December 15, 2015

Stollen Moments

First thing: this entry might be better titled Stollen Hours. Not that I begrudge the time it takes to make the bread. But my blog entries have become so sporadic that each time I have re-learn some or all of how to do it. Today was remembering how to log in to Blogger. Then how to get my photos off the smart phone and into the cloud. And then from the cloud to Picasa. Or somewhere. Frankly, I don't know exactly where they are, but I made a web album and imported all of them here. They are in at least four places now. That's a lot of stollen. 

Don't get me going on trying to put the photos into some sort of logical order, because they didn't load that way.

But today is Tuesday. The baking happened on Sunday. So...let's take a trip back to Sunday. The smell of yeast dough, spices and brandy is in the air. It's crisp outside. Foggy, too, which isn't common for Calgary. Maybe Leo could enlighten me, perhaps fog is a harbinger of climate change. Oh, wait. That's another post. Not here. Not by me.

Anyway, it was cold outside. And warm inside. Many thanks to the boiler that spends six months of the year happily gurgling and pressurizing and cycling water through the radiators in our home. The boiler is also an awesome place to proof your bread dough. Or my bread dough. Actually, my bread dough.

Leave the starter overnight, come get it the next morning, use it to make the dough and then put it all out on the boiler in the basement to grow big and strong.

Here's a second thing: The downside to baking is the complete mess it makes. The baking makes a mess. I don't. I took this photo as proof of messy baking.

The highly modified KP version of Challah
And the mess

Keelan calls this my grimoire. That makes sense. I have the pretty "cook" books with the great photography; these never get near the kitchen while I'm cooking. They're more for couch time review and inspiration.

Then there are the ones I've had forever and pull out over and over again. Norm has often offered to get me new or reprinted copies of my favourite recipe books. The thing is, the new ones wouldn't have my notes scribbled all over them, would they? Nope. Of course, they also wouldn't have the spines broken and entire chapters falling out. Somehow though, the risk of accidentally mixing two recipes together is worth the joy I take in paging through them, remembering why I changed up a recipe, the times I made it and for whom, and thinking about when to make it again. Those recipes are like old friends. The kind that wait for you to call them and pick up where you left off.

More proof (ha) of messiness. You can't tell from here, but it's also time for a new bowl and lid for the food processor. This one has seen more than its share of heavy doughs and batters. The casing is starting to crack and the lid part that controls the on-off ability of the processor doesn't always get it right the first time. Gooey bread dough is also one of the worst things to try and get out from the blade housing.

No, I don't actually let it sit exactly like this overnight.

The other thing that sits out overnight while the starter is starting is a mix of fruit and nuts. Candied citrus peel, currants and dried cherries are my choices. Throw in some sliced almonds and call it a party. They soak in whatever is handy to plump them up. In this case it's Calvados, but any brandy would do. Or Kirsch. Come to think of it, that might actually be more traditional.

A good use of Calvados.
Because I'm too lazy to make cocktails from it.

Lunch time already? All this washing up and waiting gives me an appetite. And nobody in the kitchen to tell me that Hungarian hunter sausage and port a) don't go together and b) aren't good for me.  

Back to business. Lug the dough up to the kitchen. You know the dough is ready when it's busting through the plastic wrap.

Slap it onto the counter. Literally. There are two bowls of this. Each bowl makes two large loaves and two small loaves. That means there is still a lot of work left to do. Chop chop. The sun is getting lower.

Scoop out half of the fruit mix onto the slab of dough. Then do your darnedest to knead it in. Most recipes I've seen call for the fruit to be mixed in when the dough is first being made. I like to wait until after the first rise because otherwise it seems to impact the ability of the dough to really expand. Might be too much sugar if the fruit gets mixed in right away. I'm no chemist, but trial and error has shown me it's best to mix it in after a first rise, and then set it aside for a bit longer before shaping it into loaves.

Trial and error has also shown me that there are always willing four-legged helpers convinced that I will never get all that fruit into the dough. They are correct. Inevitably, brandy-soaked cherries make their way to the kitchen floor and down the gullets of the hounds.

Okay, so the dough is hanging out back in the bowls with the fruit all mixed in. Minus what the dogs ate. Take a kilo of almond paste and throw it into your stand mixer...

...then have your son's tuna fish photobomb the almond paste. I wonder where he was when I wanted lunch?

Add some butter and eggs. I don't always do this, but when I do, I use free range eggs and organic butter. Kidding. I use those all the time. But I don't always mix them into the almond paste. It depends on the paste - sometimes it can be dry, and the last thing I want is for my kids to be able to take slices of stollen and simply poke out the marzipan centres for their eating enjoyment (they don't like the bread part, but love the marzipan). Loosening up the almond paste with butter and eggs keeps it softer when it bakes. Less susceptible to post-bake finger pokers.

Shape those loaves. Make ropes out of the almond paste. Watch out for dogs staring daggers at you.

When the loaves are done baking, slather them in butter. Yes. Slather. While still hot. And sprinkle with some granulated sugar. This makes a little bit of a crust because when the loaves are cool you want to heap them with icing sugar and you don't want that just soaking into the bread.

I think he's trying to tell me something.
Probably because I ate the last of the Hungarian sausage

Once you've wrapped all but one loaf up you should have supper. And it's okay if supper is Stollen. But go to the gym, okay? I did.