dresdner Stollen by Nate Everett

DSC_0073.jpg

Christmas is coming! It is my favorite holiday. Christmas embodies a spirit of excitement and glee and love. Cheerful melodies, luminous decor, wood burning fires and the joy of gift-giving are the elements that I cherish most. It is a time to celebrate the fellowship of loved ones over decadent meals and hot cider and tasty treats. And, of course, it is a time to listen to Mariah Carey belt O Holy Night on repeat. Always. I love it.

My family’s Christmas traditions have a prominent Old World, German flair. My father spent his last year of college (1972-1973) at the Conservatoire de Musique in Strasbourg, a beautiful city in France’s Alsace region, just across the border from Germany. The ancient university town of Heidelberg was an easy train ride away. On the main street was a shop filled with intricate, hand-carved and colorfully-painted wooden Christmas ornaments, many of which formed the basis of a collection that my family continues to add to yearly. In medical school, my father’s favorite professor was a German sociologist who introduced him to Linzer Torte, a variety of classic German Christmas cookies, liqueur-filled chocolates and Dresdner Stollen, all of which have joined the precious wooden ornaments as part of our annual celebration.

DSC_0028.jpg

Dresdner Stollen is a German Christmas bread. It is pure magic, and that's an understatement! Stollen contains candied fruit and citrus peel and nuts. The dough is buttery and delicate, and every bite bursts with flavor. Highly-addictive stuff. I devoured two loaves last weekend.

My dad has been baking Stollen for as long as I can remember. He initially adapted this recipe from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking. Over the years, my father has fine-tuned the recipe to perfection, and he prepares far ahead of Christmas-- like, six months ahead (see note about cherries below!)-- to ensure maximum quality in the ingredients. Every holiday season, he practically turns the kitchen into a mini Stollen factory by churning out 50+ loaves which he gift wraps with great pride and ships off to some lucky family members and friends.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

DSC_0074.jpg

recipe

for the dough:

  • 3 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
  1. Put the yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and vanilla.
  2. Turn on the mixer and add the wet ingredients to the dry until thoroughly blended. Turn off the mixer and add 4 cups of the flour and blend thoroughly. Add the butter, cut into chunks, until thoroughly mixed, then add a 5th cup of flour and continue mixing.
  3. Remove the paddle and attach the dough hook to the mixer. Add at least 1/2 cup of the remaining cup of flour and turn the mixer back on. The dough will probably need about 5 3/4 cups total flour. It should feel soft and silky when pressed. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but up to 3 days.

for the completed stollen:

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed, diced, candied fruit*
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Cognac
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • vanilla sugar**
  1. Place the raisins, currants and candied fruit in a bowl. Add the Cognac, mix thoroughly and cover tightly, allowing the mixture to sit for at least 3 hours or a few days.
  2. Roll the chilled stollen into a rectangle, 1/4 thick and roughly 12” by 20” inches. (The dough will be quite stiff and hard to roll initially, because of the chilled butter. It will relax as you work with it.)
  3. Spread the candied fruit evenly over the dough and sprinkle with the almonds. Roll the dough into a fat log, then flatten evenly and roll it into a thick rectangle about 8 inches by 16 inches. Cut the dough in half lengthwise and crosswise into four pieces of equal size. Roll out each quarter into a rough rectangle, approximately 5” by 12”. Fold the rectangles over on themselves along the long axis and pat them down a bit, evening-up the ends with the cups of your hand to make a long slender loaf.
  4. Line two wide cookie sheets with parchment paper and place two loaves on each sheet. Cover with wax paper and allow to rise until puffy.
  5. Meanwhile, place two racks in the middle and upper thirds of an oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the loaves have risen sufficiently, brush thoroughly with melted butter and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Rotate front-to-back and top-to-bottom midway through baking. When done, place on a wire rack and brush immediately with melted butter. When cool, brush again with butter, then sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Wrap tightly to store.

*Commercial peel tends to be bland. For an extraordinary stollen, make your own citrus peel. Boil grapefruit, orange, lemon, tangerine or lime peel in three changes of water. (Do each type separately.) Make a 2:1 sugar syrup, that is, 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water and simmer the peel slowly until it is tender and translucent. When it is done, drain the peel, let it cool, and roll it in powdered sugar. Store in glass jars until needed. (Grapefruits, oranges and lemons have thicker peels, and tend to make a soft, easily diced candied peel when done. Tangerine peel tends to be soft, but not as thick. Lime peel can be somewhat leathery, because it is so thin, but it is delicious.)

For a special addition, buy sour cherries when they are fresh in the markets in the summer, pit them and mix a pound of them with 1 cup of sugar. Crush 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the pits, tie them in cheesecloth and add to the cherries. Let them sit tightly covered at room temperature for 3-4 days, stirring them daily. Add a fifth of high proof vodka and set aside for 2 months. Drain the liquid (keep it as an aperitif!), and add 2 additional cups of sugar. The liquored cherries will be ready to use in another 2 months. They keep indefinitely. Add 1/2 cup to the candied fruit with each batch of stollen. It is possible to use dried sour cherries instead, but the results are not nearly as good.

**Vanilla sugar is available commercially, but, to make your own, bury two vanilla beans in a quart jar filled with powdered sugar and let it sit for at least a month.

If you make this recipe, hashtag a pic to #spiceandhutch and post to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. I'd love to see your culinary creations!

DSC_0012.jpg

challah french toast by Nate Everett

DSC_0033-3.jpg

You can probably tell that I'm a big fan of pan-fried batter and maple syrup. With fresh berries and butter, of course. It doesn't get much better than this. Waffles and pancakes are recurring posts on my Insta feed, and I would be remiss if I left out French toast. 

French toast originated in medieval Europe. While the clergy and nobles feasted on suckling pig and boar sausage, the less fortunate peasants were left to their own devices. Bread, of course, was a staple of the peasant class. Soaking stale bread in a mixture of milk and egg and frying the bread in a cast iron pan was a surefire way to salvage an ailing food. Hence the birth of pain perdu, or "lost bread" in French. It is one of the many famous dishes born out of hardship. 

DSC_0037.jpg

Many centuries later, French toast is a customer favorite on brunch menus across America, and it's incredibly easy to make at home with ingredients that you've probably got on hand. Pillowy challah bread is one of the best breads (I imagine brioche is great as well!) for French toast because it sops up more of the milk/egg/spice mixture than, say, a slice of Pepperidge Farm allows. 

Styling sidebar: For this photoshoot, I swapped out my dark wood surfaces for white and concrete. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted the apothecary jars to pop, as they would've been lost against a walnut surface. The second reason was that I wanted to convey a frosty, wintery aesthetic. This winter, I will definitely stick with my standard moody photos, but I like the idea of throwing in some soft white surfaces as well. It's different. What do you guys think? Would you like to see more of this monochromatic grey/white look? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

recipe 

  • 6 large brown eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 dashes nutmeg
  • 2 dashes ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 loaf challah bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, lemon zest, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, ground ginger, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Whisk together until homogenized.
  3. Slice the bread into one-inch thick slices. Soak each slice in the mixture for two minutes on each side. Try to fit in as many slices as you can without overcrowding the bowl.
  4. Put one tablespoon each of butter and vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high. Stir quickly with a spatula to combine. Once the butter has melted, add the soaked bread. Cook each slice for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a cookie sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat the frying process with the remaining slices, adding more butter and oil to the pan as needed.
  5. Serve warm and top with butter, powdered sugar, berries and maple syrup. Eat and repeat. Enjoy!

If you make this recipe, hashtag a pic to #spiceandhutch and post to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. I'd love to see your culinary creations!

Adapted from Ina Garten

DSC_0009-4.jpg