christmas stollen

as you finish your holiday shopping and last minute running around before Christmas this friday, maybe you'll have some time to bake this yummy holiday bread. we did our baking before we headed west for warmer weather and to see family, but this recipe was a hit. it takes some time with the rising and resting but is definitely worth it for two beautiful braided loaves filled with dried fruit. the recipe is adapted from martha stewart's traditional xmas bread in the december issue. happy holidays to all our readers and hopefully we'll have some time to post from our CA and AZ adventures before the new year.

Christmas Stollen
makes 2 loaves

5 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk, warmed
5 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs plus 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz raisins
6 oz dried cranberries
1 cup applejack or brandy
1/3 cup crystallized ginger
zest of 1 orange
confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)
whisk together flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. stir in milk and melted butter. add dissolved yeast and eggs. turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. combine raisins, cranberries and applejack in a small bowl and soak until plump, about 15 minutes. drain well and add to bread, with ginger and orange zest. continue kneading for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1-2 hours. punch down and divide into 6 equal pieces. roll each piece into a 15-inch long log. braid 3 logs together and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. repeat with remaining 3 logs. cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 more hours. preheat oven to 350 degrees F. bake stollen until golden brown, 36-40 minutes. let cool completely on a wire rack and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving. enjoy!


chocolate bark

it's homemade holiday treat time! this is such an easy candy to make - no boiling sugar, no candy thermometers, no complicated ingredients - just good quality chocolate and mixed nuts. for this recipe we used what we like and what we happened to have in the pantry - but use a combination of whatever you please. break it into pieces and wrap it up in a pretty little tin or glass jar to give to friends and family this year for a simple handmade treat. enjoy!

Chocolate Nut Bark
makes 2-3 gifts

12 oz dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups mixed nuts such as pistachios, almonds & hazelnuts

melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring often, until smooth. once melted, remove from heat and stir in 1/3 of the mixed nuts. spread evenly on a parchment lined 9x13-inch baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining nuts. refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. break into pieces and keep at room temperature for about a week.