Appetites: Share the richness of holiday breads

Almond biscotti
Almond biscotti is one recipe that Beth Dooley recommends during the holiday season. Christmas breads are rich and sweet relying on a basic recipe with the spices and ingredients varying according to the country’s traditions.
Courtesy of Beth Dooley

Has this been the year you refined your baking skills? If the pandemic has meant you've been perfecting your bread making, cookbook author Beth Dooley is back with us with some ideas for holiday breads. So many traditions have them, and she thinks you might want to try one this season.

Christmas breads are rich and sweet relying on a basic recipe with the spices and ingredients varying according to the country’s traditions.

“Regardless of what tradition or your ethnic background is, the holidays are a time to celebrate and use all the rich good things you have, and have been saving, just for these special gatherings,” Dooley said.

These holiday loafs tend to use a lot of butter, cream and eggs, and tend to be rich in flavor and sweetness, she added.

Use the audio player to hear the conversation. The following are a few recipes to try from Dooley.

German stollen

Makes one large loaf.

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (or 2 scant teaspoons)

  • ½ cup warm water

  • ¾ cup warm milk

  • ½ cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for brushing the dough

  • 3 eggs, beaten

  • 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 3 tablespoons grated orange rind

  • 6 to 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups raisins

  • 3 cups slivered almonds

  • Powdered sugar for dusting the loaf

  • Vegetable oil for greasing the bowl and baking sheet

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeas tin warm water. Add the milk and sugar and let stand about five minutes, or until the surface becomes foamy. Stir in the salt, butter, eggs, nutmeg, vanilla, orange rind and three cups of the flour, then beat until very smooth. Add the raisins and almonds and enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for about five to eight minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn it to coat the entire surface. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the dough to rise until double in volume, about one hour.

Punch the dough down with your fist and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and roll out into a disc. Brush the surface of the dough with more melted butter. Roll the dough up into a log and place, seam side down on a baking sheet. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Brush the dough with more butter and dust with powdered sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about an hour. Dust with more powdered sugar and allow to cool on a rack before slicing.

Almond biscotti

Makes about 30 biscotti.

Sweetened with maple sugar, these cookies are firm and crunchy, and perfect for dunking in strong coffee or Earl Gray tea.

  • 2 large eggs 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1⁄2 cup cornmeal 1 teaspoon baking powder 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt until you have a stiff dough, then work in the nuts.

Divide the dough in half and using wet hands, shape each half into a rectangle about 12 inches along and half-inch thick. Set on the baking sheet and bake until light golden brown and firmly set about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board, and using a serrated knife, cut the logs into half-inch thick slices by sawing the knife back and forth. Place the slices on the cookie sheets standing upright and return to the oven to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until the sides begin to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks.

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