Archive | December 22nd, 2009

Baked for Christmas: Dresden Stollen, Fig and Nut Cake

Baked for Christmas: Dresden Stollen, Fig and Nut Cake

Dresden Stollen 26

“Christmas baking, cookies, cakes and candy-making” — it’s so alliterative,  someone should have written a song.

Fig and Nut Cake1Here are two more reasons to do some baking in the next few days: Dresden Stollen with Cranberries is a yeasted bread full of almonds, dried fruit and marzipan. Eat it warm out of the oven, dusted with powdered sugar, or, as Kristina Mistry suggests, slice it, toast it and slather it with butter.

Italian Fig and Nut Cake is really not as sweet as a cake, but sweeter than ordinary quick breads. The chunks of chocolate, dried fig and hazelnuts are perfect accented with bits of lemon and orange zest.  You also can make this cake with candied orange peel or lemon peel if you like. It’s great with hot coffee or cold eggnog.

There’s still time to turn on the oven and bake before Christmas, and these two specialty breads are sure to make the crowd happy — even if they don’t actually sing.

Dresden Stollen 27

Dresden Stöllen with Cranberries

Fig and Nut Cake2

Italian Fig and Nut Cake

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Italian Fig and Nut Cake: Not Your Ordinary Fruitcake

Italian Fig and Nut Cake: Not Your Ordinary Fruitcake

Fig and Nut Cake2While one can put candied citrus peel into this delicious fruitcake, I substitute orange and lemon zest. Also, the cake is best made a day or so ahead of the time you want to slice and serve it.  With coffee, for breakfast it’s sublime.  But it also will be a star on your holiday cookies and cakes plate.

Italian Fig and Nut Cake

3/4 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup slivered, blanched almonds
3/4 cup whole, dried figs
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (optional, I use about one orange’s worth of zest)
1/3 cup diced, candied lemon peel (optional, I use about one lemon’s worth of zest)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Fig and Nut Cake1Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hazelnuts in small baking pan. Bake until toasted, about 12 -15 minutes. Let cool somewhat; then pick up and rub a few hazelnuts between your hands to remove as much of the skins as possible.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-by-4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Coarsely chop the hazelnuts, almonds, figs and candied orange and lemon peel, if using, or add zest.  Chop chocolate a little more finely than you do the nuts. Combine nuts, figs, peels or zest and chocolate in medium bowl. Mix well.

Combine eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until mixture is very pale yellow and thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add nut mixture to egg mixture and gently fold in. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a sieve. Sift half the flour mixture over egg mixture and gently fold in; repeat with remaining flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread top evenly. Bake until top of loaf is deep golden brown and center is firm to the touch, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on wire rack 5 minutes. Then remove loaf from pan and cool completely on wire rack, at least 4 hours before cutting. To serve, cut into slices.

Makes 12-16 servings.

From “The Italian Cooking Class Cookbook” by the editors of Consumer’s Guide

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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‘Expensive’ Christmas Salad Something Different for the Table

‘Expensive’ Christmas Salad Something Different for the Table

Expensive Christmas SaladDon’t let the name discourage you: This salad is one my sister and I devised years ago, when were were students and had no money. That meant purchasing such delicacies as artichoke hearts and hearts of palm put this in expensive territory for us. (If you really wanted to make it expensive, I guess you could add some cooked, cold lobster.)

I added the “Christmas” to the name because just adding the grape tomatoes to the salad gives it a festive red-and-green color. It’s simply dressed with lemon juice and really good olive oil, and people almost always like it.

Expensive Christmas Salad

1 clove garlic
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts (not marinated)
1 (8.8 -ounce) can hearts of palm
1 large avocado, ripe but not mushy
2 long ribs celery, with green part
1/2 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
12-15 fresh grape tomatoes
1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Small bunch parsley, for garnish, optional

Mash the clove of garlic and rub it around the inside of a medium-large bowl. Set garlic aside for another use, or add to the salad, diced up, if you like a lot of garlic.

Drain and lightly squeeze the artichoke hearts to get some of the canning liquid out. Cut them in half, or if they’re large, cut into quarters and put in bowl. If any of the outside leaves seem tough, take them off and discard. Slice the hearts of palm on the diagonal, about 3/4-inch long and put in bowl. Dice the avocado and slice the celery, on the diagonal. Add to bowl. Dice the cheese and put in bowl with the tomatoes. Cut lemon in half and squeeze in juice of one of the halves, being careful not to get seeds into the salad. Pour over the oil, salt and pepper, then very gently mix. If you like,  garnish with the parsley.

Serves 7-8.

From Bonnie Walker

(Photo by Bonnie Walker)

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