Homemade English Muffins

Can you make your own english muffins? Why yes, you can!

Of course, why would you want to? It’s so easy to buy them, so why go through the effort?

Maybe because they, like so many other baked goods, taste fresher, more flavorful, dare I say-ethereal- when made at home. It also gives you a sense of “whoo-hoo!” to be able to make them from scratch. So while I have not tried my hand at making bagels, (still the fear factor there), I have conquered the English muffin! And it’s not so hard. This recipe is just the epitome of “slow food”.

Why “English” muffins? After all, they are not really muffins as we know them.

It would seem that the English brought over crumpets, which are very similar and are cooked in a skillet. So I guess the early colonists took to making these breads in a skillet, thought they cooked up similar to crumpets but said, “Prithee, these art not crumpets! Theye ayre muffins, English style.” Or something like that.

What I like about this recipe is not only did I get to use sourdough, which I do not use enough, but I did not need muffin rings. This bread is fried in a skillet and usually the batter is so loose as to need rings to pour them into. You flip them, rings and all and fry on the other side. You can buy rings, or clean a bunch of tuna cans to use as such.

Here are links to some english muffin recipes you might want to try that do not take 3 days.

One is a sourdough recipe from King Arthur Flour

Here is a recipe for baked English muffins from the King Arthur Flour website and…

here is the one I would try next…from the KA website “Flourish”. What can I say? I trust these people.

But the dough in this Tartine recipe was solid enough to support itself without rings and I like recipes that look challenging. The following is the process of making the muffins, not the actual recipe which you can find in their wonderful book.

I went to my baking book “Tartine Breads”. In it was a recipe for English muffins using their bagette dough of sourdough, flour, water, salt and a little yeast in the “poolish”. In a nutshell, the night before, you feed your sourdough and make a poolish of water, flour and yeast. These  then sit out over night.

The next morning, you mix up the starter, the poolish, more flour, more water and some salt. It only gets mixed until cohesive. Its not really kneaded as we know it.

Time to let it go through a ‘bulk fermentation’. You do not knead the dough, but give it ‘turns’ every half hour or so for the first couple of hours, letting it rise 3-4 hours. Turns are when you reach into the dough bowl, with damp hands, pick the dough up and let it kind of slide out of your hands, flipping it over on itself. Then you turn the bowl a quarter turn and do it again. You do this every half hour for the first 2 hours and the dough becomes satiny and cohesive, similar to results with kneading, but used with doughs that are ridiculously too wet to knead.

Once it has puffed up (does not need to double-3-4 hours) it is time to shape it.

The dough id divided in 2. You need to prepare 2 baking sheets.

The scary part was that the recipe called for you to put the dough onto a floured towel. Now that just sends shivers up my spine. Put this wet dough onto a floured towel? What if it never came off? But if I use something else, perhaps it wont work right?? What to do?? When in doubt, take a deep breath and just follow the directions.

Lay a lint free tea towel in the pan. Heavily flour this with a blend of 50% all purpose flour and 50% rice flour. Rice flour does not absorb moisture as readily and keeps dough from sticking. I use it a lot more for flouring pans or baskets since learning this. Pat out the first dough half into the pan, slowly patting and stretching it out. Then cover it with more of the flour blend and yet another towel.

Continue reading “Homemade English Muffins”

Holiday Bread: Stollen

Ah-ha! I knew I would need this recipe again some day. It is so yummy! I can’t wait.

la petite kitchen

This bread is a very old German Christmas bread that I have never heard of until this Christmas. My son came home from work raving about this wonderful fruity bread filled with dried fruit and topped with a blizzard of powdered sugar that he had tried that day. I was intrigued.

I was challenged!

It sounded somewhat familiar too.

So I started digging, like Indiana Jones going through ancient parchments, through my myriads of baking books. Sure enough I started finding recipes. Then I went on-line. Yep, Stollen…stollen…stollen. Seems like there are as many Stollen recipes as there are bakers. Some are dryer, aged bread while others are a little bread holding together loads of fruit. They all pretty much hold true to a unique shaping created about 500 years ago that is somehow supposed to represent the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Sure. I’ll eat that.

So while…

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Japanese Milk Bread or a new way to make squishy soft white bread!

IMG_4170 (1024x765) (2)Okay bread lovers out there…Is this not the most beautiful looking bread? The shine…the find crackles in the crust, the coloration…wow! I am very happy with the way these turned out.

I learned 2 new things! One is how to use the “tangzhong’ method of making dough. The other is in the shaping. I love how this takes pieces of the dough, rolls each one into a mini loaf and puts them together in the pan. It makes pulling it apart fun and groovy. Continue reading “Japanese Milk Bread or a new way to make squishy soft white bread!”

Sour Cream Biscuits

Warm home-made biscuits are one of life’s simple pleasures. Slathered with melting butter, drizzled with honey, spread with jam or with ham and cheese layered into the middle, it’s all goodness and love.

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I have a standard biscuit recipe I have used for years and years. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

But I didn’t have any buttermilk, so in a way, it was broke. I needed something new.  I had lots of sour cream and a son going off to fight the Yankees in Huntington Beach this morning at the Civil War reenactment. Nothing better than a well wrapped biscuit after a battle with ol’ Matilda. Plus they are good to trade for other foods. (He usually brings fruit, a slab of cheese, canned beans of course, some corned beef hash, pickles, boiled eggs, etc.. If there is going to be a fire, some salt pork. But not this time.)

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My youngin’ second from left. Him and Maribelle, his rifle.
A young lady waiting her turn for a spin on the dance floor, er grass.
A young lady waiting her turn for a spin on the dance floor, er grass.

But before I get to that recipe, let me tell you about our newest bee invasion. Seems a queen decided to set up housekeeping on the side of our house. I was watching them this morning (we have a call in to have them…removed?) and thought the way they hovered about, waiting their turn to get inside through the tiny opening they found, much like planes circling around LAX. I saw them, hovering, bobbing up and down, coming in closer, then backing away when they realized it wasn’t their turn.Very patient, bees. They are using our bathtub as their burial grounds for their aged worker bees. So we closed the bath window, although I don’t know how they got in through the screen either. But I don’t need to be showering with dead bees floating around my toes.

 

Anyway, on to…                                                             Sour Cream Biscuits!

preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you have it, put a stoneware piece in to warm up. (Bar pan, pizza  stone, etc)

You will need:

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour (or sub 1/2 cup with cake flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, cold
  • 1 cup sour cream

Whisk the dry ingredients together.

Cut the butter into little pieces. Toss it in with the dry ingredients using a fork. Now here is what I did different. I used my fingers to squish some butter pieces flat into the flour on the bottom of the mixing bowl. I kept rubbing some of the butter into the flour, leaving other pieces bigger, until I had a mix of butter sizes from pea size on down to sandy and flat bits.

Then using a fork, mix in the sour cream until it forms a cohesive dough. Push together a few times, kneading gently to make it come together and wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Times up!

Lay out on a floured board. Press dough out, fold over, press, fold over, press. (this helps with the flaky layers) Then roll it out with a floured rolling pin, but not too thin. Thin dough gets you thin biscuits. You want at least an inch high to start. Cut into biscuits. Roll together the spare dough and cut more.

Get out the baking stone and, flipping the biscuits bottoms up, place on the hot stone and put into the oven. OR just place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake until golden brown on top. This may be 15-20 minutes depending on your baking surface. The stoneware bakes more evenly and, since it was preheated, will be quicker and the heat will give it a burst of energy. Metal pans get very hot and tend to burn where the biscuits (or cookies or whatever) touch the metal if you are not careful. Double panning, or placing one baking pan on top of another helps with this problem.

IMG_4123 (800x598)There you go. Beautiful, aren’t they? Well, I think so. My son thinks so too, although his mouth was too full of biscuits and jam to say much.

So, I think I need to clear out any dead bees, take a shower, dress and head out to the reenactment to the smell of gun powder, cannon blasts and to see all the pretty dresses worn by both the southern belles and the yankees. Tonight they will have a dance, which is all kinds of fun to watch or be in. Men in uniforms, petticoats swirling around! But I have to be home to watch Dr. Who again so…

Blessings!

Dinner Rolls, soft & sweet

As I am in the process or making dough for about 6 dozen dinner rolls, I wondered to myself if I had ever posted a recipe for this.

I have, more or less.

First though, you need to see the pictures of the baby chicks…

I could only catch 3 in the shot at one time, they kept running off with crumbs of bread.
I could only catch 3 in the shot at one time, they kept running off with crumbs of bread. They would only take the crumbs from mama, not from our hands.

Anyway, here is one recipe for a sweet dough that makes wonderful rolls.

Here is my process.

You mix the dough.

Side note:

I no longer measure the flour. Once you learn to gauge the dough by look and feel, it frees you up to make any amount you want, lessor, more whatever. I follow ingredient lists and measure more or less, the other ingredients. But the amount of flour I can just tell by look and feel now. It’s the liquid to flour ratio. If I want a wet, slack dough for say, pizza dough, ciabatta or whatnot, I leave it wetter. For other regular doughs, I add flour until it is tacky but not too sticky. If I want to make more dough, I maybe add a bit more milk/water, maybe another egg or a little more sugar or honey. Then I add enough flour to compensate.

Back to business.

You knead the dough, either by hand or my a standing mixer. If you are using a bread machine, it is doing all this for you. Rolls and pastries do not need to be kneaded very much. They do not need the gluten development, which is the whole point of kneading anyway. You only really knead it enough to make a smooth ball. Thats also why you don’t need to use bread flour. You can, but you don’t need to. The bread flour is a high protein flour, again, to develop more gluten, to sustain the growth of a loaf of bread. But we are not making bread here. So, minimum kneading, okay?

Notice it has pulled away from the sides, but is still a bit tacky-sticky looking. This is perfect. Usually some flour is added later in the process when shaping and whatnot. Better to be tacky now.
Notice it has pulled away from the sides, but is still a bit tacky-sticky looking. This is perfect. Usually some flour is added later in the process when shaping and whatnot. Better to be tacky now.

You cover it with plastic wrap to rise for about an hour.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

You push down the dough, pull it out of the bowl and put it on a floured board.

You cut the dough into about 1.5 oz pieces (if you have a kitchen scale) or just make them the size you want and make sure all the other rolls are about the same size.

You shape them. That is the tricky part. Its even hard to do with someone showing you. But you want a ‘taut’ skin on the dough.

One way is to wrap the little roll around one finger, pull the finger out and pinch the dough down around the bottom.

Another way is to put the little dough on a counter, cup your hands around it  and rotate it in circles. Here, it’s just easier to show you:

You put the rolls side by side, with a little bit of space between each one, in a greased pan or on parchment paper. I am the queen of parchment and use it all the time, buying bulk from Smart & Final. If you want  pull apart rolls, you put them closer, maybe 1/2″ apart. If you want them more individualized, with more crust, put them farther apart so they are not touching while raising.

Oil the tops, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until about double in size, usually less than an hour.

About 1/2 hour in, start heating up the oven. 350 is good for rolls although you could do 375. (I have hundreds, if not over a thousand roll and bread recipes. Most breads and rolls are baked at 375 and above. But for soft dinner rolls, sticky buns, monkey bread, I like a slower heat, 350. I dont want them crusty.)

When they are done raising, the rolls are slightly touching and it has been about 45 minutes, brush them with either melted butter, oil or a wash of a beaten egg or a wash of a beaten egg with a splash of milk in it. You get a different sheen or crust by using different washes or toppings. You find out what you like best by experimenting really. For todays rolls, I am brushing with melted butter.

Once the butter is on, I put them into the 350 oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. At that point I do my assessment.  Each batch is kind of an unknown. Each time I wait, then check on it, there is always that bit of anticipation and a mental sigh of relief when I open the oven and find them puffed and starting to brown. At that point I turn the pans around, front to back and if I have 2 pans, have them switch places.The back of the oven is always hotter than the front. Unless you have a convection oven, which I do not.

I keep baking, but start keeping a sharp eye. This is not the time to wander off and start blogging or catch up on Pinterest.  Stay near the oven and when they are all golden brown, not dark, remove them from the oven and let them cool a few minutes before removing from the pan onto a cooling rack.

Here is one recipe for a smaller batch that will make a good dozen rolls, instead of my mega batch I usually make:

  • 1 1/4 cups milk or water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, soft
  • 3 1/4 cups flour up to 3 1/2
  • 1/4 cup potato flakes or mashed potatoes (optional) (which adds moistness, its keeping qualities and the starch feeds the yeast.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt

Beat your egg in with the milk. Add the soft butter, sugar, potato if using and 1 cup of flour and mix. Now add the yeast, stir in and let rest for about 20 minutes. Give the yeastie-beasties time to wake up and do their thing.

Now, stir it up, adding the salt and more flour. Keep slowly adding the flour as it is needed. It will be ‘soaking’ in pretty quickly if you are using white flour. If you are using a standing mixer you can add flour by the tablespoon until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If mixing by hand, you will need to pull it onto a floured counter or board to finish mixing by hand, adding flour and kneading it in until it is tacky, but not too sticky. A bench scraper is very handy at this point.

Once the ball of dough is as smooth as a baby’s bottom (yes, a baby’s bum!), put it into a bowl, light mist with oil and cover with a damp towel, plastic wrap or a plate fit over the bowl and set aside to rise for about an hour.

Now, I am just repeating from above, but preheat your oven. Shape the rolls. Let rise about 40 minutes. Brush with butter or oil. Bake about 15-18 minutes, give or take.

Take out and admire before eating. I suggest always making one extra little roll if you can manage it for you to “test taste.”

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Heres a batch I made before with half whole wheat, topped with egg wash and sprinkled with wheat germ.
Heres a batch I made before with half whole wheat, topped with egg wash and sprinkled with wheat germ.

or should I make challah for  Easter?

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The Lenton Loaf, or Fasting Bread

I’m so sorry. Lent is almost over and I am just getting around to posting this recipe. It is a new favorite bread, hearty and wholesome enough to eat, especially if you are fasting and not eating much during Lent. This and water would keep you going quite well.

With a side of yogurt with fruit.

And maybe some sausage, cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs…wait, oh Lent.

Water.

The fun part of this recipe is the symbolism each ingredient has. I did not invent this of course. I found it on a site that got it from a site that got it….

No idea where it started but kudos to whoever thought this up.

This recipe makes 3 beautiful loaves.
This recipe makes 3 beautiful loaves. (I see peanut butter cookies photo bombing the bread shot).

Here is the symbolism part:

Stone Ground Wheat and Oats: Symbol of the pain of being crushed by the wheels of God’s Justice – which “grind slowly but exceedingly fine.”(Okay, a little heavy there). “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jn 12: 24
White Flour – a reminder of the manna given by God to the Hebrews during their forty years in the desert as Moses led them to the promised land. Manna foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist, also the called “Bread from Heaven”. Exodus 16:35 Jn 6:41
Yeast – unifying many parts into one; a symbol of the kingdom of heaven and of the Church. Mt 13:33
Salt – Christ said to his Apostles: “You are the salt of the earth.” Mt 5:13
Water – Giving life to all things; a symbol of baptism; cleansing. Lenten penances aid the washing away our sins. “He who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” Jn 4: 14
Olive Oil – Acclaimed throughout history as a source of strength, olive oil was used by the athletes of ancient Greece to prepare for them for the contests. Mixed with wine it was found useful in healing the wounds of those injured on the battlefields of medieval Europe. Olive oil is used by the Church in the Holy Oils applied in sacramental anointing.
Pure Maple Syrup – Collected in pure form flowing from a tree; symbolic of the cross and of the sweetness of the Blood of Christ which flowed freely from the tree of his cross, the tree of life; shed so that “sins may be forgiven.” A symbol of God’s love by making this sweet nutrient a gift to be discovered.
Holy Water – A sacramental used in blessings and bringing new life in Baptism. Holy water carries a blessing just by its use and when introduced with the sign of the cross how could this not be a must an key ingredient of fasting bread for lent?
Walnuts and Pecans and Cherries – These pleasant gifts found in abundance from prolific trees are reminders of Christ’s command to go forth and “produce good fruit;” They are reminders of our own call to perform works of charity, prayer, fasting and almsgiving; the fruit of good works to be undertaken during Lent. Jn 15:16
Raisins – Made from pure grapes, raisins are the fruit of the vine; a reminder of the miracle of water changed into wine at the wedding feast in Cana; of the wine changed into the Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and at the Consecration during Mass. These serve as reminders of that mystery where wine is described as the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our Spiritual Drink.”

 

Now here is the recipe. While it calls for golden raisins, which I used the first time, then ran out of. I also have used cherries, raisins and a mix of them.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups Stone Ground Wheat
2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Sugar
3 Tbsp. Active dry yeast (two packages)
2 cups Luke warm water
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Virgin Olive oil
1 tsp. Holy water (How could you not add this for a fasting bread?)
1 cup Oats – soaked in 1/2 cup hot water for 2 minutes
1 cup Pecan pieces – broken and skillet toasted 2 min (or Walnuts)
1 cup Dried Montmorency cherries or Golden raisins soaked 5 min in 1/4 cup hot water
Directions:
1. Combine first three dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a whisk.
2. Clear a small area in the center of the dry blend.
3. Add sugar, dry yeast, and the 2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes until yeast proofs and forms bubbles. Combine with flour mixture and liquid. This will be thick but more liquid comes later.
4. Add maple syrup, olive oil and holy water. Stir mixture until well blended.
5. Add walnuts and raisins with their liquid.
6. Add soaked oats to the flour mixture.
7. Blend everything together in one bowl.
8. Turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 10-12 minutes adding more flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead the dough by flattening somewhat and fold-in from the outside towards the center. Press down hard on the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat the process until smooth and elastic and forma “ball”
9. Return the “ball” to the mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, cover and let rise 1 hour.
10. Remove to a floured board and knead several more times as above. Cut into three equal pieces.
11. Place each piece into a loaf pan coated on all sides with olive oil. Drizzle loaf again with olive oil, cover and let rise for another hour. Olive oil produces a tasty crust.
12. Slash loaf tops and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until brown on top and bottom. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
13. Remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

I hope you enjoy this bread all year. Enjoy the spring as it emerges from the cold soil. Enjoy the warm sun. Enjoy planting the little tomato plants and scallion seeds. Enjoy watching fruit as it grows and ripens on the tree. And come on by for tea and scones.

Irish Soda Bread, version 1, 2 and 2.5

(Some of the pictures are missing but this is the time of year for the Irish Soda bread recipe. Here is the recipe I used last year…and the year before.. So rather than reinvent the wheel, and because I dont have time to start from scratch, what with brownies in the oven and 8 loaves of bread cooling on the table, here is the re-run:)

“She’s sharp as a marble!”

“He’s tick-as-a-brick”

These are a few of the more polite sayings I picked up from an Irish gal I used to work with before the flood. She was a hoot, and so different, like a space alien to me.  She definitely took me outside my box. I wonder if she even had a box.

But thats as close to the Irish I have ever gotten. I love their breads though. So if you are in the mood to try some Irish Soda bread, give this a go…

There is one thing my family can all agree on and that’s our love for Irish Soda Bread. The plain kind, craggy, warm, creamy on the inside with a hint of sweet.

You can serve this up with a corned beef, potato and cabbage dinner (also called a New England dinner), or a stew or pot roast or shepherds pie. Leftovers are great warmed up in the morning and slathered with butter.

Below is that recipe. I will tell you about the other 2 ways to modify it at the end.

Today is the Thursday before the Sunday of St. Patrick’s day. This means I step into high gear, stocking up on buttermilk, getting the candied orange peel ready and stoking up the stove. I expect to be making 8-10 loaves in the next couple of days. Some for the Friday night soup kitchen night at church, some for friends and at least 1 for us. But this is a quick bread, with no raising involved, no proofing. Just mix and bake.

It calls for whole wheat and white all purpose flours. I also put in some ground oats. I have never seen an Irish soda bread recipe with oats, but first off, I love the flavor and texture some oats contribute and secondly, oats are very Irish, aren’t they? Scottish too.

For the wheat flour I have used regular whole wheat, white whole wheat and even whole wheat pastry flour, which is whole wheat ground from a softer lower protein winter wheat grown in the more moderately warmer southern states. It has lower protein which means less gluten. For cookies, biscuits, scones and so forth, you do not need a high gluten content. So whole wheat pastry flour works. Okay, I just erased a whole paragraph on flours. I realize that I will have to dedicate a post just to flours, or I will go on like this all day.

If you do not have a food processor, you can cut the butter in with a pastry cutter. I lost my favorite one and keep forgetting to buy a new one, so I am using the food processor.

I have a new food processor I am not really used to yet. I did not think there would be very much difference between them, but there is. This one is a Kitchen-aid and it seems to miss the outside edges. So pulsing is not as effective as just high speed for a bit. If I wanted it ground finer, I would get out my mini grinder that was designed for coffee grounds but I use for grains. It turns them virtually into dust! But I wanted some texture to the breads this time.

Continue reading “Irish Soda Bread, version 1, 2 and 2.5”

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

A while back I posted my standard cinnamon raisin bread, a recipe mostly gleaned from a standard bread machine book, and a good recipe it is.

But this one is a little prettier with a finer crumb and an elegant look.

(And now Cassie cannot complain about not seeing a new recipe. At least I know 1 person keeping me on task.)

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It also takes a longer to make with seemingly more complicated steps for who-knows-what good reasons. But sometimes baking goes beyond reason and into crumb madness. Into toothsome nirvana. Into that priceless satisfaction of seeing something come out of the oven that is entirely your creation, that just a few hours before was bland dry elements and ingredients and is now something utterly different. Magic!

This recipe uses a kind of enriched sweet dough with a different kind of filling.

You should use your standing mixer for this one to incorporate the butter pieces. Somehow combining the butter into the dough after it comes together makes for some kind of textural drama.This instead of just adding melted butter or oil.

The first step is making the dough.

Then the filling.

Then the shaping and baking.

Then just eating. And eating. And eating. Continue reading “Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread”

Holiday Bread: Stollen

This bread is a very old German Christmas bread that I have never heard of until this Christmas. My son came home from work raving about this wonderful fruity bread filled with dried fruit and topped with a blizzard of powdered sugar that he had tried that day. I was intrigued.

I was challenged!

It sounded somewhat familiar too.

So I started digging, like Indiana Jones going through ancient parchments, through my myriads of baking books. Sure enough I started finding recipes. Then I went on-line. Yep, Stollen…stollen…stollen. Seems like there are as many Stollen recipes as there are bakers. Some are dryer, aged bread while others are a little bread holding together loads of fruit. They all pretty much hold true to a unique shaping created about 500 years ago that is somehow supposed to represent the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Sure. I’ll eat that.

So while I really don’t know that you will want to try making your own Stollen when I am sure your nearby German market would have some, I am going to post the recipe anyway. Someday when I am dead-n-buried, someone somewhere might remember my Stollen bread and want to recreate it. Or not. I really put this in here so next year, when I cant remember what recipe I used, I can look back here and have that ‘ah-ha’ moment. That happens a lot.

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Unlike my first batch, this one turned out moister and softer. Also a wee bit taller.

First some notes. Many of the recipes call for candied orange or lemon peel or both. Our family is not very fond of those, but if you want to use them as part of your dried fruits, I have a recipe to make your own here. Othewise use whatever dried fruit combos float your holiday bread boat. I like golden raisins, chopped cherries and cranberries.  Some recipes call for more liquor than I use. Others call for lemon or orange zest. As you see, it’s all about flavorings. I have Fiori Di Sicilia from the King Arthur Bakers Catalog. It has a unique fruity aroma and flavor I love and hoard, using sparingly. It is perfect in this bread. That, the little bit of rum, the dried fruit, the Cinnamon Plus ( from Pampered Chef and made with nutmeg, orange peel and more) all add to the flavorings of your particular loaf. Chopped almonds are an option as well, not seen in many recipes but I like it. They are so thinly sliced that their presence is subtle. I tried mixing the fruit in at the beginning, but the dough did not like to rise very much and the resulting bread was heavier, denser. One recipe skipped the first proofing entirely, figuring, I guess, that the sponge was enough of a lift. I tried it, but like the texture of the extra rise time.

So, in essence: mix the sponge and let it raise, soak the fruit, mix the dough, raise, shape, raise, bake.

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Here I am pushing down the one side of the dough a bit after folding.
Here I am pushing down the one side of the dough a bit after folding.

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Newest batch. Moist, flavorful, soft. I am in love.

Christmas Stollen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried fruits soaked in 2 Tbsp. rum and a little boiling water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon Plus (or cinnamon, nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (or your choice of lemon, orange flavorings)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2-4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, soft and cut into 12 pieces.
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • lots powdered sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak the dried fruit of choice in the rum with some boiling water for at least an hour. Then when ready to use, drain.
  2. You will make a ‘sponge’ out of the warm milk, sugar, yeast and 1 cup of flour by mixing it until smooth and letting it sit, covered, for 1 hour. It will be frothy. Unless you are using old yeast. Make sure your yeast is fresh.
  3. After the sponge is done bubbling, after the hour is up, you will make the dough. In a large bowl put the sponge, eggs, cinnamon/nutmeg, any flavorings you might be using, salt and 1 cup of flour. Beat until combined.
  4. Start adding the butter, pieces at a time either by hand or with a standing mixer.
  5. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the rest of the flour until the dough is smooth and just clears the sides of the bowl. Knead for a few minutes more, then oil the surface, put in a large bowl and let raise for about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Deflate the dough and put either in a bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl to add in the soaked fruit.Drain the fruit and start mixing into the dough. It will want to keep falling out, you just keep pushing it back in.
  7. Now cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  8. On a floured surface, cut the dough in half.
  9. Take half of the dough and pat or roll into a rectangle about 12×8 inches and about 1/2 inch thick.
  10. With a rolling pin, make a ditch or crease down the middle of the long side of the dough. Fold one side of the dough over the crease to the other side, not quite lining up the edges. Push the top flap/edge back over itself a little and press down all along its edge, making it like a ridge in the middle. Brush with butter.
  11. Do the same with the other piece of dough and brush with butter.
  12. Lay them on a parchment lined baking stone or, if using metal baking sheets, double them to insulate bottoms from burning.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and let raise for at least 1 hour or until not quite doubled in size.
  14. Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  15. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Try not to over bake.
  16. After removing from oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. After completely cool, dust heavily with powdered sugar.
  17. Cut into thin slices to serve.