Every year I have every intention of making stollen, and every year I don’t get around to it. Among fancy Christmas breads it seems like the simplest – I set my sights below fancy wreaths and braids to a lumpy oval with one side flopped over – but it still seems to come down to timing – wouldn’t it be a great thing to deliver around to friends in the days before Christmas? I always think so too, but when I leave it until the days before Christmas I inevitably wind up with other stuff to do and settle for quicker things like mandarin jam and fleur de sel caramels, if that.
So I jumped the gun and made some already, and it turns out it’s nowhere near the big deal, time-wise, that I’ve created in my head. So this week I’ve been limbering up my gut for the deluge of Christmas parties and turkey dinners to come by eating lightly toasted and (heavily) buttered stollen with my coffee in the morning, my second coffee in the afternoon, and every time I pass the toaster in between. Today I brought the end of the loaf across the street and we nibbled from it as we painted, and then set another batch to rise (you can slow it down in the fridge overnight) to bake and bring to a Christmas party tomorrow night. I’ve loaded up on currants and almonds and I’m set to turn this kitchen into a North Pole sweatshop, cranking out loaves between now and Thursday.
But wait, I skipped a part of the story – the part where I started flipping through books and websites, something I tend to do when a deadline is bearing down on me and I can’t put even two words together and suddenly it’s URGENT that I come up with a recipe LIKE RIGHT NOW. A recipe for stollen seems like the sort of thing you should inherit from your great-grandmother, or marry into, and I had done neither. But (in keeping with the procrastination theme) all I had to do was mention stollen on Twitter and Aimée from Under the High Chair sent me a link to hers, which was – not surprisingly – from The Joy of Cooking, the source of my dark fruitcake recipe. Of course Mrs. Rombauer knows her stollen – why didn’t I think of that? It wasn’t anywhere near as complicated as some recipes I came across. Still, I tweaked it a bit. I can’t help myself. I’m sure Aimée did her thing with it too.
To sum: I cut the butter back from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup – which seemed like plenty, especially considering Martha’s stollen has 1 1/4 cups too 11 cups of flour – and it was just fine. (Here’s the math: that cuts 800 calories and 88 grams of fat from the two loaves! Why not?)
I used grated orange zest in place of lemon – partly because I didn’t have a lemon, but also because I love orange in things like this. I added it along with the butter and sugar as I creamed it – anytime you add zest to something, beating it along with the butter and sugar will release the maximum amount of citrus oil and distribute it well throughout the dough.
I also used sliced almonds instead of chopped – not so hard on the teeth – and ditched the rum (didn’t have any, and figured gin might not be the best substitute, plus I assumed the kids will be eating some) but added some vanilla. It made two pretty enormous loaves – the next batch will be divided into three. Why not make three households happy?
And now… drum roll please (the one from Christmas Vacation, if you please)… it’s the Christmas edition of FREE STUFF FRIDAYS! And as such I have something extra special. You may have guessed what it is. It’s two tickets to the sold-out Anthony Bourdain show at the Jack Singer in January.
(Which, by the way, I’m emceeing – so any advice on what exactly to say when INTRODUCING Anthony Bourdain and then facilitating the Q&A afterward would be much appreciated. I have about 3 weeks to lose 30 pounds and come up with something intelligent yet witty. Think I can swing it?)
I’m sorry to exclude everyone who isn’t in Calgary (or can’t be on the evening of January 12th) but this freebie is too good. So to recap: the winner gets a pair of tickets to see Anthony Bourdain at the Jack Singer Concert Hall on the evening of Tuesday, January 12th. These unfortunately aren’t the extraordinarily sought-after VIP tickets that include the afterparty where you get to meet A.B. over wine and cheese, but still. You get to go!
I have a different question for you this week, because the folks at the Epcor Centre who are putting on this shindig are already pondering who to bring in for their next event, and would love your input. So if you want to put your name in for these babies, I’d of course love to hear your thoughts on Mr. Bourdain, but also who else you’d like to see. Ruth Reichl? Michael Smith? Jaques Pepin? Gordon Ramsay? Cast your vote, or make a suggestion! And please, just to make it fair – enter only if you can actually make it to the show. Thanks!
One Year Ago: Meringue Walnuts and Indian Spiced Nuts