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Celebrate the season with stollen!

Stollen is a bread traditionally served in German households at Christmas time. This year I got adventurous and made stollen using a recipe from Peter Reinhart's excellent book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn to bake breads or to improve their baking skills.

Note this recipe requires some advance planning. The fruit is soaked in brandy, rum, or schnapps for at least 24 hours prior to preparing the rest of the recipe.

DAY 1: Fruit Blend

  • 1 cup (or 170 grams) golden raisins
  • 1 cup (or 170 grams) candied fruit
  • 1/2 cup (or 113 grams)  brandy, rum, or schnapps
  • 1 tablespoon (or 14 grams) orange or lemon extract

Stir together, cover, and set aside at room temperature overnight. If you wish to give the fruit some extra time to plump up, consider adding a bit more of your liquid of choice.


 

DAY 2: Sponge

  • 1/2 cup (or 113 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (or 64 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons (or 12.5 grams) instant yeast

To make the sponge, warm the milk to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Centigrade). Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour and yeast to make a paste-like batter. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge is foamy and ready to collapse when tapped.

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (or 284 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (or 14 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons (or 5.5 grams) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (or 3 grams) grated orange zest (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon (or 3 grams) grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (or 7 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tablespoons (or 71 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • About 1/4 cup (or 57 grams) water, at room temperature
  • All of the fruit blend from day 1
  • 1/2 cup (or 57 grams) slivered blanched almonds (or marzipan)

Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then stir in (or mix in on low speed with the mixer's paddle attachment) the sponge, egg, butter, and enough water to form a soft, but not sticky, ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Add the fruit and mix in with your hands (which is really fun) or for a few seconds on low speed with the paddle attachment to incorporate. 



Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should feel soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for about 45 minutes. The dough will rise a bit but it will not double in size.

Again sprinkle flour lightly on counter and transfer the dough to the counter. For a single loaf, roll the dough out into a 9" x 16" rectangle; if you prefer to make two loaves, roll each half into 7 "x 5" rectangles. Sprinkle slivered almonds or a generous bead of marzipan over the top along with additional fruit if you desire. Roll the dough up into a loaf shape, sealing the crease by pinching the dough with the edge of your hand. Lay the loaf (or loaves) on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Mist the dough lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and proof for 1-2 hours at room temperature, or until the dough has risen to 1 1/2 times its original size.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Centigrade) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20-50 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. The bread will be a dark mahogany color and should register 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Centigrade) in the center. Transfer bread  to  a rack and brush the top with vegetable oil or melted butter while the loaves are still hot. Using a sieve or sifter, immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top of the bread. Wait one minute, then tap a second layer of powdered sugar over the first. Let the loaves cool for at least 1 hour before serving.


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Merry Christmas


A friend collects Nativity scenes, and the display leaves no doubt that their household remembers the reason for the season!


Merry Christmas to each of you. Thank you for being part of our weekly linkup. Wishing you much happiness in the year to come!


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Memories of snows gone by


I love having seasons, but winter will never be my favorite. And as beautiful as snow is, I haven't demonstrated skill in walking on it - broken wrists have proven that! But I love to see it snow... as long as it soon melts!

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The blacksmith's shop


I was just poking through the archives and found these images from ouir visit to New Bern NC. Fascinating to watch!

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Old Mill of Guilford

The Guilford Mill was built in roughly 1767 not far from Greensboro, North Carolina. Local legend holds that British troops seized the mill during the Revolutionary War. It is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and continues in operation today. Stone-ground corn, wheat, and other grains can be purchased in a shop inside the mill.










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This is all I'll say about that.


Here's the last post of three on the topic of milkweed and monarchs... at least til next year...
The milkweed flowers are rather pretty, I think.
Lots of insects are attracted by the bright colors and tasty pollen.
Seed pods form along the plant stalks.
The seed pods dry, break open, and send the seeds drifting in the wind like dandelion fluff.
We've saved some seeds to plant to keep the monarchs returning next year.

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More monarchs

Last week I shared some photos of the monarch butterflies we lured into our yard by planting milkweed this year. This week and next, I'll continue to share a bit more of the story.
The monarch caterpillars are voracious eaters, and they eat nothing but milkweed.
It's fascinating to watch them grow from little ones about the size of a fingernail paring... to BIG guys.
As they grow, they shed their skin and emerge fatter... and ready to eat lots more!
We noticed this caterpillar constructing the chrysalis from which the butterfly will emerge.
They strip off their skin and seal up the chrysalis until the butterfly emerges.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see a butterfly emerge, but here's what they leave behind.

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