Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Stollen

Did you see it? That baked good that snuck into the post of marzipan? Behold the Stollen! This bread doesn't only sneak it's way into posts, but also manages to sneak into several traditions in 'quite a few' countries all over the world. Today, this sweet bread filled with dried fruits is going to be a Christmas tradition. It is Christmas after all!

A part of me is assuming you know what Stollen is. Christmas bread? Christmas stollen? It probably goes by a lot of names that I don't know of. It certainly doesn't go by the name Sweet-bread-studded-with-dried-fruits-and-filled-with-marzipan, which is what it is. If you didn't know it already, you should be getting an idea now right? Have I made you hungry?

Ah yes, the recipe. Once I'd written down the ingredients and steps everything in me went "wauw, that's a long list!". But don't worry, it's really just making bread. Most of the time is spent waiting for the bread to rise. You probably have most of the ingredients in your house as well. So here goes, don't freak out okay?

1 very large loaf - adapted from Bread

150 grams sultanas and currants
3-5 tablespoons rum
375 grams bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 grams sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice or cinnamon
7 grams dried yeast (1 3/4 teaspoon)
120 ml milk
50 grams butter
1 egg
50 grams almonds
50 grams chopped mixed (candied) peel
Marzipan *

1. Take a small bowl for the sultanas and currants and cover them with the rum. Set aside to soak. (If you leave to soak overnight you'll get a much more prominent rum flavour).
2. Sift the flour, salt, sugar, and spices together into your bread machine if you're using one.
3. Heat the milk until lukewarm and add the yeast. Pour this into an indent in the dry ingredients. Using a fork, break down the 'walls' of flour around the edges until you get a very thick batter. You'll still have some flour at the sides. Leave this for 30 minutes to rise (cover with a damp cloth or foil).
4. Melt the butter, leave it to cool slightly and beat the egg in. Pour the mixture over the risen 'bread' and start the bread machine on dough setting. If you do not own a bread machine or do not want to use it, then knead the ingredients for about 10 minutes, then leave to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
5.Once risen, knead the dough again to remove large air bubbles. Sprinkle the fruits and nuts over the dough and knead until everything is fully incorporated.
6. Roll the dough out into a long thin oval. Shape the marzipan into a cylinder shape that is slightly shorter than the length of your bread. Place the marzipan onto your dough and fold the dough over the marzipan to seal it in.
7. Turn the bread around (seam-side down) and place on a baking sheet. Leave to rise for 30-40 minutes in a warm place until doubled in size.
8. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes. It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Brush with butter (optional: it makes the top shiny) and leave to cool completely.
9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving! (also optional)

* Let's face it: a REAL stollen has marzipan in it. So I'm not going to mark this as optional, however I will allow you to omit the marzipan if you're not a fan of it. You know, if I have to!

I realize the recipe may come a bit late for those of you who want to eat this for Christmas (there is still time for New Years though?). But don't worry! This bread is perfect for any morning breakfast or brunch all year long. Or if you want to eat this for a special occasion: wait till Easter! Every year people complain about the fact that Easterbread is exactly the same as the Christmas Stollen in a different package. It is really, but I don't see the point in complaining. Shouldn't we be happy that we have a very good and pressing reason to eat this more than once a year?

I hope you have/had a Very Merry Christmas with lots of presents and lots of food 
and above all lots and lots of fun!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Freedom! Which means time to eat: Marzipan

YES! Real and actual freedom!
For those of you who haven't noticed: my last post was 3 weeks ago. *gasp* December has been a tough month for me. I didn't even get to prepare for Christmas! With just a few days till our Christmas dinner, I don't even have a proper dress yet. (Yes, it is important to buy a new dress every year)

All I've been doing is thesis, thesis, thesis. But there has been one moment of "I will bloody well MAKE a break for myself now", which showered my family in Marzipan!

My grandma said making marzipan was impossible. According to her it needed a month's preparation at least. Well, I made it in about 15-20 minutes and it was done the next day. Only problem was that my break turned out to be so short I had more time for homework.

400 grams: enough to fill one large bread, never enough for eating

100 grams almonds* or almond flour
300 grams powdered sugar
egg white or water

1. Grind the almonds until very fine. A little kitchen chopper/food processor worked perfectly for me. I added a bit of almond flour to the almonds to make sure they didn't turn into a paste.
2. Add the powdered sugar and process again.
3. Add enough egg white or water to turn the flour into a very thick paste or dough, using the food processor at first and later your hands to knead the dough. It needs to be the consistency of marzipan, so make sure not to add too much egg white/water and knead properly in between each addition.**
4. Wrap in cling foil and leave to rest in the fridge for a day.

* preferably roasted and without skins
** For a stronger almond taste, you can add almond essence.
Note: if you're using the marzipan for baking within the next 24-36 hours, I recommend using egg.

So after about 20 minutes work, and then a whole day resting, you've got marzipan. And it's delicious! I felt you could taste the almonds so much more than in all those machine-made marzipans with all those extra additives.

Have you ever noticed there are several different types of marzipan? You'll probably be familiar with these two types: marzipan for decorating/'eating plain' and marzipan as 'filling', also known as almond paste. You'll find the last one in some cakes and breads, especially around Christmas. [Almond paste recipe] The process of making almond paste is exactly the same as above, with a few minor adjustments: 1. grind the almonds until 'coarse' not fine. 2. Add lemon rind or juice when kneading. 3. Add slightly more egg or lemon juice to result in a wetter paste.

Another nice idea: increase the amount of almonds! I tried using 200 grams almond flour with 200 grams powdered sugar and it turned out fine. I didn't eat them directly after each other, or even on the same day, so it's hard to compare. But I believe it tasted roughly the same. I'm not sure if it still works if you increase the amount of almond flour to above 50% of the recipe. It might not be sticky enough anymore and fall apart. But what I do know is that the original recipe wasn't overly sweet. It tasted like the marzipan you buy in stores, except the flavour was a bit more subtle while at the same time being a lot more rich.

Oh yes, some store-bought brands use soy flour in stead of almond flour to make marzipan. I've tried this and I really would not recommend it. You can really taste the soy flour! If you like the taste of soy beans than go ahead and use soy flour (Id recommend replacing 25% of the almond flour max.), but it was not a taste I was looking for in home-made marzipan. I think the only reason soy flour is used to replace almond flour is to make the end product cheaper.

I've tried all these little ideas, but I'm sticking to the original. Making almond paste worked out nicely as well. Increasing the amount of almonds was nice, but for me only made the end product more expensive. And using soy flour is definitely not happening again. Perhaps I should've listened to the random woman in Barcelona: "Why not stop at perfection?" (or something along those lines). I should have done that.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

*Gasp* A free day! and a Trip to Barcelona

Oh yeah, you saw that! I officially have a day in which I can sit back for at least half the time. I know it's not as exciting as having a whole day off, but now I finally get some time to post something again!
And boy do I have lots to post. Remember I said something about a trip to Barcelona? I think by now it's two weeks ago. So it's about time I show off some pictures!

First of all, it was just a few very short days. They were stuffed full with visiting interesting places like Arc de Triomf, Sagrada Familia, Park Guëll and other historical places. I'm not a tourist kind of person, so there are almost no pictures of these places.

I did get to capture the lizard by Gaudi!
Oh, that lizard is tiny actually. It's on the cover of every folder for Barcelona or the park and it looks massive and great and big and when you stand next to it -if you don't walk past it in the first place- the first thing you will think is: "Is this it? This!?!"

There was even a chocolate museum! It was surprisingly small, but the entry ticket was a chocolate bar and most of the museum was an exhibition of amazing chocolate art so that made up for it. (It was pretty amazing: how many of you can make a life-sized gorilla or human-sized lizard or even an entire park in miniature version out of chocolate?). Did you guys know that chocolate was introduced to Europe through Spain? There's a lot more interesting things I could say about chocolate, but lets leave that for an Oven Info post as I've got enough to share here already!
Look at one of the things I found there:

Looks familiar anyone? I wonder if this hand-driven one is cheaper than those stand mixers you can buy now. I'd definitely buy one if it was.
This chocolate lantern is a mini replica of an actual lantern in one of the largest and most touristic streets in Barcelona: "La Rambla". This street in itself is really not the most special - it's touristic. But in the side roads you'll find the cutest shops and cafés and even a large market inside an even larger tent. FULL of FRESH FRUIT and vegetables. And meat. And fish. Some fresh pastries and candy or a crepestand, but you get my point right?

But look at all that fresh fruit! They had to stack it to fit! All those colours! *nearly dies at this point* And every single piece of fruit of vegetable was so much larger and colourful than the ones we have here. Most of the pictures I took were from this one single market.

I suppose I shouldn't bother you with ALL the pictures. But look at these tomatoes! They look so delicious, Im gonna die! (anyone caught the reference?) They're the kind that's not supposed to turn red: my sister honestly thought they were selling a lot of unripe tomatoes. Oh, you should have been there. There were uncountable different kinds of tomatoes in all different sizes and colours.
And so many varieties of mushrooms as well! Can you see the ones with garlic butter on them? I'm really curious as to what those taste like. They were all over the place there and just looking at them made me drool every time. I couldn't cook them though, or bring them home. Perhaps I should force my sister to buy some and eat them and then give me a review.

Apparently they're not even expensive! What is she waiting for?

My sister said she could buy enough fruits and vegetables for an entire week there for just 5 euros. Here, you'd be lucky to pay 5 euros for a day's supply. I'm so envious of her! It gets worse: she doesn't even like cooking so much. And she had never bought anything at this market!

Oh yes, how could I forget pictures of the candy? Chocolates and dried fruits in the background. We need a place like this here. Desperately.

I bought two of these, and got another 2 as a present from my sister. I'm saving them for Christmas. Apparently, these typical Spanish treats are even meant for Christmas! They are called Turron, Torrons, or Torró (on the packages at least). Some of these are nougat in a whole range of varieties, some are pure chocolate 'truffle' bars and some seem to be some sort of marzipan with lots of extra's on top or inbetween. I have one 'Turron selection' which seems to be almond brittle in different variations. From all that I'm guessing the only requirements for a Torró are almonds and a bar-shape. Yes, I can't wait to try them.

Oh, you thought I'd stop here? Well, I suppose there is a point in which I should stop spamming you with pictures of food. Okay, I'll stop.

I went to Barcelona and I brought home pictures food. Typical.
Now all I need is a Catalonian recipebook, so I can replicate my vacation in my own kitchen. Oh wait, did I forget to mention I finally got to see my sister again after about half a year? Or that I got to see the place she lives? (both my sister and I are astonished at how disorderly young girls are) Or that we went to see flamenco dancing? No? I didn't mention anything about how we were able to sneak my sister into the hotel we stayed at so she could stay with us at night? Or about the time we went Christmas shopping and I got myself a Christmas outfit already? Hmm, how typical.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures of food and drool as much as I do at the sight of all that food!
Also, I hope my enthusiasm for food isn't slathered too thickly all over this post. But I doubt you'd get this far if you didn't share my love for food. I really hope you guys get to visit places like these as well!