Holiday Marzipan Stollen

4 loaves of Stollen
Stollen is a bit lazy. It needs A LOT of rest, plenty of naps on its way to being eaten, a good 12 hours of sleep in the beginning AND at the end, four days of vacation after that. Stollen takes its time. I begin the process the night before baking by making the soaker (all the good bits soaked in dark rum), making the sponge (a bit of flour, water and yeast allowed to party overnight) and candying my own peel. The stollen is packed so full of good stuff, a long, slow rise is essential the next day. After baking, the cooled stollen rests again overnight and then benefits from a rest at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for at least 4 additional days. A clear calendar is essential to ensure the process isn’t rushed:

Night 1: Make candied peel, make soaker and make sponge (Steps 1-3 below)
Day 2: Make dough, proof, bake, coat with butter and sugar, rest overnight uncovered (Steps 4-12 below)
Day 3-7: Wrap tightly in foil at room temperature and allow to rest for at least 4 days (Steps 13-14 below )

Marzipan Stollen

Adapted from Wild Yeast Blog. It’s worth the time to make your own candied peel. It turns stollen from dowdy to delicious.

Ingredients


Soaker Ingredients:
– 120 grams golden raisins
– 90 grams dried figs, chopped
– 60 grams sliced almonds
– 35 grams dark rum
Sponge Ingredients:
– 120 grams all-purpose flour
– 80 grams water
– A small pinch rapid-rise yeast
Dough Ingredients:
– 350 grams all-purpose flour
– 55 grams whole milk
– 3 packages rapid-rise yeast (minus the small pinch)
– 50 grams sugar
– 53 grams egg (about one large egg)
– 8 grams salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– ½ teaspoon cardamom
– ¼ teaspoon allspice
– ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
– Grated lemon zest from ½ lemon
– Grated orange zest from ½ orange
– 275 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
– All of the sponge
– All of the soaker
– 75 grams candied orange peel (homemade or high quality)
– 75 grams candied lemon peel (homemade or high quality)
– 198 grams (7 oz.) of marzipan, divided lengthwise into four pieces
Finishing Ingredients:
– Clarified butter
– Granulated sugar
– Powdered sugar

Ingredients


Directions

  1. The night before: Combine the soaker ingredients in a bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  2. The night before: Combine the sponge ingredients in another bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 12 hours.
  3. The night before: Make candied peel
  4. Heat milk to 105-110 degrees, add the yeast, stir and let set for 10 minutes.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all of the final dough ingredients except the soaker, peel and marzipan. Mix on slow speed until all the ingredients are incorporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Continue mixing at medium speed until the dough comes together around the hook and no longer sticks to the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 10 minutes. It’s important to create a strong gluten network.
  7. Add the soaker and peels and mix by hand until they are evenly distributed through the dough. The fruit/peel to dough ratio will be high.
  8. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise in a warm location until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  9. Turn the dough onto the counter. Divide into four even pieces, pre-shape the dough into balls and let them rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  10. Shape the loaves into blunt end batards (country loaf shape). With a wooden spoon handle placed lengthwise and just off center, press down firmly making a long trough. Roll the marzipan into a rope about ½ in shorter than the batard and place in the trough. Tuck the short sides of the dough up around the marzipan and fold the smaller section of dough over the longer and seal well (it should look like a hoagie roll when finished). Pick off any fruit on the outside to avoid burning. Place batards on parchment-lined insulated (helps the bottoms from over-browning)  baking sheets (two per sheet). Cover and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm location.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F. You will need steam during the initial phase of baking, so place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes, open the oven door briefly to allow any remaining steam to escape and carefully remove the pan of water. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. You will need to rotate the position of the baking sheets halfway through the bake to ensure even browning. Cover loaves with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Cool slightly.
  13. While the loaves are still warm, brush them with clarified butter and dredge them in granulated sugar. When cool, sift powdered sugar over the loaves. Leave the stollen out overnight to let the loaves dry out and the sugar to form a crust.
  14. To store, wrap tightly in foil at room temperature. Stollen should be allowed to rest for at least 4 days before eating, so plan accordingly. After the 4-day rest period, stollen can be frozen.
  15. To serve, unwrap, re-heat stollen in the oven, dust with additional powdered sugar if needed, slice and enjoy.

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Eccles Cakes

A Plate of British Eccles Cakes
Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of an Anglophile. And, with the holidays just around the corner, I don’t simply dream of a white Christmas, but a Dickensian one. I imagine a holiday with Victorian carolers strolling snow-covered cobbled streets, a cozy Cotswold cottage lit with candles and scented with crackling roast goose and steamy figgy pudding, pulling Christmas crackers with family and friends around the table, and nibbling treats like these very British Eccles cakes.

The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table.


Eccles Cakes

An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry. The origins can be traced to the town of Eccles, formerly within the Lancashire boundary, but now a suburb of Manchester. Weights are in grams, nodding to their British origin.

Ingredients

    Filling
  • 120 grams currants
  • 50 grams candied orange peel
  • 50 grams butter, softened
  • 40 grams light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • Zest of ¼ lemon
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy
  • Pastry
  • 250 grams All-purpose flour
  • 5 grams salt
  • 250 grams very cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 125 milliliters ice-water
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)

Directions

  1. Stir together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute until butter is melted. Cover and set aside for the flavors to meld and currants to soften. Refrigerate. Once cold, the filling should bind together without extra liquid. Drain if necessary.
  2. Pulse flour, salt and butter in a food processor until butter pieces are pea-sized. Gradually pulse in about 100-125ml cold water until mixture comes together into a dough. Do not overwork.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third down into the middle, then the bottom third up over the top, then rotate the pastry 90 degrees so the fold is now vertical. Roll out again and repeat then wrap in cling-wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding, rotating, rolling and folding one more time. Chill for an hour.
  4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface a little thicker than 1/8th of an inch, then cut out rounds about 3 ½ inches wide. Put a half-tablespoon of filling in the center of each, then dampen the edges of the circle and bring the edges into the middle, pinching together to seal well. Put on a baking tray smooth side up, and squash slightly until flattened. Repeat with the rest and chill for 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove pastries from refrigerator, brush with egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut three slashes in the top of each and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen. Allow to cool before eating – the filling will be hot.

 

Apple Cherry Tart

Apple Cherry Chinese 5-spice Tart
Me:  “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”

Him:  “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”

Me:  “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”

Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”

Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”

We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.

I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?


Apple Cherry Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
  • Print
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
  3. While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
  4. Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
  6. While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.

British Egg Custard Tart

British Egg Custard Tart
“This is right up your alley” was all her email said. She included this link. She was right – and I haven’t stopped dreaming of it since.

I’m sidelined by the enormity of it. It’s not easy to buy a business in the UK when you’re not a citizen. Yet, a similar cottage in New England doesn’t hold any appeal. And what would I do with my two “boys?” Sending them across the ocean followed by quarantine is more than their little pampered hearts could take, I’m afraid. What to do with my typical American superfluous “stuff” that couldn’t make the trip? Finally, there’s the brisk and rainy Yorkshire weather – a 66⁰ F. June summer HIGH. Brrrrr!!

And yet, I can’t shake it from my mind.

I’d have to learn to make a proper cuppa – and traditional High Street pastries like this one:


British Egg Custard Tart

Eggnog fans rejoice – all that creamy nutmeg-gy flavor wrapped in a pastry crust. This recipe uses a forgiving pâté sucrée dough rather than brisee which requires cutting in the butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ oz. butter, softened
  • 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. All-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz. whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 ¼ oz. sugar
  • Freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together salt and flour and stir into sugar mixture. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll the dough on a well-floured surface into a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, nudging the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough and return to the refrigerator for about 30 more minutes.
  3. For the filling, warm the heavy whipping cream and milk in a saucepan. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture stirring constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Stir well until all sugar has melted. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.
  4. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Blind bake the pastry for about 30 minutes. Remove the parchment or foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes until bottom of pastry is light brown.
  5. Fill the pastry with custard mixture. The mixture is very runny so I recommend filling as close as possible to the oven to avoid splashes. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges look set but the center still wobbles. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Lamb Phyllo Pie

Lamb Filo Pie

Frozen pie crust is cheating. In my book, taking a crust out of the package and filling it with a can of Comstock apple pie filling is not baking an apple pie. Call it ‘assembling’, but don’t call it ‘baking.’ Frozen phyllo (Filo) dough, conversely, is better from the box. I’d never be able to get handmade phyllo as uniformly thin as the prepackaged stuff. But, even prepackaged phyllo doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing.

The first time I tried cooking with prepackaged phyllo dough, I was in my 20’s and I was making a version of Beef Wellington. From 40 sheets of the tissue-thin dough, I managed to rescue eight sheets that made it into the oven. The rest of the phyllo fell apart, tore, or turned gummy and stuck together. I tossed away a crumpled ball of phyllo the size of a small cabbage.

Since then, I’ve learned a few tricks when working with phyllo. It just needs a little nurturing and patience and you’ll be rewarded with impressive results. Follow the thawing instructions exactly. Don’t rush the thaw or the dough may crack. Give yourself enough time for a complete thaw. Once it’s thawed, unroll it gently and completely and lay it flat (it’s usually rolled and folded), cover it with plastic wrap or waxed paper (I prefer waxed paper) and a damp towel (about as wet as a post-shower towel). This step keeps the dough from drying out. Don’t put the damp towel directly on the dough or it will turn into a gummy mess. Use dry hands, work with one sheet at a time and keep the rest covered. You may think it’s a hassle to keep uncovering the phyllo each time you want a new sheet, especially once you get in a rhythm, but this extra step keeps the phyllo in the perfect condition for culinary baking success.

Treat your phyllo right and you’ll be rewarded with a golden brown, shatteringly crisp, show-stopper of a pastry like this lamb pie.


Lamb Phyllo (Filo) Pie

  • Servings: 4-6 as an entrée or 8 appetizers
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Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lbs. ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, diced
  • 1 box frozen spinach, thawed, but not drained
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup briny black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 sheets phyllo pastry
  • Olive oil (I used a Meyer Lemon olive oil to brush the phyllo, but plain will work if you don’t have flavored oil)

Directions

  1. To make the filling: Heat a bit of plain olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté onion until beginning to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add lamb, and sauté until beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes. Add eggplant and continue to sauté until mixture is browned and there are browned bits of meat and veggies on the bottom of the pan. Add spinach (un-drained), zest, smoked paprika and oregano. The water from the spinach will allow you to deglaze the pan and scrape up all those tasty browned bits on the bottom. Continue cooking until all the water has evaporated and the mixture looks dry and browned. Remove from the heat. Add cilantro, frozen peas, and black olives. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once the meat mixture has cooled, season well with salt and pepper and add the beaten eggs. The eggs will help the meat mixture to hold together when the final pie is sliced. Adding the eggs once the mixture has cooled ensures they don’t scramble.
  3. To assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Unwrap phyllo and cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and a damp towel so the phyllo doesn’t dry out. Once phyllo dries out or gets wet, it’s a bitch to work with. Brush the first sheet of phyllo with olive oil (this is where I used the flavored oil). Place the phyllo sheet, oil side up, in a 9” pie dish so that one half is covering the entire bottom of the dish and the rest of the phyllo sheet is hanging over the rim of the pan. Repeat this step 7 more times, rotating around the dish so that you end up with 8 layers of phyllo lining the bottom of the dish and the entire circumference of the dish has phyllo hanging over the rim. Fill the pie dish with the meat mixture, pressing down firmly and mounding it slightly in the center. Fold the overhanging phyllo around the meat, crumpling the phyllo and leaving the center open. Brush the crumpled phyllo top with oil. Baked for about 50 minutes or until the phyllo is very golden brown and crisp.
  4. Let pie cool for 30-45 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm. The pie can be made ahead through step 3. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, in a 300⁰ F. oven for about 30 minutes.