Given that this has been an unusual year (understatement) I've decided it is pointless to try and maintain all the various holiday things we usually engage in. With Dan's birthday falling five days before Christmas, it always felt like a mad rush to fit everything in. Without the choral concerts, ballet, opera, and everything else it might seems a bit subdued, but if I'm honest, it sounds rather nice. What an opportunity to do things differently!
The biggest difference this year is I won't be baking and decorating cookies to bring to the Friends of the Library, my husband's work team, and people that work at the State Park. In the words of Cubs fans-"There's always next year." This year, it means less rushing, and who wouldn't enjoy that?
The standard things I bake will need to be prepared without milk products this year (the kid is lactose intolerant), and I'm thinking it might be a good opportunity to try something different altogether. Pulla baked with margarine just doesn't sound all that exciting, though I could make it work (Earth Balance buttery sticks are kind of miraculous). I'm also trying to convince myself that a white fruitcake would be a nice change from the Marguerite Patten recipe I bake year after year, after year. Don't misunderstand-it is a delicious Christmas cake, but this is a different year, so why not a different recipe? I have a serious stockpile of dried fruit (some people buy toilet roll, I buy sultanas) and green candied cherries I found on a deep discount after Christmas last year. I should make up my mind soon, because time is ticking away. I probably won't bother with a steamed pudding this year-not with birthday cake still sitting around from the week prior and no co-workers to bring extra to.
Thanksgiving is the big holiday in the US, though hopefully people have accepted that gathering the family together for dinner is a dangerous game. I'm really hoping retailers won't have Black Friday sales this year, but it wouldn't surprise me if they do. My "Sense of Normality" was never rooted in knocking people down for bargains in a Late Capitalist frenzy, but I did enjoy seeing the tree lighting at the corner of 90th and Dodge. The bank is under major construction and there's no sign they're planning to do it this year. As I live just around the corner, I'll miss seeing it light up the neighbourhood all season, but I understand why it wouldn't work out this year. The Christmas market has also been cancelled.
With Thanksgiving coming so soon after the election (which may still be going through the courts weeks after election day) the mood will probably be tense anyway. I don't have a "Bad Uncle" but if I did, I definitely wouldn't want to spend quality time bonding over a turkey with him. If there was ever a year to sit this one out, 2020 is it.
You're possibly thinking, "Yes, that's all true enough, but I enjoy the holidays and would like to do something a little special given the circumstances, and there could be an asteroid hurtling through space directly for us at any minute." To that, I say, "That's what fancy gin is for." But yeah, a nice stollen is also appreciated Christmas morning.
What follows is a master post of festive recipes I've made through the years that you may wish to try as an alternative to your usual, in this unusual year. 17 years of food blogging has left me with tonnes of recipes worth sharing. Before Dan was re-tested for nut allergies, I adapted most recipes to be nut free. Now that we know dairy is a problem, I substitute where possible. In my experience, while things might not be exactly the same, there's almost always a good substitute for whatever you can't have. I don't have any experience with gluten free baking, but a quick search of Google should provide you with plenty of options. My absolute favourite substitute for chopped nuts is to use crushed pretzels. It adds lightness, salt, and has even worked in a mock pecan pie. It is also economical, something we could all benefit from. So keep an open mind, particularly with the almost certain food shortages necessitating substitutions.
As always, if something is unclear (which from time to time it will be as I don't have an editor) let me know.
I'll do this in installments, with this first one being dedicated to breads. Maybe you'll find something interesting to bake.
Jen's Big List of Holiday Breads for an Unusual Year
1) Sally Lunn
This is Danny's all-time favourite bread, and has been since he was old enough to request I bake it.
For the Bread:
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup lukewarm water
½ cup lukewarm milk
1 stick butter (unsalted) melted in milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ -4 cups all purpose flour
Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in mixing bowl and let proof. Add milk, butter, salt and stir well. Add eggs and blend well. Using a wooden spoon (I don’t know why, but that’s what Beard suggests) add the flour in small amounts until you have a stiff but workable batter. Cover the bowl and let rise slowly (took about 2 ½ hours here) in a cool place until doubled in bulk. Beat it down (again, with the wooden spoon) for about a minute. Scrape into a very well buttered tube pan (9 or 10 inch) and cover again, letting it rise until it has reached the very top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and bake 40-50 minutes until the top is dark and sounds hollow when rapped with knuckles. Turn out of pan and cool on rack. Serve warm or cold (easier to slice cold).
2) Sweet Potato Rolls
You Will Need:
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated (not instant) yeast (yes, that is quite a bit)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar divided into 3 and 1
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs (2 for the bread and 1 for the wash)
3-4 cups flour (bread or AP)
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons cream (for the wash)
Combine yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and proof 5 minutes. Add to a large bowl along with remaining sugar, butter and salt. Add the eggs and mix well. Add 3 cups of the flour and mix well. Add the potatoes. You want the dough to be soft, but not sticky and Beard suggests being careful of over-kneading it. Personally, I've never found that to be a problem, but he suggests no more than a few minutes of kneading. Add only as much extra flour as is needed to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface.
Place dough in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour.
Punch down and let rest a few minutes. Divide into 24 balls and shape into rolls. Place on a buttered baking sheet and let rise again until almost doubled-about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Before baking brush with a wash of 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons cream. Bake 20 minutes or until rolls sound hollow on the bottom. Cool on rack.
3) Potato Starch Muffins
You Will Need:
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 eggs separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup potato starch, sifted multiple times to get out tiny grit
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ice water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin that will hold 12 muffins.
Add salt to egg whites and beat until stiff and dry. Beat egg yolks until pale and thick. Beat in sugar.
Sift together the starch and baking powder.
Fold egg whites into egg yolks carefully. Slowly fold in the flour/baking powder mixture. Mix well. Add the ice water and mix well. Pour into a dozen greased muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.
4) Sour Cream RollsYou Will Need:
2 cups milk, scalded
1 stick of butter, mostly melted in the scalded milk (more or less, don't worry about it)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon INSTANT yeast
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups plain flour (or enough to make a non-sticky dough)
Cinnamon sugar and extra butter (about 1/4 cup) softened for filling and topping
Heavy cream for brushing
Dissolve yeast in milk and butter in a large bowl. Mix in sugar, salt, sour cream and eggs Mix well. With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour until you can no longer stir, then use your hand to mix adding only enough flour to make the dough manageable without sticking-if you add too much flour it will be dry. Amounts needed will vary by brand, humidity, etc.
When kneaded until smooth, place in a large, buttered bowl and let rise until doubled-about two hours as the dough is quite rich. Punch down, let rise another 45 minutes.
Divide dough in half. Roll each into a circle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Smear each round with about 2 tablespoons soft, not melted butter. Top with cinnamon sugar to taste (I went a bit generous with it, but no one has complained). Cut each round into segments as for crescent rolls (it is up to you how large to make them for your needs). Roll up from the wide end and place on a well-greased baking sheet point under. I needed three large baking sheets. Cover lightly and let rise another 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 375 degrees F.
Bake 10 minutes, then rotate pans and bake another ten. At this point, check for doneness(spell-check says "doneness" isn't a word...fuck spell check. You go on and check for donness because if you don't your buns will be burned or undercooked and spell check won't be there to console you) as it will vary depending on how large they are. Cool on racks.
Eat your rolls whilst telling Spell Check what it can do to itself, because you checked for donness. Yes you did.
5) Pulla Buns
You Will Need:
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to 130 degrees F.
5 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast (not instant)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5-6 cups plain flour (I replaced 1 cup with strong flour)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Filling for buns:
1/2 cup butter cut into as many pieces as you have buns
1/2 teaspoon sugar for each bun
1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk. Top with parlsocker, almonds, or both
In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, 4 cups of the flour, the salt, and cardamom. Add the milk, butter, and eggs and beat until soft and smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour until you have a soft dough. Cover, and let stand 30 minutes.
Knead the dough well for 10 minutes or until elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to coat, then cover and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour.
Divide the dough into 20-36 pieces. Shape into smooth balls as you would for rolls, pulling under and pincing to make a smooth top. Set on a greased baking sheet (I used parchment as the butter in the buns gets a bit messy), cover, and let rise until puffy-30-45 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Before baking, punch the butter pieces down into the roll, sprinkle with the sugar, then brush the entire bun with the glaze. Add sugar or almond topping. Bake 12-14 minutes (longer for larger buns) or until golden. Do not over bake. Cool on a rack. It wouldn't hurt to put some wax paper beneath the rack to catch dripping butter as the buns cool.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup candied cherries
1/2 cup maraschino cherries
1/2 cup chopped citron
1 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped crystalised ginger
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
warm water to cover fruit in bowl( about 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup whole milk, lukewarm
1/4 cup lukewarm water
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast (not instant)
sugar (1/2 teaspoon with yeast, 1/2 cup with dough, 3 tablespoons for glaze)
1-1/2 cups bread flour, divided
3/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks, beaten
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 1/2-3 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1/4 cup of the soaking water from the fruit and the three tablespoons of reserved sugar. You can round up with water if you don't have enough soaking liquid. Bring it to a boil and remove from heat. Strain it through a fine sieve into a measuring glass.
In a bowl, soak the fruits and fennel seeds for half an hour until plump. You don't need to soak the cherries and citron.
Heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm. Place in a bowl with the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and the yeast. Let stand a minute and then stir to dissolve. Let stand about five minutes until it begins to proof. Add 1/2 cup of the bread flour and stir until smooth. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
Stir the melted butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, salt, eggs and yolks, and orange zest into flour mixture. Add remaining bread flour and mix well. Add the purpose flour a cup at a time until it comes together in a ball. Remove from bowl and knead until smooth adding more flour if needed. Place in a buttered bowl, give it a turn and the cover. Let rise 1-2 hours or until doubled. Punch dough down, give it a fold and then return it to the bowl for another hour.
Remove bread from bowl. Drain fruit reserving liquid. Flatten dough into a large rectangle and top with half the fruit. Fold, and top with the rest of the fruit. Begin kneading it in( this will be a mess in the beginning, but persevere as it will event come together).
Fit the dough into a well-buttered tube pan (or 2 large coffee tins, etc.) trying to keep the dough as even in level as possible (you won't get it perfect so don't obsess over it). Cover with a towel and let rise another 60-90 minutes or until doubled.
Preheat the o 400 degrees F. Move a rack down to accommodate the tall bread. If using a tube pan, place it atop a baking sheet (butter drips, ya know). Bake it for 10 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350. The bread can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the pan and whether you make one loaf or two. It may begin to get too dark before it is fully baked inside-just cover it loosely with a piece of foil and keep baking. You'll need a large wooden skewer to test for doneness and really, you need to watch it as it can go from wet batter to over baked in a matter of a few minutes depending on how much fruit you used and how moist it is. While the bread bakes, make the glaze.
When bread is done, cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the inside and very carefully remove. Immediately glaze the hot bread with the syrup, giving it a generous coating (or three). Let stand until completely cool and dry. Store wrapped tightly in foil.
7) Stollen Makes 3 loaves
dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Scald the milk, then cool to lukewarm. When milk is cooled, combine in a bowl with yeast, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening and three cups of the flour. Slowly knead-in the additional flour. Before you add the last cup or so of flour, flatten out the dough and spread with fruit and spices. Fold over and knead well, adding as much flour as required to make dough elastic and no longer sticky. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled (about two hours).
Punch down dough and divide into 3 or 4 balls. Flatten each into a large round and spread generously with softened butter. Fold over and pinch closed tightly. Place on a greased baking sheet and cover. Let rise until almost doubled (30-45 minutes). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Before baking, brush tops with melted butter. Place in oven (if using two sheets, rotate halfway through) and bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to racks and immediately run a stick of butter over the loaves coating completely. Sprinkle generously with caster sugar to seal. Let cool completely (and I mean completely, or the sugar will gum-up) and dust with confectioner's sugar.
Wrap tightly in foil as the cake will improve with storage.
8&9) Pan Dulce and Lussekatter Buns
Note: These recipes rely on a easy-mix method where the yeast in dissolved along with a small bit of dry ingredients, then beaten on high with a mixer. I use a food service grade yeast that does not work well with that method as the grains are much larger than store bought yeast. To counter this, I dissolved the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, and just kneaded everything by hand as I typically do. I will give the instructions as printed, but be aware that you can adapt if you don't have a mixer, or buy strange commercial yeast at the surplus store.
For Pan Dulce:
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons butter
2 1/4 teaspoons granulated (not instant yeast)
1 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
5-6 cups plain flour
2 large eggs
Streusel recipe (below)
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, 2/3 cup flour, 3 1/2 tablespoons butter, 2 egg yolks. mix dry ingredients, cut in butter. Add egg with a fork until mixed.
Do the same as above, but add 2 tablespoons powdered cocoa, and I added 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon as well.
In a small pan, heat milk, and butter until very warm. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine yeast, salt, sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Pour in milk mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes scraping as needed. Blend in eggs and 1 cup more flour and beat on high for 2 minutes longer. By hand, stir in enough flour to make a stiff but not dry dough.
Knead dough until smooth, place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.
Meanwhile, make the streusel.
\Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 large baking sheets.
Divide dough into 14 balls.
Pat out rounds for the shells, then top with flattened streusel and score carefully with a knife. For horns, roll up like a crescent with the filling inside. For ears of corn, make a 4x8 inch oval from the dough. Fill by rolling carefully, and then scoring top.
Let rolls rise until nearly doubled again-about an hour in my cold kitchen. Brush with wash before baking (only filled rolls) and then bake 17-20 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.
Cool on racks.
For Lucia Buns:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/16th teaspoon (or a pinch) ground saffron
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 large egg
About 4 cups plain flour
About 1/3 cup raisins
Wash-1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
In a small pan, melt butter. Remove from heat, stir in cream, sugar, salt, and saffron. Let cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl, mix the yeast and water. Stir to dissolve. Add cooled cream mixture, egg, and 2 cups flour. Beat well with a wooden spoon. Add more flour as needed to make a dough that is smooth, and no longer sticky. Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.
Divide dough into 24 pieces. Roll each into a rope about 9 inches long. Form into S shape by coiling ends in opposite directions. Place a raisin in each swirl. Place about 2 inches apart on a buttered baking sheet. Cover, let rise until doubled-about 35 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Brush rolls with wash, and bake about 15 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned at edges and tops are golden. Cool on racks.
10) Sourdough Limpa Bread (a Christmas morning favourite at ours)You Will Need:
1 cup fed sourdough starter
2 cups water
2 cups dark rye flour
Mix together and let stand 8-12 hours.
All of sponge
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Grated zest of 1 large orange
Enough strong flour to make a dough that is tacky, but not soaking wet.
Cover with cling film and let rest 1 hour.
Over the next four hours, give the dough about 2 folds each hour. More or less-see how the dough is responding.
Transfer dough to a well-buttered loaf pan (I have a large Pullman pan, but 2 regular loaf pans are OK as well). Cover lightly with cling fil and set in fridge until doubled. This can take 8-24 hours, again, it just depends on the strength of your starter, temperature of the fridge, etc.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.
Remove bread from fridge while the oven preheats. Bake 20 minutes, then rotate pan. Bake another 20 minutes. At this point, you'll need to watch the bread and check the internal temperature. I like my loaf breads around 200 degrees F. but if it seems too light, or too dark, trust your judgment and adjust the timing/temperature. A thermometer is helpful, but careful attention is important as well. After you've baked for a while, you learn to trust your eye.
Cool completely before slicing.
You Will Need:
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup candied orange slices (or peel, or 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4 pan (or a large loaf pan, if all else fails)
Blend the butter with 1 cup of the sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time (I did all his with a wooden spoon, as a mixer tends to over-do quickbreads). Sift together dry ingredients and add, alternating with milk. Fold in candied peel and 1 cup of the cranberries. Pour into pan and scatter remaining cranberries on top. Bake until it tests done-about 80 minutes. Mix together the lemon juice and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, leaving it somewhat crystalline. Pour and brush over the hot loaf. Let sit until mostly cool in pan on rack, remove from pan and cool until cold. Wrap tightly in wax paper and cling film and store 24 hours before cutting. Also freezes well (because the recipe is from a freezing cookbook, duh).