Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013...

Two Christmas Stollen.
Almond-Free on the Left, Almonds on the Right

This year we had a somewhat quieter more relaxing Christmas which I appreciated. It was a day of gift-giving, family, friends, and good food. It all started when I got up around 6:45am, which is early, but not as early as I normally get up on Christmas morning. When I lived at home my mother and I always got up around 6am Christmas morning. We’d make tea or coffee and sit in the quiet of the house, talking and admiring our Christmas tree until everyone else woke up. Even though I live so far away now, I still like to rise early on Christmas, in fact the early hours of Christmas morning are still my favorite part of Christmas. It’s like the calm before the storm, and I enjoy being the only one awake. Of course, without my mother to talk to I don’t spend that much time sitting in the livingroom. Instead I use my early morning time to prep and roast vegetables for Christmas dinner, or do other cook prep things to save myself the time later.

So I worked on dinner until about eight o’clock, and then it was gift-giving time. My other favorite part of Christmas is the look on my husband’s face when he opens gifts - particularly when he’s not expecting them. I got quite the haul this year - loads of books, both cook books and non-fiction books. Some from my husband, some from my brother-in-law, some from my parents-in-law. My parents-in-law also got me a lovely 5 quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven - and this thing weighs a ton! My husband got me a cute little cake pop maker which is totally awesome, because I keep talking about how I want to re-create some non-vegan cake pops I’d had in the past. Plus it makes doughnut holes! I mean, sure you can make doughnut holes without special equipment but I know myself, they won’t come out as round spheres, without a little help, ha.

Then it was breakfast time. Traditionally, growing up the only breakfast we ever ate in my house on Christmas morning was Stollen. Stollen is a German Christmas fruit bread. It’s a yeasted bread, traditionally made with a lot of butter, and it’s not particularly sweet itself, but the outside is dusted with a load of powdered sugar. Stollen is my other favorite thing about Christmas, I love it! The thing is, the only person in my family who knows how to make Stollen is my Oma. She used to make all the Stollen’s for her children, and grandchildren. Each year she’d take three or four days and bake maybe 2 dozen of them or so. She mailed me one each year, but as some of you may know she passed away this past October. An aunt of mine, was considering making the Stollen’s herself this year - she had been helping my Oma do it for the past couple of years because it was getting to be too much work for her to do alone - but it was just too soon for her. A lot of us in my family still haven’t quite gotten over it, and Christmas has been a particularly hard season for us because it was my Oma’s favorite holiday. Still I really hated the idea of having Christmas without Stollen, because Christmas just isn’t Christmas without it, you know?

So I took it upon myself to make the Stollen myself. I couldn’t get my Oma’s actual recipe and so I spent countless hours researching online how to make Stollen. I finally found a traditional Dresden recipe - sans marzipan, the way my Oma made it - that looked promising. Of course the recipe was very vegan-unfriendly, it also took about 24 hours to proof. After a bit more research I came across a veganized version of the Dresden recipe that only took about 6 hours in total to make - with only 4 hours of proofing. I went with that recipe, and tinkered with it to get it suited to my taste. I made one tester Stollen in early December and it turned out great, except I used candied cherries and cinnamon in the dough which I realized was a mistake when I took my first bite. My Oma never used them. For my second batch - my Christmas batch - I omitted the candied Cherries and the cinnamon. I used cardamom, candied lemon and orange peel, currents, sultans, raisins, cranberries, and slivered almonds. I soaked the dried fruit in a mixture of rum and amaretto, and even if the recipe isn’t exactly like my Oma’s I would say it tasted pretty damn close.

Since my husband doesn’t like nuts I divided my dough and made two Stollens. One with almonds one without, he loved it too. This was his first time eating Stollen, because he’d always refused to eat my Oma’s due to the almonds. We cut three slices each, smeared them with Earth balance and downed them with Vegan Nog, and hot Vanilla Hazelnut Tea. The perfect morning.

Lebanese Muhammara Dip

After we cleaned up I had a little time to relax before I needed to make my appetizers. I went simple this year, we had the leftover hummus from Christmas Eve, and I made a Lebanese Muhammara Dip from the book "Easy Vegan." As well as the Baked Onion Dip from Lane Gold’s “Vegan Junk Food” Both dips went over well, I loved the addition of the pomegranate seeds in the Muhammara, but that baked onion dip, damn! It was amazing, and it went fast. It was better then any other onion dip I’ve ever had, way better then any non-vegan onion dip, and it was so easy. It’s basically just vegan mayo, vegan cream cheese, vegan mozzarella, dried parsley, onions and garlic. Except I didn’t have dried parsley and so I used fresh, and I also used my own home-made cream cheese instead of store-bought. So good, I could have eaten the entire pan.

Baked Onion Dip 

When it was time to eat we tucked in to a lovely home-made Porcini-stuffed Seitan Roast with Wild Mushroom Sauce the recipe for which came from Robin Robertson’s “Party Vegan” I’ve had a lot of luck with Party Vegan in the past, it’s a great little book, but for whatever reason this recipe gave me trouble. I cooked the roast in it’s water bath for an hour - 20 minutes longer then the recipe said to - and it still wasn’t firm, it was dough. At that point I decided to pitch the water bath and just bake the thing in foil on a cookie sheet. I baked it for about an hour covered and 15 additional minutes uncovered after which point I was finally firm and brown. I don’t know why the water bath didn’t work, I’ve never had trouble with any of Robertson’s recipes in the past so maybe there was some error on my part. Anyway, in the end the roast was firm, chewy and delicious. Maybe not my favorite roast - I think that honor goes to Carla Kelly - but pretty good nonetheless. The roast was stuffed with a mixture of rice and mushrooms and bread. To me the stuffing was a bit bland, but then I’m also not a fan of rice stuffings. I don’t know why. The mushroom sauce that went with it was pretty damn delicious though!

Porcini Stuffed Seitan Roast

To accompany the roast I made Robertson’s Herb Mashed Potatoes - also from Party Vegan, and these were great. Nicely flavored with fresh thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives and garlic. It went perfectly with the roast and the gravy.

Herb Mashed Potatoes 
Wild Mushroom Sauce 

We also had the Sweet Root Casserole with Dried Fruit from Terry Walters “Clean Start” which was a delicious mixture of parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes with ginger, lemon zest, orange juice, Dried Plums, and dried cherries. A bit sweet for some people but I thought it was pretty good, maybe fewer plums next time as they seemed to be the sweetest component.

Sweet Root Casserole with Dried Fruits 

Also from Terry’s “Clean Start” we had the Green Beans, Figs and Pistachios in Balsamic Reduction. A nice accompaniment, the beans were tender crisp, and the figs and pistachios brought a really lovely flavor note.

Green Beans with Figs and Pistachios in Balsamic Reduction 

Finally we had Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Fresh Cranberries, the inspiration for which came from Here. By the way I couldn't find canned or Jarred Chestnuts anywhere and so I had to buy fresh ones and boil and peel them myself. Wow, what a pain in the ass that is! After all that we were pretty stuffed, and as my Oma would say “If that was dinner then we had it.” Indeed. Of course, after a bit of lazing around and more gift-giving we dug into dessert.

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Fresh Cranberries

We had tons of leftover cookies from Christmas Eve , plus I made 3 dozen cupcakes. First up were the Salted Caramel Cupcakes from Chloe Coscarelli’s book “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.” these were really delicious, and I liked the addition of big flakes of salt on top. However, they were a bit sweet for my taste. Half of one was more then enough.

Slated Caramel Cupcakes 

Also from “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts” I made the Mint Cookie Cupcakes. Which are essentially a chocolate cupcake filled with crushed oreo’s, topped with a frosting full of crushed oreo’s and peppermint extract. This was probably my favorite out of the three cupcakes I made. Something about that peppermint chocolate combo you know?

Mint Cookie Cupcakes 

Then I made the Tiramisu Cupcakes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s book “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” These were pretty good, although the cream cheese frosting didn’t make near enough to frost each cupcakes. Since I didn’t have enough time to make a second batch of frosting my cupcakes looked a little sad, and kept falling over. Oh well, I suppose in the end taste is more important then presentation right?

Tiramisu Cupcakes 

At some point during the evening festivities it began snowing. In Vancouver it’s pretty rare to get a White Christmas and even more rare for it to actually snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Typically our Christmas’s are wet and rainy, or cold but sunny. Growing up I think I maybe only saw 4 or 5 white Christmas’s, so that’s one thing I like about Chicago, except over the past few years Chicago hasn’t had snow on Christmas Day either!  So this felt really kind of special to me, and after everyone left the house my husband and I took a nice walk with our dog Artemis in the quiet, snowy night. This, more then any other, ended up being my favorite moment of the entire day.

My Full Plate.

1 comment:

  1. WELL first of all your stollen looked pretty good! I really missed mine this year, but thankfully I am away on vacation, christmas this year wasn't a biggy for me, I love the holidays but this year I was just NOT into it!!Think your Oma would be proud that someone was continuing her special tradition!!! Second of all your post made me cry! You know I think it's just the little things and family traditions that are so hard...glad you are keeping her stolen alive!!! S.T.