Daring Bakers December Challenge: Stollen wreath

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Stollen is a traditioal German christmas recipe. So I should be very happy to finally have the possibility to make something from my own cuisine, especially I am located in the middle of this pastry comes from. The town where I live now (and went to school) is just 30 km away from Dresden where the center of the Stollen tradition is located. Outside my home village (8 km away) was the famous 'Zeithainer Lustlager' where Augustus II the Strong had the giant 1.7 ton-Stollen in 1730 - read more at the 'Dresdner Stollen festival' section here.
There is just one twist: I hate Stollen. I remember clearly every time in my childhood we were making it. I had to get up at six in the morning and stand in the kitchen for hours, wearing a headscarf and kneading tons of dough in big washing bowls, sinking into it as far as my elbows. We usually made around 10 to 12 large ones which were baked at the lokal bakery in our village. The best thing was covering them with butter and sugar because I would get the rests of  melted butter and sugar which were spilled around. I rarely ate a piece afterward because I don't like candied oranges or lemons and most of all raisins. So I though about making a Quark or poppy seed version (last year I made one with chocolate and almonds - the recipe is in German). Someone in the forum later mentionde dried fruits, so I changed my mind and tried my own version with dried cranberries (instead of raisins) and dried strawberries (instead of zests) soaked in Contreau (instead of rum). Finally I changed the almonds with macadamias and added a marzipan filling.
My mother-in-law who watched the baking procedure while knitting in the kitchen immediately fell in love with the smells evaporating from the oven and could't wait until the wreath was cooled for a taste. She asked me for the recipe afterwards. My brother on the other side, who is a real Stollen fan first refused to taste my version. After tasting a slice he stated that it wasn't bad but didn't deserved the name Stollen. "It is a nice yeast-dough bread and you can have butter or jam on it for breakfast, but don't call it Stollen." he said. I liked my creation (especially the untraditional shape) - maybe the Stollen and I will become friends at last ;)

Daring Cooks December Challenge: Poaching Eggs - Oeufs en Meurette

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Well, I though poaching eggs wouldn't be that difficult - but I was wrong. I did some trys with water and never managed to get a uniform egg. Everything was splattered in the pan. Luckily the ones poached in wine got just right. I chose the Oefs en Meurette (not the eggs Benedict) because I love the French cuisine (it's a Burgundian dish), but it confirmed all my prejudices about the French kitchen. It tastes exquisit but you need lots of time, lots of different kitchen equipment (at least three different pans) and patience because it's difficult. I got a satisfying result a the end although I didn't follow the recipe literally. Thanks to Jenn and Jill for that nice dish I will surely cook again!

Oeufs en Meurette
makes four portions (I halved it)

National Cupcake BackAthon: Gingerbread cupcakes with eggnog buttercream filling and cinnamon meringue

I confess this  some kind of elaborate, but I wanted more this time. First of all I wanted to make a good impression - because this is my post for the 'National Cupcake BackAthon' held by Baking the law. She invited me to take part and (of course) I couldn't say no. The topic is 'Gluttony at the christmas market' which gave me a lot of ideas. So second, I wanted to design a special cupcake, one I never made before, with filling and topping - and which was supposed to taste and look good. I adore this certain foodblog by Chockylit which is all about cupcakes. I love her cupcakes creations and wanted to create such a lovely and special cupcake as hers use to be. I hope I have done a good job in trying/doing so.

Gingerbread cupcakes with eggnog buttercream filling and cinnamon meringue
makes about 12 cupcakes 

Gingerbread cupcakes:
  • 100 g dark chocolate, minimum 61% cocoa
  • 115 g butter
  • 125 g sugar, granulated
  • 100 g dark molasses (sugar beet molasses; 'Zuckerrübensirup')
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g flour
  • 15 g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon gingerbread spice mix ('Lebkuchengewürz')
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grounded
  • pinch of salt
In a waterbath, melt butter and chocolate and stir until combined. Let the mixurte cool for about ten minutes. Meanwhile mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl combine sugar and molasses, then add the chocolate-butter-mixture and whip (with a handheld mixer) until you get a caramel-like consistency. After that, beat in each egg separately. At the end add the dry ingredients and stir until (just) combined. Preahet your oven to 180°C, fill the dough into cupcake forms and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Let them cool on a rack.
Preparing for the filling: Press a small round cookie cutter in the middle of the cupcake and move it a little bit back and forth. Pull it out and gently remove the cone, then cut the top of it so that you have a small disc - it'll be your 'lid' after you put in the filling. You can enlarge/deepen the filling hole by using the back of a small sharp knife. Feed the crumbs to someone impatient and hungry (eg your boyfriend).

Eggnog buttercream filling:
Let the buttercream get room temparature (or use your microwave oven for that). Add the orange zest and egg liquer and beat until combined and creamy. Fill your cupcakes and put your 'lid' on top.
    Cinnamon meringue:
    • two egg whites, at room temperature
    • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 40 g white sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, grounded 
    • twelve candied almonds 
    Combine sugar and cinnamon. Whisk your egg whites until foamy, then add cream of tartar. When soft peaks form, add sugar-cinnamon-mixture. Whisk until stiff and glossy. Fill into piping bag with a round tip and cover the tops of your cupcakes with it. Top/decorate each cupcake with a candied almond. Use a flame torch or the top heat/grill of your oven to brown the meringue - just be careful not to burn it (I set my oven to the lowest grill function and the rack on the bottom rack and watched ...).