Monday, December 27, 2010

Stollen: Daring Bakers December Recipe

With a dusting of powdered sugar and looking like a snow capped landscape, stollen is a wonderful holiday treat.  Stollen is a rich yeast bread loaded with candied orange peel, cherries, raisins and a thin layer of marzipan is tucked inside. When I was a child, a family friend made stollen for us every Christmas season. My mother tucked it into the freezer, so that we could have it on Christmas morning. Then as an adult, before I had children, I made stollen every Christmas for friends and family, but I haven't made it in years, so this was a fun challenge to do with the kids. Rather than making a stollen wreath, we chose to make the traditional loaf shape.  

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. .
Since the recipe is long and detailed, this is the link to the printable Daring Bakers Stollen Recipe.

We decide to make our own candied orange peel for the bread and it really was the highlight of this recipe. We have a large tree in the backyard, and the winter season brings baskets full of the fresh fruit, so we were excited to try these out. The fresh candied peel was soft, sweet and delcious in the bread, a pleasant change from the store bought variety which can be hard and chewy.

Candied Citrus Peel
Citrus Fruit

Remove the peel from 3 or 4 oranges (or lemons,limes or grapefruits) and cut in strips.

Blanch the peel 3 times. Place peel in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. When the water boils, drain and repeat twice more, for a total of three times.

Make a simple syrup: Put water and sugar in a medium pot stir to dissolve sugar and bring to boil. I used equal parts water and sugar, but I have seen recipes that use 3 parts sugar to 1 part water. You need enough syrup to cover the citrus peel. For 3 oranges I used 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar.

Add citrus peel to the simple syrup and simmer until translucent. This took me about an hour. The time will vary depending on how thick your citrus peel is. When translucent remove from the syrup, drain and place on a wire rack to dry. Once drained,you can roll the peel in additional sugar before drying, but I thought this was just to sugary and we ended up knocking the sugar coating off our peels.

Store in an air tight jar in the refrigerator or freeze.
printable recipe

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Cut Out Cookies

It's always an afternoon of fun when we decorate our Christmas cookies. We are glitter girls here at Mimi's kitchen and we like our cookies to reflect it. The sprinkle drawer is wide open as we pull out all the stops with our jimmies, sugars, and nonpareils. This is one of my very favorite things to do at Christmas, with one of us mixing and rolling, one of us changing pans in and out of the oven, and all of us having a wonderful afternoon that is fun, without all the stress and rush that so often comes with the holidays. We have been doing this for so long, and I love to remember the days when I was doing all the work and my girls were eating cookies as fast as I could make them, and ended up with more frosting and sprinkles on their faces than anywhere else. We have all grown a little since then, but there still appear to be a few cookies missing every time I turn around- but now it is usually Boy Mimi, or Mr. Mimi who sneak one as they pass by.

These cookies were done in royal icing, but we have done them with butter cream, which tastes better, and when you add all the decorative sugars and jimmies they still dry hard enough to stack.

 For our Christmas Cut Outs I use this vanilla sugar cookie recipe.

Sugar Cookies

3 c  all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.
Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

printable recipe

 For the royal icing I use the recipe on the Wilton's Meringue can. So break out the cookie cutters and kitchen "glitter" and have fun!

Links: Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Dark chocolate, cripsy refreshing mint and creamy white chocolate combine to make this fantastic cookie.  If you are a Girl Scout thin mint lover this cookie is for you. The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, but I found it over at Barbara's blog, Moveable Feasts.  Barbara is an incredible blogger dishing up everything from retro 50's and 60's recipes to tomato sorbet, nothing is off limits for her.  Every recipe I have tried from her blog has been a hit.  Happily encouraging her fellow blogger, she is a great friend.  If you haven't visited with her you should definitely drop on by for a visit.

We made them last year at the last minute, not sure how we would like them, but they were gone fast (before I could even get a picture) and they were the first cookie requested by the family to kick off our holiday baking this year. We really love our usual holiday cookie traditions, so for us to find a new treat to add to the mix says a lot. They are great with an afternoon mocha and look very festive on a holiday cookie tray, or bagged up and tied with a cute red ribbon.

I used peppermint oil for these, because that's what I had, and since it is much stronger than extract i just used a few drops. The cookies themselves were perfectly minty, but once covered in the white chocolate, we felt they could have used just a bit more mint flavor. Next time I would err on making the cookies just slightly too minty so when they are all done, they will be the perfect balance of chocolate and mint. So don't be afraid to use slightly more extract if needed to suit your taste.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2008 via Movable Feasts)

1 cup all purpose flour plus more for surface
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies, crushed
2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer for 1 minute. Add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mold dough into 1 large disk and cut in half. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour (or up to two days).
 Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2" cookie cutter to cut out circles and place them on parchment paper. Freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Repeat with remaining disk.

Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks and allow to cool. Make sure that your cookies are complete baked you do not want a soft center.
 Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and dunk cookies into the melted chocolate. Turn cookies using a fork; let excess drip off and gently scrape the bottom of the cookies against the edge of the bowl. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the crushed candy.
 Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours. Decorated cookies are best served the same day. (I have successfully kept these cookies for 2 weeks stored in an air tight tin and hidden from my family)

Martha says you will get about sixty 2 inch cookies but I only got about 3 1/2 dozen. Next time I will use a 1 3/4 inch cutter since the baked cookies would then be about 2 inches.

printable recipe

Links:Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum