Winter Solstice Stollen

December 21, 2007 in christmas

Solstice Stollen: Making candied orange and lemon peels

Living in the Northeast means that we get nice long summer days and sad short midwinter days.

I was born very near the equator, in the mountain city of Pereira, Colombia (up in the Andes). I moved to Wisconsin when I was 3 1/2 years old and have lived in the snowy lands of the US for some years (when I wasn’t living in the humid sweaty southern swampy parts of the US that is). There is some part of my inner child which misses those 12 hour days and 12 hour nights.

As a result of all this, I am very sensitive to the shortness of these days so I get really excited when we hit the winter solstice and our days begin to get longer.

In an effort to not be overly depressive during this time, we learn about solstice traditions across the ages and across the globe.

There is a huge amount of interesting information about solstice celebrations, from the Maya to the ancient Romans to Sweden to Germany to other countries on the Wikipedia. Follow this link for that page on the Winter Solstice.

Today is mid-winters eve with tonight being the longest night of the year where I live. The winter solstice will occur tomorrow morning at 1:08 AM and tomorrow will be the shortest day of the year.

Last year we made an edible Stonehenge, the neolithic structure dedicated to the winter solstice. That was a lot of fun.

Homemade candied orange peels

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

Stonehenge made of ladyfingers

This year I made a winter solstice stollen.

Winter Solstice Stollen

Winter Solstice Stollen

This bread is filled with rum-soaked fruits and nuts (in those homes where they do not have nut allergies). It has pagan Germanic roots although that would be hard to tell in recent times. If you look at the wikipedia page for stollen, the references are all christian. The stollen is meant to symbolize the baby jesus wrapped in a snowy white blanket. Other sources speak of how this festival bread was made by the pagan germanic tribes in times before the Romans invaded.

Nevertheless, the stollen is taken very much to heart by the German people. It is said that in 1730, King August the Great commissioned the baking of a 1.7 ton stollen for the people of Dresden. These days, the stollen has grown to 3 to 4 tons for the Stollenfest. To learn more about this oversized stollen, see the official page for the Giant Dresden Stollen. A few photos can be found at these links: The stollen cart pulled by draft horses, mega-stollen and the mega stollen knife (with stollen maiden), hefting the stollen knife at the mega-stollen, cutting some stollen for the townsfolk, stollen maiden with stollen knife.

Yeah, you have to see the photos to understand, I promise.

Winter Solstice Stollen

Winter Solstice Stollen

I found this recipe at About.com and I doubled it with no trouble. I soaked my dried fruits (apricots, dates, and raisins) in rum for a week before I made the bread. I also made my own candied lemon and orange peel.

This bread has delightful notes of citrus and also decadent rum soaked moments of apricot and date. Keep some on hand for Solstice and Christmas, its festive and delicious. You might want to be liberal with the simple sugar icing (powdered sugar with a bit of milk or lemon juice until the desired consistency) in case the crumb gets a bit dry.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water, about 105 to 110 degrees
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 small to medium lemon
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruits and peels
  • 1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates
  • melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Melt the 1/3 cup butter in a small saucepan; add the milk and heat until warm, about 110F. Combine milk mixture with yeast mixture, the 1/3 cup sugar, the salt, lemon zest, eggs, and 2 cups of the flour.
  • Beat on low speed of mixer until blended and smooth. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes in a warm draft-free place. Stir in the chopped almonds, candied fruits, and raisins or dates. Beat in remaining flour, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup at a time.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 12 minutes. Divide in half and shape each half into a 12×8-inch oval loaf. Brush each loaf with melted butter; fold lengthwise almost double. Press edges together. Place in a large greased baking sheet and let rise for 40 minutes. Breads should be almost doubled. Bake in a preheated 350F° oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Brush loaves with melted butter. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over loaves. Cool on rack then wrap tightly and store in refrigerator or freezer.

Let me know if you try this and how it goes for you!

Winter Solstice Stollen

Winter Solstice Stollen

Drop-in & Decorate! Sugar Cookies for a Better World

November 9, 2007 in baking, christmas, dessert, Food Porn, holiday

Drop-in & Decorate: Cookie cutters and chilled dough

Yummmm, [tag]sugar cookie[/tag]s.

I know its only [tag]November[/tag] but the holidays are really just around the corner. Once [tag]Halloween[/tag] is gone, it seems like its a full-on sprint into the [tag]winter[/tag] [tag]holiday[/tag]s.

If you have the time, one nice way to open the season is to make a batch of beautiful [tag]sugar cookies[/tag]. Perhaps a [tag]turkey[/tag]-shape would be best right now and I might do some of those for [tag]Thanksgiving[/tag] but today’s post shows [tag]Christmas[/tag] cookies (because I do not have other types of [tag]cookie cutter[/tag]s) that go for a good cause!

By the way, I will be blogging soon on how we are NOT doing a turkey this year and something completely different but hopefully just as satisfying.

Are you thinking of drop-kicking the overgrown [tag]poultry[/tag] and going for something brand spanking new?

If yes, let me know what your up to!

Drop-in & Decorate

Lydia of [tag]The Perfect Pantry[/tag] and [tag]Nine Cooks[/tag] has been running a wonderful community building event for years now called [tag]Drop-in & Decorate[/tag]. I am going to borrow from her site to give you the details.

“Drop In & DecorateSM [tag]Cookies for Donation[/tag] is a simple concept: bake some cookies, invite friends or family (or neighbors, or co-workers) to drop by and help decorate, then donate your cookies to a local [tag]food pantry[/tag], [tag]emergency shelter[/tag], [tag]senior center[/tag], [tag]lunch program[/tag], or other [tag]community agency[/tag] serving [tag]neighbor[/tag]s in need.

Drop In & Decorate parties have become a wonderful [tag]tradition[/tag] for many [tag]friend[/tag]s and [tag]families[/tag] a way to “give back” and have fun, too.

To start your own tradition, download our free “How to Host Your Own Cookie Decorating Party” Guide (click here). Includes [tag]recipe[/tag]s, supply sources, and how to donate.

Read about Drop In & Decorate parties here.

Meet our recipient agencies and partners, and learn how and where to donate your cookies.

What’s in the [tag]King Arthur[/tag] Drop In & Decorate Baking Kit? Click here for details.

NEW! Drop In & Decorate gear: buttons, T-shirts, aprons.”

Drop-in & Decorate: sugar cookies before baking

Today I am going to share with you Lydia’s truly fantastic recipe for these sugar cookies that can put up with a LOT of [tag]icing[/tag].

Its much more of a [tag]shortbread[/tag] and that, my friends, is ALWAYS a good thing (ok, maybe not for the hips, but the lips say “Yes, please, ma’am”).

I hope Lydia doesn’t mind my sharing this recipe here. Its my hope that you try it, see how fantastic your cookies are and then you become inspired to host your own Drop-in & Decorate party this year!

DROP IN & DECORATE SUGAR COOKIES
Reprinted from the archives, our best, most delicious sugar cookie recipe. See note below for making multiple batches. Makes 16-20 large (4-5 inch) sugar cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 3-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups best quality unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp best quality pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a couple of baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar, until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla, and continue to beat until well blended and smooth. Beat flour mixture into the butter mixture until smooth. Divide dough in half. Place one half on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper; cover with another sheet and roll to 1/4 inch.

Drop-in & Decorate: sugar cookies before baking

Repeat with second half of dough. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes, or up to a couple of days (or, if making far in advance, you can freeze at this point. Wrap sheets tightly in plastic wrap). Remove one sheet from the refrigerator; peel off the top wax paper, then replace paper and invert dough. Peel off and discard what is now the top sheet of paper, and cut out the cookies. (cookies will spread, so do not place too close together on the baking sheet).

Drop-in & Decorate: sugar cookie scraps

Reroll scraps, refrigerating if necessary to firm the dough. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until just lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges. Rotate sheets halfway through for even browning. Remove pans from oven and let cookies cool 2-3 minutes. Then remove cookies to a rack and let cool completely. (At this point, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks, in layers separated by parchment or wax paper.)

Drop-in & Decorate: sugar cookies before baking

After the cookies are completely cooled, decorate with Royal Icing. Place the decorated cookies on a tray and leave out overnight, uncovered, to harden. The next morning, package in food-safe cellophane bags or cookie tins.

*Note: to make multiple batches, do NOT double the recipe. It’s hard to control proportions. Instead, make multiples of the original recipe, one batch at a time, for guaranteed success!

*Another note: Rolled sheets of cookie dough can be made ahead and frozen (or, if you’re going to use them within a day or two, you can stack the rolled sheets of dough on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator). Let defrost until dough is pliable enough to be cut without breaking cookies, but not necessarily completely defrosted.

I will post again once I decorate these babies and shoot them. Be patient!

AllRecipes.com photo contest

January 28, 2007 in baking, christmas, contest, cookies, dessert, Food Porn, holiday

Gingerbread men

Back in December, during my cookie [tag]baking[/tag] furies, I noticed that [tag]AllRecipes.com[/tag] was running a [tag]photo contest[/tag] for [tag]cookie[/tag] photos. I had [tag]fresh[/tag] cookie photos so I entered (see shot above) not really expecting to [tag]win[/tag] because the [tag]AllRecipes[/tag] site gets a huge amount of [tag]traffic[/tag] and there were sure to be many great submissions.

I got an email from AllRecipes a week ago or so telling me that I had won the gingerbread cookie category (runner up to grand prize)!

AllRecipes cookbook

I got this super nifty cookie [tag]cookbook[/tag], I think I will be trying some out, already have a few ideas [tag]brewing[/tag].

Thanks AllRecipes.com!

Happy Winter Solstice! May you have light

December 21, 2006 in christmas, holiday, How-2

(If you are looking for information on my contribution to the Menu for Hope III event go to this permalink)
Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Through the portal © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
Today is the shortest day of the year and tonight is the longest night. It is an important time for those of us who live in northern lattitudes because it marks a very real and very important occasion, the switch from loss of light every day to the slow return of light, precious seconds every day. I dont get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) so much as just sensitivity to light length and quality. On this day we celebrate the Sun and light candles at night in anticipation for the new year and rememberance for the past year.

If you would like to learn more about the winter solstice and traditions around it (ancient and new) try these links:

Winter Solstice wiki entry
Stonehenge wiki entry
Maps and layouts
Amazing Stonehenge photo gallery
Stonehenge clones and morphisims
Party at the henge
Modern Stonehenge Solstice Ritual
Modern Druids and the Stonehenge
Information on Druids and the Stonehenge
List of Solstice websites that may interest you

To mark the occasion, we made our own stonehenge cake! We printed out some layouts and photos.


(Stonehenge site)
Then we set to work!

We gathered the various materials we would need to build our stonehenge and sat down to the hard work of nibbling on ladyfingers and sneaking bites of frosting.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Materials © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
We trimmed off the ends of the ladyfingers and cut a few in half lengthwize (for the capstones).

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Cutting the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(More cutting © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
Q spread frosting on her plate as a foundation.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Spreading the foundation © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
KD did the same. Baby O worked on his nap.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(KD working on her henge © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
The frosting had to be put all over the plate. Here Q is using an off-set spatula.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Spatula in hand © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
She had to be sure to get a deep enough layer of “snow” so that the ladyfinger stones would stand upright.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Frosting “snow” © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
Q studied the photos and layouts of the Stonehenge and then set to work constructing hers. If you look carefully, you will see that she stuck very closely to the actual layout.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Frosting does an excellent job of anchoring the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
Almost done.

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(A few more stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
The henge takes shape!

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(Henge-in-progress © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
KD’s henge is coming together beautifully. It did not last long tho. Alas, cake and frosting are too tempting for a 3 year old.

Stonehenge cake for Winter

(Little fingers work the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)
And voila, CakeHenge 2006!

Stonehenge cake for Winter Solstice

(CakeHenge 2006! © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)