Hi there! We've been busy this holiday season, how about you? However, we have taken the time to light our advent wreath each Sunday and we've been baking and crafting too.
My daughter made this cute German angel that reads "Christmas is so beautiful"
and slowly but surely we've been working on several creative projects for our advent activity calendar.
We made clove oranges
We also went to some Christmas markets here in Berlin, and the big carousel is always a favorite.
One of the holiday recipes we always enjoy most is my homemade Stollen cake, which I bake in a special pan that gives it this unique shape.
Notes: My stollen (traditional German holiday fruitcake) recipe uses "quark" which is a typical German dairy product, but you can substitute by using a mixture of cream cheese/ricotta/and sour cream to get a similar consistency. I use dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots instead of candied fruits and raisins. You can bake two loaves in smaller loaf pans (for instance, 8,5 x 4,5" - approx. 22 x 11 cm loaf pans) if you don't have a special Stollen baking pan.
German Christmas Stollen with Cranberries + Apricots
3/4 cup / 100 g dried cranberries
3/4 cup / 100 g dried apricots, chopped finely
3/4 cup / 100 g chopped almonds
3 Tbsp. rum
3 3/4 cup / 500 g flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup / 200 g sugar
pinch of salt
3 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) / 175 g butter, melted
1 cup / 250 g quark ( or 2/3 cup ricotta cheese or cream cheese + 1/3 cup sour cream )
1/2 cup / 125 g cream cheese or mascarpone (Italian cream cheese)
4 Tbsp. melted butter and a generous amount of powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350ºF / 180ºC and butter + flour one large Stollen baking pan or 2 loaf pans.
In a small bowl, combine dried fruits and nuts with rum. Set aside and let soak and soften while preparing batter.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, mix well. Separately, combine eggs, vanilla sugar or extract, melted butter, quark (or ricotta/sour cream), and cream cheese. Beat until smooth.
All at once, add the egg/butter/cream cheese mixture to the flour mixture. Pour over the dried fruits and nuts, including the rum, and mix all well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Dough will be very sticky and stiff! Add an additional sprinkle of flour to make dough easier to handle, if needed.
Scrape dough out of bowl onto a floured surface and with clean, floured hands, transfer dough to large baking pan or two smaller loaf pans.
Push dough down into the pan and spread with a spatula to have a fairly smooth surface on top.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden and when stollen tests done with a toothpick (toothpick comes out clean when inserted). Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a knife, and let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.
Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a small pot on the stove. After you have removed stollen from the baking pan, brush hot cake all over with melted butter.
Let the butter soak in a bit, then dust heavily with powdered sugar. Before serving, when cake is completely cool, dust again with powdered sugar.
A German Christmas tradition and SO much better than store bought :)
We made these apple pancakes for breakfast one weekend morning, and everyone instantly fell in love! This would be a great Christmas day or holiday breakfast for everyone to enjoy. Easy + quick to make too.
Fresh Apple Pancakes
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups / 200 g flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. brown or raw sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. / 75 g butter, melted
3/4 cup / 200 g sour cream
3/4 cup / 200 ml milk
a bit of oil or butter for cooking pancakes
powdered sugar or warm maple syrup for serving
Core apples, and slice into thin, whole rings. Drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning, and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl and blend. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, melted butter, sour cream, and milk, blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients all at once, and blend until all is well-moistened.
To cook, heat a bit of oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking. Using a soup ladle, pour a bit of batter into the skillet to make small - 3 inch / 7-8 cm - pancakes, and gently place an apple ring on top of each pancake.
When pancake batter starts to form bubbles on top, flip carefully and let pancakes with apple rings brown. Be careful, they get brown quickly. Continue baking pancakes until all batter and apple rings are used.
Serve hot with a dusting of powdered sugar or warm maple syrup, so good!
Thank you to my friend Andrea for sharing her special Swedish Lucia Buns (Lussekatter) recipe with us this year! These saffron scented, raisin studded buns are perfect for celebrating Lucia Day - a festival of lights - on December 13th. My younger daughter is named Lucia, so we always try to make something special on this day - and at this time of year in dark, wintertime Berlin, these warm buns are very welcome + delicious.
Lucia Buns / Lussekatter
6 1/2 - 7 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
pinch of salt
3/4 cup / 140 g sugar
1/2 tsp. / 1 gram ground saffron (if your saffron is in threads, grind until fine with 2 tsp. sugar)
1/2 cup / 125 g butter
2 cups / 1 liter milk
1 egg, room temperature
2 Tbsp. milk + one egg yolk
In a large bowl, combine flour with dry yeast, salt, sugar, and saffron.
In a pot on the stove, melt butter and heat milk until just warm (98-100ºF / 37-40ºC). Pour warm butter/milk mixture over flour and yeast in bowl, and mix well. Add egg and continue mixing until dough sticks together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes or until smooth, adding more flour if necessary.
Place dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and allow to rise in warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size (I put the bowl of dough on the middle rack of a cold oven that is turned off, with a pan of hot, boiling water placed underneath on the bottom or the oven to keep things warm).
When dough has risen, remove from the oven and preheat the oven to 400ºF / 200ºC.
To form dough, make golf ball sized balls of dough (about 24-30 pieces with this recipe), roll them out into a long, thin cylinder form (about 10" / 25 cm long), and form the "Lussekatter" by rolling up half of the dough cylinder into a spiral, then roll up the other side.
Place the formed dough on a lined baking sheet, add two raisins to the middle of each spiral, then brush with an egg wash made of 2 Tbsp. milk and one egg yolk mixed together.
Let rise for another 20 minutes, and bake in preheated oven for 11- 15 minutes or until golden.
These buns are wonderful served warm with butter, cream cheese, or jam, and you can freeze the extra buns to reheat for a special breakfast or afternoon tea.
These classic gingerbread cookies are sturdy enough to bake as tree decorations (don't forget to make a hole at the top with a straw), and if you glaze them with a bit of confectioner's sugar and lemon, they taste very nice while fresh too.
Gingerbread Spice Cookies
2 1/4 cups / 300 g flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
10 Tbsp. / 150 g butter, chopped in pieces
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. molasses or golden syrup
Preheat oven to 350ºF / 175ºC and line 2 baking sheets.
In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, and spices. Add butter pieces and rub into flour until mixture resembles course meal. Add honey and molasses and mix with a fork until dough sticks together, then knead briefly with floured hands until smooth.
Wrap dough in plastic or waxed paper, and put in the refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes to one hour (can also be made ahead and cooled overnight).
Remove cooled dough and roll out onto a floured surface. Cut out your favorite shapes with cookie cutters - or make round shapes with a tin can.
For larger shapes that you'd like to hang as ornaments, use a toothpick, drinking straw, or skewer to make a pencil sized hole at the top.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden on 350ºF / 175ºC.
Warm greetings from Berlin + I wish you all the very best during the holiday season!