Better Homes and Gardens 2008