Along the Grapevine


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Easter Stollen and Maple Hemp Marzipan

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Christmas stollen – ‘cuit’

I usually make stollen for Christmas, and did this past year, but the result was a little ‘cuit’, which in French does not sound so bad, but I thought might be seen as burned by English speakers. So I made another batch, and this one will be for Easter, and to share with everyone at the Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday this week. I will also give some my ideas for marzipan alternatives.

For my spring stollen, I made a slightly less rich version than the Christmas one by omitting the liquor in which I usually soak the raisins and currants. I did not use the usual dried fruits, but used instead some dried crab apples which give this stollen a distinctive and local flavour and colour.

I have tried many versions of this recipe, and finally settled on one which has the flavour and texture I wanted. Some are too light and brioche-like, most are too sweet. If there are no ground nuts in the recipe, it is impossible to achieve the density that I wanted. A generous amount of butter is also important. This recipe uses mostly the sweetness of the fruit, but if you want it sweeter, just add more honey.

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There is no need to be intimidated by making a yeast bread. Just let it rise until lots of air bubbles appear in the dough when you check the interior. In this cool weather, it can take a few hours. I allow it to rise at least three times, and if I am busy, I stir down the first mixture (the sponge without rising inhibitors like fat and salt) until I am ready to use it. I think this extra time maybe improves it, and certainly doesn’t hurt it. As for kneading, I just to it until I don’t feel like doing it any more. As long as it is holding together, it works. Also, amounts of flour vary depending on the type of flour, the size of eggs, etc. Just keep adding flour when you knead it until it is not sticky and not able to absorb any more. Therefore note that the second addition of flour in this recipe is approximate. Just add a little at a time until it feels right.

Stollen

1 cup warm milk (I used almond)

2 heaping Tbsp honey

3 tsp yeast granules

1. Dissolve the honey and yeast, and allow to sit about 10 minutes, or until the yeast is all bubbly.

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup currants

1/4 cup water, juice, brandy or rum

2. Pour the liquid over the dried fruit and allow to stand at least 1/2 hour. If you can do this earlier, even the day before, that is even better, especially if you are using liquor.

1 cup of flour

3. Add the flour to the yeast mixture and stir well. Let sit until it becomes bubbly. This is the sponge method, and at this point you can just stir it down. let rise and repeat until you are ready for the next stage.

1/2 cup dried fruit (I used crab apples)

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup nuts (I used hazelnuts)

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp salt

4 cups of flour (approximately). I used red fife, which, along with the unblanched almonds, gives it a darkish colour.

4. Mix all the ingredients one by one into the sponge, ending with the flour which should be added about 1 cup at a time. When all the liquid is absorbed, turn it out onto a floured surface and continue adding flour while kneading until it is no longer sticky. Continue to knead for a few more minutes, until the dough is nice and elastic.

5. Grease the ball of dough with a little oil, place in a bowl in a warm place and cover with a tea towel. The warmer the place, the faster it will rise. This stage can take from one hour to several hours. It will not quite double, because of the weight of the fruit and nuts, but it will be very spongy when you check the interior.

6. Punch it down and knead a few more times, making sure to get rid of all the air bubbles. If you want  a plain loaf, shape it into 2 loaves and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet an cover with a towel to rise again. This stage will be much faster, will not double but reach about 50% again of its original size. If you want a traditional stollen, divide the dough in two and roll each into a rectangle of about 12 inches x 6 inches. Place a strip of marzipan down the middle, fold one side over the marzipan and then the other side over that. Seal the edges so it doesn’t open when baked.

7. When the loaves plumpen up, place them in a 325 degrees F oven for 1 hour, or until the entire loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.

8. Brush a little butter on the hot loaves. Allow to cool and then sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you want.

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To make marzipan, mix some blanched almonds in the food processor until they start to become a paste. Add enough honey to hold the paste together when processed a few seconds longer and a few drops of almond essence. Form into a ball and cover until ready to use.

Or use the maple walnut marzipan recipe from my previous post.

When I posted the recipe for walnut marzipan, some readers pointed out they cannot eat nuts, so I also tried a seed and maple syrup paste. I chose hemp hearts because of their superior nutritional qualities and nutty flavour.

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Apart from the strange green colour, I consider it a real success, and will use it for my future stollens, be they for Christmas, Easter, cuit or not. However, I since discovered that hemp hearts are difficult to find in the U.S., so for those who can’t eat nuts and live in the U.S., I will continue to experiment with other seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin. This is the only part of the recipe that is nutless since the stollen is full of nuts. But I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce the idea of nutless marzipan.

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For a nut-free marzipan, here is my hemp hearts and maple syrup mixture. Just blend maple syrup with the hemp hearts in a food processor until it is the right consistency.

This same mixture can be thinned a little by adding more maple syrup to be used as an icing or cake filling. I covered an unsugared stollen with it. I like the idea of making an icing without using any refined sugar.

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Going wild for the holidays

This is the season for baking, and this year I have decided to go wild, using as many of the foraged fruit preserved during the summer months as I can. Since I do relatively little baking, this is a great excuse to make some of my traditional recipes more interesting with some new and local flavours.

My first recipe is for alfajores. These treats are from Latin America where every country or region has its own version. As the Arabic sound of their name suggests, they were brought by the Spaniards during the conquest, who themsleves acquired some form of the recipe from the Moors . This recipe is gluten-free and uses less butter than the traditional.  The most common filling is dulce de leche, but I have seen different fruit preserves used as well, and much prefer them. So as part of my wild menu for the holidays, I have made them with my own dulce de manzana silvestre, or crabapple preserve, and used only dried coconut to embellish them.100_0856

Recipe for Alfajores

3 egg yolks

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup icing sugar

1 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup rice flour

1 tsp guar gum

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

dried coconut (or chopped nuts of your choice)

Mix together all the ingredients except for the coconut and roll into a ball and knead until it all sticks together. If the mixture is too dry to stay in a ball, add a few drops of water. Set aside to rest for half an hour. Roll out to 1/8 inch think and cut into rounds of about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 10 min. They should be cooked but not browned.

Once cooled, spread crabapple preserve on the bottom of one, and place another on top to form a sandwich. Roll the edge of the circle in shredded coconut or chopped nuts.

My next recipe is the anglo equivalent of alfajores. Simple and ubiquitous, shortbread too has as many versions, and if you have a favourite recipe, simply add the sumac powder to give it a local, lemony flavour. The recipe I used is a traditional one from Grace Mulligan’s Dundee Kitchen: A Scottish Recipe Cook Book, and is as basic as a shortbread recipe can get, which is the way I like it. I made mine in cookie form, slicing them thin, but you can roll out the dough thicker and make petticoat tails, rectangles or put them in a mould.

If you haven’t prepared your own sumac powder, you can find it in some specialty Middle Eastern or Asian shops.100_0864100_0877

Sumac Shortbread

8 0z butter

12 0z white flour (2 1/3 cup)

4 0z sugar (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp sumac powder

Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix the sumac powder into the flour and gradually work into the butter mixture. Knead it until it forms a good ball, or use a food processor. Divide the ball in two. Cover the work surface with a little sugar and roll out each ball into a log shape. Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour. If they get too cold, they will crumble when cut. Cut the rolls into thin slices, place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 F (150 C or Gas Mark 2) for about 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned.

And if you make alfajores according to the recipe above, you will have three egg whites you will want to use. In order to help you decide how to use them, I am recommending this recipe from David Lebovitz to add to your holiday baking.  I followed his recipe to the letter, except did not do as he suggested and coat them in egg white and nuts, because then I would have to do something with the left over yolk. Anyway, they were fine and I saved myself a lot of work.

Amaretti

3 cups blanched almond powder (can be made by processing blanched almonds until a powder is formed)

1 cup sugar

3 large egg whites

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp apricot jam or marmalade

a few drops of almond extract.

1. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, but are not dry.

2. Mix almond powder and sugar.

3. Fold egg whites into the almond mixture with marmalade or jam and almond extract.

4. Form into balls (about the size of walnuts), place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 325 for 25 or 30 minutes.

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Wild Cranberries

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The highbush cranberry (viburnum trilobum) is a fruit I only recently discovered, and happily so. It not only provides beautiful, easy pickable fruit, it is also a good landscaping plant, with white flowers in the spring, and burgundy leaves in the fall. The berries begin as orange and turn to bright translucent red when they are ripe. They are best after frost, and stay on the vine well into winter, unless animals and birds get desperate enough to eat them.

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Their survival is probably due to their bitter taste. Although they resemble cranberries in colour and flavour, they are actually a member of the honeysuckle family. They can be used much the same as cranberries, and if you like the strong flavour of cranberries, you are likely to appreciate these.

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There has recently been much written on them on the internet. I will just say that, as with any new plant, you should approach it with some caution, and make sure you don’t have any reaction to it before consuming a large amount.

Like cranberries, they make good sauces and jellies, particularly for festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have so far made three recipes with these, and frozen some for later use. After they are removed from the stems and rinsed, they can be frozen as is.

Dried Wild Cranberries

Sprinkle the berries liberally with cane sugar. Place on parchment in a pan and put them in a 200 degree F oven for three to four hours, until they are dry but still soft (like raisins). They are good on their own, or used in baking, with cereal, or wherever you like to use dried fruit.

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They have one flat, soft, heart-shaped seed in them, but they are chewy and do not interfere with the enjoyment of them.

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Wild Cranberry Liqueur

Place berries with roughly an equal weight of white sugar in a non-metal receptacle with a tight fitting lid. Pour vodka over the fruit to cover. Stir it once a day until the sugar dissolves, and allow to age for one month. Strain and bottle.

Wild Cranberry Sauce

Mix berries in a saucepan with 1/2 the same volume of sugar. I used two cups of berries and 1 cup sugar. Gently heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until the sauce is a good consistency and the berries are well cooked. They take considerably longer than cranberries. You may add a little citrus zest or any spices you like, but no liquid, as this will only extend the cooking time and result in overcooking of the fruit.