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Happiest Holidays [+ gluten-free Christmas Stollen}

I meant to post this recipe for a very Christmassy stollen — a sort of yeasted sweet bread — earlier this week but time skittered away from me, spent in cooking a big holiday lunch for my husband’s office crew (after a bit of obsessing I settled on a simple yet somewhat varied menu that included bowls of thyme-marinated cheese (from Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Cooking”), white bean hummus, bread and olives, lemon-roasted chicken, tomato and feta galettes, pan-fried cauliflower, and a grated carrot salad. Dessert was a lemon ‘ice cream’ pie from Nigel Slater’s “The Kitchen Diaries” with a gingersnap crust, plus an assortment of Christmas cookies.) in increments during nap time. We stretched out our big government-loaned table and squeezed 13 around it, just barely. Next up we’re having friends over for Christmas Eve dinner (spinach lasagna, more of that cauliflower, a salad, and spicy gingerbread for dessert). For Christmas I’m planning to keep it very simple with a mushroom soup, roast turkey, scalloped potatoes, and green beans, and will finish with pumpkin pie. Waffles for breakfast. Leek quiche for lunch. That sort of thing.

But I might also carve out a few hours to make this stollen for nibbling on because it’s so good and so perfect for a cozy holiday mid-morning cup of coffee.

Sierra and I celebrated the Solstice yesterday by taking a big walk around the DQ with a stop for coffee (a flat white), a trip to the grocery store, and a grande finale at a park just off the Wadi Trail for climbing and sun-soaking. We spent a good handful of hours out-of-doors and I always consider days when we’re more out than in to be the best days. Hard to believe that the new year is nearly upon us yet I know I say this every year … and now the days are getting the tiniest bit longer again as we begin the slow descent into summer.

You’ve probably set your Christmas menus already but if you’re still looking for a little something for the morning of Christmas or the Eve I present my version of a German ‘fruit bread’ that’s punchy with lemon zest, sliced almonds, and dried cranberries and capped with a layer of buttery powdered sugar. It’s a little different yet also a little traditional; it may not slice up as prettily as some cakes but after all it’s not really a cake. It’s really more of a breakfast dessert, if there is such a thing, or as a wee afternoon snack with tea. I used lemon zest and dried cranberries in my version in a nod to the season, though more traditional recipes call for candied fruit peel. Orange or grapefruit zest would probably also be really nice too. I’ve included options for gluten-free and regular flours here as well.

This world of ours has seemed off-kilter lately, tilting crazily from one extreme to another. In my house we anchor ourselves through fresh air, good, wholesome food, and appreciating the moments as they come. Wishing you peaceful and cozy holidays with lots of simple pleasures. xo

[print_this]Christmas Stollen, adapted from SeriousEats.com

Note: I don’t own a stand mixer so I created the dough using a blend of wooden spoon + arm muscles as well as with some help from an electric mixer, but I’ve left the original instructions in because no doubt it would be much easier to make this with a dough hook! I will also mention that a warm kitchen and fresh yeast will help with your bread’s rise, though I don’t think this is a particularly high-rising bread.

Makes 10 servings.

1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup oat flour + 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon flax seeds
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour, divided, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon bourbon or whiskey (I used Jameson)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
Finely chopped zest of 1 organic lemon
1/3 cup (3 ounces) sliced almonds

For the glaze:
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Heat milk in small saucepan over low heat until just warm. Pour into bowl of stand mixer and whisk in yeast and 1 tablespoon bread flour. Set aside for 30 minutes. In another saucepan, gently heat bourbon and cranberries until warm; set aside.

Add 1 1/4 cups bread flour, sugar, and egg yolk to yeast mixture. Mix with dough hook at low speed just until mixture begins to come together, about 1 minute. With mixer running, add salt and then slowly add butter to incorporate. If dough seems too wet, add up to a few tablespoons more flour. Continue to mix until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 8 minutes. Mix in cranberries, lemon zest, and almonds until just incorporated.

Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place until dough has risen by about 50 percent, 1 to 2 hours.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough onto lightly floured work surface and press into an 8- by 10-inch oval. Carefully transfer the stollen to the parchment-lined baking sheet, loosely cover, and let rest in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°F, then bake stollen until golden brown and just cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Try not to overbake or your stollen will be dry.

For the Glaze: Brush stollen immediately with half the melted butter. Sprinkle with a coating of confectioner’s sugar. Brush with remaining melted butter and sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar over the top. Let cool. Serve warmish or room temperature. [/print_this]

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