My family marks all significant occasions with food, and this usually means we sit around at the breakfast table for hours on end licking the remains of whatever delicious pastry we've made off our fingers, or lingering over the last few drops of ice cream and berry crisp in our bowls from dessert. This German fruitcake is traditionally made at Christmas time and Easter, and my family has always eaten it for Easter breakfast with dyed eggs and little chocolate treats.
However, this year I'm far away from the blooming cherry blossoms and glowing daffodils already in full force out west. Montreal is still struggling against grey skies and chilly winds, but I'm starting to see snow drops and crocuses in tiny courtyards on walks around the neighborhood. There is hope. And even more so because the Stollen I made for breakfast this morning, in order to celebrate Easter properly with my roommate Libby, tastes exactly like my mom's does. As I finish my fourth piece right now, I am still in complete awe of this moist, crumbly German delicacy.
Breakfast was a truly charming affair. Libby's mom Jean (who lives next door to my parents in Victoria with Libby's dad, Steve, and her sister Jocelyn) sent us some chocolate bunnies. So amongst unwrapped yellow and pink tissue paper, we peeled our hard-boiled eggs, bit into Lindt dark chocolate bunnies, sipped coffee and let Stollen melt in our mouths, picking up the remaining crumbs with our fingers.
Although many bakeries make Stollen during the holidays, I have hardly branched out of my own kitchen in order to do taste tests. There are many variations ranging from yeast doughs that produce a light bread-like crumb and the following moist loaf whose richness comes from cream cheese. Flavoured with brandy, cardammom and mace, this Stollen is not exactly a light affair; although easy to make, it has some pricey ingredients and is very rich to digest. For me it marks many spring beginnings and happy lengthily breakfasts with loved ones.
Yesterday I raced around Montreal before and after work trying to procure the correct ingredients. Yes I bought the 20 dollar bottle of brandy that will last me for the next five years, provided that it keeps. And to my delight, I easily found the candied lemon peel, currents and spices at the health food store. Finally, after a post dinner walk with Libb and a trip to the movie store, I settled into my kitchen to make the following:
taken from "The Vegetarien Epicure" by Anna Thomas.
Make this the night before and let it sit overnight covered with a towel. In my experience it is much better at room temperature than hot from the oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C sugar (white or brown)
3/4 C ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 cardammon or 5-6 pods crushed
1/2 C butter
1 C cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs brandy
1/2 C currants
1/2 C candied lemon peel
1 - Sift together flour, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, mace and cardammom.
2 - Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or in my case I had to use my fingers because I don't have a pastry blender), until you have little pea shaped balls of butter that are well dispersed and combined with the flour.
3 - Cream egg with cream cheese, vanilla and brandy (use beaters or be old-fashioned and use a spoon).
4 - Add fruit and combine until well blended.
5 - Add cream cheese mixture to flour.
*note: at this point the dough will be very stiff. You can use your hands and fold the flour into the cream cheese as if you were lightly kneading the dough. It will be slightly sticky and very dense.
6 - Flatten out into a 3/4 inch round on a greased baking sheet and fold one side of the circle so that it comes 3/4 of the way to the other side (see above photo).
7 - Bake for 45 minutes, or until brown on top. Test with a knife after 40 minutes. It should come out clean, but if there are a few streaks of dough on the blade and the Stollen is brown on top, take it out because it will finish cooking as it cools. You don't want to over cook this because it will be too dry.
The next morning : use a sieve to dust the loaf with confectioners sugar (I had to use a tea strainer cause I don't own a seive. It worked perfectly.) Serve with hard-boiled eggs and chocolate, or whatever your heart desires.
- chef murph