Merry Christmas and a festive Stollen

I can hear the kookaburras calling outside my window and the Torres Strait pigeon in the mango tree as dusk settles here after a hot and humid Christmas eve. It’s not what many would consider typically Christmasy but to us it is.

Today I baked and prepared for our meal tomorrow. Part of it was this delicious stollen, another recipe from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. Get this amazing cookbook before it is sold out to make all the wonderful recipes.

As my family and I are preparing to attend Christmas eve Mass at our local church, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the peace and joy of Christmas and the holidays.

Lebkuchen – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #58

Lebkuchen is a spicy German cookie synonymous with Christmas. Soft in the centre and slightly crunchy on the edges, fragrant with spices and sticky molasses. What this cookies lack in looks it makes up for in flavour and like all good things, improves with age!

Lebkuchen adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent



1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
115g/ 1 stick salted butter
30mls/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 cup chopped walnuts



1 cup icing sugar
15g/1 tablespoon butter, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons water



  1. To make the dough stir together in a bowl the buttermilk and soda. It will become bubbly and thick.
  2. Add the honey and molasses and stir to combine. In a bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the oil, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Beat for 3 -4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg, followed by the molasses and honey mixture. It will look curdled but that’s ok.
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients. The dough will be thick and slightly wet. At this point it’s a good idea to wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or even a few days to allow the flavours to mature.
    When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  6. Line baking trays with baking paper.
  7. Use baking paper dusted with flour to roll out the dough. It will be sticky so be liberal with the flour.
  8. Roll the dough to about 1 cm/1/3inch thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters or simply squares with a knife.
  10. Arrange on prepared baking trays allow a little room for spreading.
  11. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Don’t overbake.
    Make the icing as soon as the trays go into the oven, by beating all the ingredients together until a smooth consistency.
  12. Once the cookies are out of the oven and still warm, paint with the icing.
  13. Leave as is or embellish as desired.
  14. Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Krumkake – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #57

This week as we race towards Christmas day I find that I’m baking lots of recipes from this wonderful cookbook by Greg Patent. In Montana where Greg lives, the snow is softly falling and the vista is picture perfect. Quite unlike the view outside my window here in North Queensland.  Summer is in full swing with the heat and humidity being quite oppressive. Much of the traditional Christmas foods, designed to warm your guests who have come in from the cold, really don’t suit our climate.

But this crisp, fragrant cookie is perfect in both it’s home in Norway or here in sunny North Queensland or anywhere for that matter. These cookies taste exactly as I had expected – buttery and with a wonderful flavour of vanilla. Eat them as is or fill them with cream, fruit and jam. Traditionally baked on a krumkake iron, I successfully used my pizzelle iron – the pattern is different but the effect is similar. Krumkake are rolled into a cone with a special wooden tool. I used cream horn moulds or you could simply roll around the handle of a wooden spoon.

Krumkake – A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

3 large eggs
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g/1 1/3 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid

In a stand mixer, beat eggs on high speed until pale and thick. Gradually add the sugar while beating slowly. Increase the speed and beat for 3-4 minutes until thick and pale.
On low speed, mix in the flour, salt and vanilla. Then with a rubber spatula fold in the butter. The mixture will be quite thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

When ready, heat your iron (pizzelle or krumkake). This batter was perfect to drop from a spoon – not to thick or thin. If needed, adjust the batter with a little flour or warm water. Use a teaspoon of batter to make each krumkake. Cook until just golden – which only takes about 10-12 seconds. Remove carefully onto a clean teatowel (to protect your hands). Use whatever device you have chosen to roll your krumkake. Work quickly rolling the cookie around the mould. Once it has cooled and become crisp slide it off the mould. Store in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for 2 weeks.

Hazelnut Christmas Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #56

These unusual hazelnut cookies (or biscuits) are a German specialty called Nussplätzchen which have a thin base topped with mound of hazelnut marzipan. The topping is soft and chewy when first baked but hardens and becomes crunchy in a matter of days. As with much Christmas baking make these ahead because they will keep for a month or more.

I had made these a couple of days ago but today it is quite significant that I post these cookies as we see images and hear of the tragedy at the Christmas markets in Berlin. It seems surreal that we can be celebrating a joyful Christmas while in many parts of the world people are struggling to survive be it because of war, famine or poverty. Our freedom and relative peace in Australia is to be treasured.

Nussplätzchen adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
makes 60

Cookie base
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
115g/ 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Hazelnut topping
250g/8 ozs ground hazelnuts
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

To make the cookies base, place flour, sugar, cardamom, lemon rind and butter into bowl of food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and process until it just comes together. Turn onto your work surface and shape into a log. With the heel of your hand smear the dough away from you in small intervals. Gather the dough up again and repeat. Press the dough together into a flat disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

To make the filling, place egg and egg white into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until slightly thicken. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 5 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon, lemon rind and hazelnut meal. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

The next day preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Allow the dough to come to room temperature.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm/1/8inch. Cut into small rounds of about 4.5cm/1 3/4 inch. Reroll the dough to make more rounds. You will need 60 rounds. Place rounds onto prepared baking trays

Divide the cold topping into 60 balls and press onto the bases. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until only pale golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Christmas Cake – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #55

Do you like Christmas fruit cake? Fruit cake is very alienating – you either love it or you hate it. Here in Australia, we have had an English baking heritage and that includes fruit cakes. In years gone by it was the only cake to have for a wedding, baptism or at Christmas. Even my Italian mother made a great fruit cake. Mum’s cake began with boiling of dried fruits, butter, sugar and spices which was left to cool before adding the flour, eggs and rum. I loved that smell of cooking fruits and spices and still do. Fruit cakes have lost favour in recent years but I still enjoy really good fruit cake moist with fruit that has been plumped in dark rum.

This Welsh Christmas cake from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, is a very traditional fruit cake. My version includes stem ginger in syrup and dark Jamaican rum to soak the fruits. Baking it in a ring pan ensures even baking and it doesn’t dry out on the edges in an effort to cook the centre. Fruit cake is not meant to be served in fat wedges rather a thin sliver with a little liqueur on the side is perfect, almost like a spoon sweet. Do try it any time of the year!

Welsh Christmas Cake adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

280g/10oz currants
340g/12oz sultanas or golden raisins
280g/10oz dark raisins
1 cup dark Jamaican rum

Soak the dried fruit in the rum for about a week until all the rum is absorbed.
1 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel
1/2 cup diced stem ginger in syrup
3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup plain flour

After a week, mix the cherries, lemon peel, ginger almonds and flour together with the dried soaked fruit.

Now prepare the cake:
fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan
2 cups plain flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup almond meal
250g/ 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
5 large eggs
1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum, a little extra to spoon over the cake
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Prepare a large angel food pan by coating with cooking spray and dusting with dried breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Sift the flour, salt and spices and set aside.
In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and then the syrup. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well beating additions and scraping the bowl when necessary. Add in the rum and extracts. On low speed mix in the flour mixture and almonds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the fruits and almond mixture. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan, taping the pan down on the kitchen bench to ensure there are no air pockets. Bake the cake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was cooked at 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. I like to give the cake a little drink at this stage by spooning over a couple of tablespoons of rum while the cake is still warm. To keep the cake moist I like to wrap it in a clean cloth to cool slowly. When the cake is cool wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container. This cake will keep well but can be portioned and stored in the freezer.

Struffoli – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #39

Today I would like to share with you a delicious sweet treat from A Baker’s Odyssey – Struffoli. 
Several years ago I pick up a copy of A Baker’s Odyssey while on holidays in Brisbane. ( I was in Brisbane to see the show Mamma Mia – I love that show!) This cookbook, written by Greg Patent was published in 2007 but I had never come across it. What I loved was the variety of recipes from across the world brought to  America by immigrants. In the book Greg tells the stories of how he came across the recipes and the people behind the recipes. A true treasure! 
Do we have such a book in Australia? As a first generation Australian, I am fascinated by the immigrants that came to Australia –  the people, their food and their stories.  

Struffoli adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
3 eggs
pinch salt
1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups plain all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Honey sauce
1 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon orange flower water
1/4 slivered almonds
glace cherries and coloured sprinkles to decorate
In a bowl mix together eggs, salt, limoncello, oil and sugar. Slowly mix in the flour until a firm dough has formed. Turn our onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so. Wrap in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour.
Cut the dough into 8 piece and keep covered. Take one piece of dough and roll into a rope about 18 inches or 45 cm long. Cut into small pieces about 1/2 inch size which is just under 1.5cm. Repeat with all the dough. Set aside and heat the oil.
I just used a deep frying pan filled with about 1 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 185C/365F. Prepare a baking tray lined with paper towels.
When the oil is ready fry handfuls of the struffoli, stirring to separate the pieces and allowing them to brown and puff up. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and cool on the paper towel lined baking tray. Repeat with all the dough.
To make the honey sauce, place the honey, sugar and orangeflower water in a wide frying pan or skillett. Heat to dissolve the sugar then bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is glossy and thickens a little. Add the stuffoli and the almonds stir and cook over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until all the struffoli are coated. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for a few minutes to cool and thicken. Stir well. 

Then pile on a serving plate and decorate with cherries and coloured spinkles.
As Greg says these are so moreish, people just pluck them off to munch on and keep going back for more.

Dutch Sweet Bread – December 2014 daring bakers challenge

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking three different types of Dutch sweet bread.

As this year draws to a close, I know many reevaluated the past 12 months. The past 12 months are pulled apart and put back together and New Years Resolutions are made. In the coming year we will exercise more, spend more time with loved ones, slow down, learn to say “no” and generally turn over a new leaf.

Often my resolutions are put aside sometime in the first month of the year but many years ago when my children were young I decided on a resolution that as a family we would pray before our evening meal. We would take turns each night and no matter what happened during the day we would thank God and name one thing we were grateful for that day. Today with my children in their late teens we still maintain this resolution. Learning to be grateful for each day has helped us get through some difficult times this year as my dad declined as he suffered from dementia and then passed away in April of this year. In 2015, we will be grateful for the many blessings in our lives of family, friends and love.

On a lighter note, I am also grateful the the December Daring Bakers’ challenge was simple and absolutely delicious! Thank you Andrea from 4pure – this was a perfect challenge for this time of the year. My house smelt amazing, it didn’t take too much time and we had something tasty for breakfast!

Happy New Year, dear friends! Blessings.

Ontbijtkoek – from The Dutch Table

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, ginger and ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (I used treacle, because that’s what I had)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch salt

Heat the oven 150C/300F and line a loaf pan with paper.

Mix everything together to a smooth batter. 

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes or until done.

 Cool on a wire rack and serve with a slick of butter.


The December 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!
Yep, you read correctly.
That’s me!
I hosted the December 2012 Daring Bakers’ Challenge!
I was so thrilled to be asked to host this challenge and enjoyed the experience immensely. Here is the  challenge as I presented it.  
I joined DB in June 2009 to learn my about my favourite pastime – baking! Since then I have felt as though I have been learning at a patisserie school with some of the world’s best teachers. From macarons to croissants, puff pastry to bombe Alaska, I never know what each month will bring.
This month I am your host. I can’t believe it either! I’m not sure how qualified I am but this month I’m going to challenge you to make Panettone – a traditional Italian Christmas Bread.
I live in a little town in far northern Australia which is known as “Little Italy” due to its predominantly Italian heritage and culture. Being born of Italian parents in this very Italian town, Italian food was and still is, just part and parcel of my life. Every Christmas the commercially prepared panettone took pride of place on the table and was enjoyed with dipped into our Asti Spumante. Leftovers are eaten for breakfast with our morning coffee and I always buy an extra one to have on hand when visitors drop in.
So how was the Panettone born? Traditionally it is eaten by the Milanese but now it is available all through Italy and in many parts of the world. There are many stories and legends of the Panettone but the one recounted by Carol Field, whose recipe I have favoured, is that of a rich young Milanese noble who fell in love with the daughter of a poor baker whose name was Tony (Antonio). The nobleman wanted to marry the baker’s daughter so he ensured the baker had at his disposal the very best ingredients – eggs, butter, flour, candied orange peel, citron and sultanas. The baker created a wonderful bread which became known as pan di Tonio (Tony’s bread). The baker found his fame and fortune and the nobleman honorably married the baker’s daughter.
There are lots of different types of Panettone now available – some with chocolate or vanilla fillings or coated in chocolate but the traditional Panettone is my favourite. Traditionally, the Panettone is made with wild yeasts but I’m never very good with sourdough breads so even though I tried a traditional recipe I settled on this one with commercial active dry yeast. If you have had success with sourdough Panettone I would welcome your version. This recipe may seem a little complicate but let me assure you, taken over a two day period (resting in the refrigerator overnight) it is quite simple, only time consuming as all yeasted products are, but even then it’s inactive time waiting for the dough to rise. Also, not to worry if you don’t like dried or candied fruit, simply substitute with chocolate chips, nuts or some of the wonderful flavoured chips you lucky guys have in the US. Think about using dried date and walnuts or dried cranberries and white chocolate. Flavour it however you like – soak your fruit in rum or brandy. Mmmm.. what about coffee flavoured? Maybe certain types of candy might work. And then if you are like me, a Panettone fan, you will find that this recipe comes quite close to the commercial variety. Adding the Almond Glaze simply gives the Panettone another dimension and it really is very tasty.
I hope you enjoy the challenge of making your very own Panettone in the flavours custom made for you and your loved ones.
 For me the hardest thing was to find traditional Panettone papers in my part of the world. I found them online at a New Zealand store but I know they are available at Amazon (P & P was exorbitant to Australia). Failing that an empty can, 6 inch (15 centimeter) diameter lined with paper works. Or a small 6 inch (15 centimeter) cake pan with paper lined card extending the rim would also be fine as would a charlotte mold or soufflé dish. I tried homemade panettone papers which were also quite successful if none of the above are suitable. *Note: See photo instruction in the “Additional Information” section below.
Mandatory Items: Make a panettone in the traditional tall cylindrical shape using the recipe provided with or without the almond glaze. It is optional to make your own candied orange peel.
Variations allowed: You can substitute the golden raisins, candied citron, candied orange peel, grated lemon and orange rind with other dried or candied fruits or nuts or chocolate, use different flavours or whatever you like. If you have a recipe you love using the traditional wild yeast it would be great if you could make that recipe and share it with us.

Preparation time:
35 minutes
First Dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
rising time 1 -1 ¼ hours
Second dough
mixing 15-20 minutes
Rising time 2 ½ – 4 hours or overnight in a cool place
Final dough and rise
preparing and mixing 1 hour
rising 2-4 hours
Baking 40 minutes
Cooling 30 minutes
Almond Glaze extra 15 minutes
Candied Orange Peel
Prep time about 1 hour
Cooking time 3 hours plus resting time
Equipment required:
  • Small bowl (for the sponge and soaking the raisins)
  • Spoon
  • Stand mixer with paddle and dough hook or wooden spoon, medium large bowl and arm strength
  • Measuring cups, spoons and scales
  • Plastic wrap
  • Large bowl for rising the dough
  • Paper towel to dry the raisins
  • Grater
  • Medium bowl for mixing filling
  • Panettone papers or pans as above
  • Food processor and spoon for Almond Glaze
  • Cutting board for candied orange peels
  • Knife for candied orange peels
  • Saucepan for candied orange peels
  • Wooden spoon for candied orange peels


Makes 2 Panettoni
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
½ cup (70 gm) unbleached all purpose flour
First Dough
1 satchel (2¼ teaspoons) (7 gm) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water
2 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cup (175 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) sugar
½ cup (1 stick) (115 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
Second dough
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 gm) (5-2/3 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) honey
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) orange essence/extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (225 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
3 cups (420 gm) (15 oz) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour; plus up to (2/3 cup) 100 gm for kneading
Filling and final dough
1½ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) golden raisins or golden sultanas
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied citron ( I didn’t have this so I made it up with candied orange peel)
½ cup (75 gm) (2-2/3 oz) candied orange peel (try making your own; recipe below)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons (30-45 ml) (15-25 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and allow to stand until creamy. That’s about 10 minutes or so
2.Mix in the flour.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size for about 20 to 30 minutes

First Dough
By hand:
  1. Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. Mix in the sponge and beat well with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir in the eggs, flour and sugar.
  4. Mix in the butter well
  5. This should only take about 5 – 6 minutes
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
By Mixer:
  1. In the mixer bowl, mix together the yeast and water and allow to stand until creamy. Again, about 10 minutes or so
  2. With the paddle attached mix in the sponge, eggs, flour, and sugar.
  3. Add in the butter and mix for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and even.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow double in size, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours
Second dough
By Hand:
  1. Be sure to have your dough in a large bowl as above.
  2. With a wooden spoon mix in eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts and salt.
  3. Mix in the butter.
  4. Then add the flour. Stir until smooth.
  5. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
  6. Turn it out and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
By Mixer:
  1. With the paddle mix in thoroughly the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, honey, vanilla, essences/extracts, and salt.
  2. Mix in the butter until smooth.
3. Add the flour and slowly incorporate
4. At this stage the dough will seem a little too soft, like cookie dough.
5. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead for about 2 minutes.
6. Turn out the dough and knead it on a well-floured surface until it sort of holds its shape.
7. Don’t knead in too much flour but you may need as much as 2/3 cup (100 gm). Be careful the excess flour will affect the finished product.
First Rise
  1. Oil a large bowl lightly, plop in your dough and cover with plastic wrap
2. Now we need to let it rise until it has tripled in size. There are two ways to go about this.
  • Rise in a warm place for 2 – 4 hours
  • Or find a cool spot (64°F -68°F) (18°C – 20°C) and rise overnight
  • Or rise for 2 hours on your kitchen bench then slow the rise down and place in the refrigerator overnight. If you do this it will take some time to wake up the next morning but I preferred this method.

 Filling and Final Rise:

  1. Soak the raisin/sultanas in water 30 minutes before the end of the first rise. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Now take your dough and cut it in half. Remember we are making two panettoni
3. Combine all your filling ingredients and mix well
4. Press out one portion of dough into an oval shape
5. Sprinkle over one quarter of the filling and roll up the dough into a log
  1. Press out again into an oval shape and sprinkle over another quarter of the filling
  2. Roll into a log shape again.
  3. Repeat with the second portion of dough
  4. Shape each into a ball and slip into your prepared pans, panettone papers or homemade panettone papers.

10. Cut an X into the top of each panettone and allow to double in size.
11. Rising time will vary according to method of first rise. If it has been in the refrigerator it could take 4 hours or more. If it has been rising on the kitchen bench in a warm place it should be doubled in about 2 hours. 
  1. When you think your dough has only about 30 minutes left to rise preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and adjust your oven racks
  2. Just before baking carefully (don’t deflate it!) cut the X into the dough again and place in a knob (a nut) of butter.

3. Place your panettoni in the oven and bake for 10 minutes
4. Reduce the heat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and bake for another 10 minutes

5. Reduce the heat again to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are well browned and a skewer inserted into the panettone comes out clean.
6. Cooling your panettone is also important. If you have use papers (commercial or homemade) lie your panettoni on their side cushioned with rolled up towels. Turn gently as they cool. If you have used pans cool in the pans for 30 minutes then remove and cushion with towels as above.
7. Panettone can also be cooled suspended. How to do this? Firstly you need to use papers (commercial or homemade), insert clean knitting needles into the bottom of the panettone in a X shape. Flip over and support the knitting needles on the edges of a large saucepan with the panettone suspended within the saucepan. Yep, a lot of trouble and I didn’t really find that much difference – maybe I took too long to insert the needles.
Almond Glaze for Panettone
1 cup (140 gm) (5 oz) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (125 gm) (4 ½ oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
2 tablespoons (18 gm) (2/3 oz) whole wheat flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons (45 ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
Few drops of almond essence, to your taste
Pearl sugar, flaked almonds or demerara (course crystal) sugar to decorate
During the final rise, prepare the almond glaze. Process almond, confectioners’ sugar and flour until the nuts are finely chopped and well blended. Mix in the egg whites, oil and essence. Process to combine. It is meant to be thick and glue like. All is well! When the panettoni are well risen carefully spread half the mixture over the top. Don’t worry about spreading it to the edges, in fact keep well away from the edges because the glaze will melt and spread. Bake as per the panettone recipe above.
Candied Orange Peel 
9 thin skinned oranges
3½ cups (800 gm) (28 oz) sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) corn syrup (If corn syrup is not available you can use a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar.)
Water as needed
Granulated sugar
  1. Wash and dry oranges then cut the tops and bottoms off.
  2. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces vertically
  3. Remove the flesh with a sharp knife and reserve for another use (or just munch on it)

4. Put the peels in a large saucepan and cover with water

5. Cook slowly over gently heat until the peels are tender – about ¾ hour to 1 hour
6. Drain and cover with fresh water. Sit for an hour or up to overnight. Drain
7. Into another large saucepan pour 2 cups of water. Mix in the sugar and the corn syrup.
8. Bring mixture to boil then add peels. Partially cover the pan.
9. Reduce heat to very low and using a candy thermometer adjust the temperature so that (212°F to 222°F) 100°C to 105°C is maintained. You may need to add extra water – I didn’t
10. After 2 hours has passed remove the lid and rise the temperature to (235°F) 110°C so that it boils and the water evaporates
11. Turn off the heat and wait until the bubbles subside
12.  Scoop out the peels with a slotted spoon and place on a rack to cool and dry.
13. After a couple of hours the peels are ready to roll in sugar and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. These will keep well for a few months in the bottom of your fridge.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Once your panettone is thoroughly cooled, place in a large plastic bag or container and it will keep quite well maybe for a week. At first the panettone is soft and tender but after a day or two it becomes dry like the commercial variety. I found that the glaze kept the panettone a bit more moist. I didn’t freeze mine but I have frozen the commercial variety for a month or two.

How to make homemade Panettone papers:

Cut 6 long strips on baking parchment and arrange in a star pattern on a baking parchment lined oven tray. Staple the middle.
Place the Panettone dough in the middle
Wrap strips around the dough.
Make a collar out of baking parchment using a cake pan or saucepan to give the shape and staple in place.
Remove the collar from the cake pan and slip over the dough. Attach the strips of paper which cover the dough to the collar with staples.
Bake as directed without removing from the oven tray.
Looks rough but it works. Takes a bit of fiddling.

A Baker’s Odyssey Personal Challenge #9 Kulich and #10 Paskha

Easter Sunday!
A time of great joy to Christians around the world which is often celebrated with special dishes of significance. So, in keeping with my personal challenge of baking through A Baker’s Odyssey, this Easter I took on the challenge of baking a traditional Russian Easter Cake, Kulich. The usual accompaniment to this cake is Paskha – a rich cheesecake like spread.
Here begins the baking of the more complicated recipes from my chosen cookbook. Author Greg Patent, tells of his childhood Easter Sunday spent with his father visiting friends and eating. His great pleasure was to sample each and every Kulich and Paskha.  These Russian specialities are both rich in eggs and butter symbolising fertility and rebirth. So important to the Russian women who lovingly baked and decorated the Kulich that they would wrap them carefully and carry them to the church where the cakes would be blessed by the priest.
Kulich is a tall sweet Easter cake flavoured with rum and studded with raisins, cherries and almonds. A very festive looking cake topped with white icing that dribbles down the sides. The accompanying Paskha is decorated with cherries and almonds  often pressed into specially carved wooded moulds. When released from the mould on one side is a cross and on the other the initials XB meaning Christos voskres! (Christ is risen!).
My challenge began right from the outset when  Greg writes, “You will need a clean 2-pound coffee can to make the Kulich”. Yikes, this is Australia. I’m not sure what a 2 pound coffee can looks like. I figure it must be about a kilo of coffee but is that instant coffee or ground coffee? The instant coffee comes in 500 gram cans but ground coffee doesn’t come in cans at all. A quick scan of the supermarket shelves and I spot a malted chocolate drink powder, Milo, in a 1 kilo can and on sale. Mmmm, 1 kilo of Milo? I hope we have cold winter and we all want hot Milo’s! I used a can opener to remove the lip around the top of the can then buttered and lined it with baking paper making sure the baking paper was at least 2 inches (5cm) above the rim.
Baking pan prepared!
 Let’s prepare the Kulich!
makes 12 to 16 serves
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1/3 cup dark rum
Soak raisins in rum overnight. The next day drain for one hour over a small bowl reserving 2 tablespoons of rum. Transfer the raisins to paper towels. 
1/2 cup whole milk
2  2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid rise (instant) yeast
1 large egg, at room temperature
Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat – small bubbles will appear around the edges and steam will rise from the surface. Remove from heat and cool to between 120F and 130F.
Put 2/3 cup flour into a bowl ( I used my stand mixer bowl) add the sugar and yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon and add the hot milk. Beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then sprinkle over the remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap.
Let the sponge rise at room temperature for 3 or 4 hours, until the yeast mixture has bubbled up and almost engulfed the flour.
1 large egg, at room temperature
7 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (155grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature
1/2 cup glaceed cherries, rinsed, patted dry and halved
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

To make the dough:
I used my stand mixer.  So into the stand mixer bowl which contains the sponge add egg, sugar,  reserved  rum, vanilla and salt. Beat with a flat beater on low speed for about 1 minute to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat 1 1/2 minutes. On low speed incorporate the butter one piece at a time beating until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
Greg says the dough should fee soft as a baby’s bottom, smooth and supple not sticky at all and quite right he is. This dough feels amazing! 
Wash and dry the bowl and butter it. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl and turn it to coat all sides with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until tripled in volume.
In a small bowl combine the cherries, raisins and flour add in the almonds. Lightly  flour a work surface and scrape out the dough on to the work surface. Gently flatten with your hands and sprinkle with the fruit and nut mixture. Roll it up and  gently work the fruits and nuts into the dough. Form into a ball. Place it seam side down into the can. This is where I had trouble. Maybe the can was too narrow all I could do was drop the dough in and hope for the best.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.
About 30 minutes before baking prepare your oven. Adjust the racks so that your can will fit and heat the oven to 400F/200C.
To bake the Kulich, remove the plastic wrap, place the can on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F/180C and bake for a further 50 to 60 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the can for 20 minutes. I found it was better to lay the can on its side because this cake is very delicate when hot and can collapse onto itself.
After 20 minutes remove it gently from the can and continue to cool on its side rotating from time to time. 

2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Whisk all ingredients together adding more water or sugar to adjust the consistency. It should be bearly runny. I think mine was a little too runny and thin.
I halved the quantities given in A Baker’s Odyssey because I wasn’t sure we would eat that much Paskha. I’m glad I did because it is rich and even a half quantity was more than enough for us! I will give the quantities as supplied by Greg. I also used all ricotta instead of cottage cheese/ricotta combination because that was easy to find but I will give the quantity for the combination suggested by Greg in A Bakers Odyssey.
12 ounces (about 2 1/3 cups) dry-curd cottage cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3/4 plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ounces regular cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 pound (250g) unsatled butter
Glaceed cherries and almonds for garnish
Silver cashoos for garnish
Line a strainer with a piece of rinsed and wrung out cheesecloth. Drain the cottage cheese and ricotta overnight with a heavy weiught placed on top.

The next day scald the cream as in the Kulich recipe.
Put the egg yolks into a food processor with the sugar and process for 2 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl 2 or 3 times. With the machine running slowly pour in the cream. Return the mixture to the pan and cook ofer low heat until the mixture thickes slightly. Do not allow to boil. It should register 180F/80C on a thermometer. Cool over a pan set into a bowl of iced water until it reaches room temperature.
In a large processor bowl place the drained cheeses, egg yolk mixture, cream cheese and vanilla. Process until smooth. With the machine running add the butter one piece at a time. Process for one minute more until very smooth. If your processor is too small you may have to do this in to lots.
Refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours to set a little.
You will now need a mould. Greg suggests a plastic flower pot to the capacity of 5 cups. As I had halved this quantity I found a plastic take away container which I punched a few holes into the bottom was the perfect size. Line your mould with a rinsed and wrung out cheesecloth.
Take the slightly set Paskha mixture and pour into the mould. Set the mould on a wire rack over a pie plate. Fold the cheesecloth over the cheese mixture and put a weight on top. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Unmould the paskha and decorate as desired.   
To slice the Kulich, cut off the rounded top then slice thin circles. Cut each circle into half circles.
Enjoy with Paskha.

The verdict?

A winner!
We thought it resembled a Christmas Panettone but with the Paskha the combination was much richer.  Delicious!

Christmas in July

Christmas in July?
In Australia it is becoming quite fashionable to recreate Christmas in our winter to have what our cousins in the Northern hemisphere have. Chilly weather in which eating the usual Christmas fare such as turkeys, roasts and plum puddings is actually enjoyable.
Some would say it is wrong to take such a sacred day of the holy calendar out of its true and righteous place. Certainly, Christmas in July takes all that is commercialized about Christmas and celebrates that. Is it right or wrong? I’m not sure but these celebrations are building in number each year and have a dedicated following. 
This year I produced a cake for this particular occasion. I didn’t want the cake to be specifically Christmas only so no holly and no Christmas greeting. Gold tipped briar roses, clusters of little red flowers and gold leaves encircle the three red candles. With a bit of red and gold ribbon tucked in here and there I finished the cake and was happy with the result.

Covered with white fondant icing the rich fruit cake underneath epitomises the luscious foods of Christmas. I know many have ditched the fruit cake in favour of chocolate mud, lemon or a multitude of other cake flavours. For this type of rolled fondant icing a fruit cake is really best. There is almost a kilogram of icing on this 8 inch cake and most cakes do not hold this weight very well.  

Over time I have come to know that the fruit cake is not well received the the US and perhaps other parts of the world as well. It is often the brunt of jokes and scorned at. (Oh, the poor fruit cake!)
A fruit cake made with quality fruit and good alcohol is delicious and appreciated in my family. Try my simple boiled fruit cake recipe and you will be surprised. But be sure to use good, dried, natural fruit not sweetened or adjusted in any way and good rum like a dark Jamaican rum. I like the Captain Morgan brand.
Boiled Fruit Cake
Boil the night before:
250g (1/2lb) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1kg (2lb) mixed fruit (your  choice of golden sultanas, raisins, currents, glace fruits etc)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Boil all ingredients for 3 minutes. In the last 30 seconds add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda. Let stand until morning or cool.
In the morning add:
4 beaten eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup self raising flour ( or 1 cup all purpose plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
1/2 cup rum
Mix well. Bake in a triple lined 20cm (8inch) square or round cake pan for 1 1/2 hours at 180C (350F) then 1/2 hour at 150C (300F).
Check  with a skewer that it is cooked.
Sprinkle over more rum when you take it out of the oven (maybe 1/4 cup) then wrap in a towel to cool slowly. This will ensure it will be moist. 
I hope you enjoy it …. if not just enjoy the pics of the decorated cake!