The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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CaptainBatard's picture

Stollen Moments....

I never tasted a Stollen let alone thought I would make one! I first got the notion to bake one when I was reading a blog about French folds and hand mixing of breads. I followed the link which led me to a video by Richard Bertinet of sweet doughs (I highly recommend it for those of you that have not seen it yet) and a recipe for stollen.  I really liked the way the recipe and the finished product looked and I really was into the hand mixing technique. That would of been too easy....instead I made the mistake of Googeling Stollen. I had no idea how many different variations there are on a stollen....from Germany to Poland...they all have a little different take...the very traditional Dresdner Stollen.....another @Hefe und Mehr- german blog....and a mouth watering recipe at Bakers Süpke `s World......the one that got my attention was a chocolate stollen @Domestic Goddess in American version with a German influence @Joe Pastry and a Mohn Quark Stollen which is a poppy seed and fruit stollen which I am going to try next week....eventually I found my way back to Chef Bertinet recipe with a recipe from the United Kingdom by Chef Madalene Bonvine-Hamel @British Larde. I gathered all my material together for the Stollen and e-mailed Susan at Wild Yeast with a question about osmotolerant yeast.....She said "I made the SFBI stollen in class and it is a good one!" Ok ...that would make it easy which one to choose, it is a proven recipe and I just got the book.

I read the SFBI recipe and it said add all to bowl and mix…I thought I knew better…and in the back of my head from all the post I read I thought I had to  develop the gluten before adding the ton of butter....I threw in the sponge,eggs and started to mix...the flour barely formed a ball....panic set in...I added some water...I reread the formula to make sure I didn't leave out something...and realizes that Baby Jesus threw me a curve....I should of realized it at first... most of the moisture came butter. After a good while of mixing the dough came together with a good gluten structure. I was very relieved that is was able to save it...I divided the dough in six pieces and gently spread them into ovals....I applied the filling of Creme' d'almond that Chef Bertinet used along with the cut up pieces of marzipan to the bottom layer and also applied the filling under the top fold....the stollen was finished with a drunken butter wash and plenty of sugar topping.

This is being sent to MaMa Claus @ Yeastspotting  HoHoHo....


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Christmas Ribbon Cookies

It just wouldn't be Christmas at my house, without Ribbon Cookies. I grew up with these, as did my mother and grandmother. When I asked my grandmother if she knew where the recipe originated, she didn't, but we know she is mainly of Dutch descent, and she remembered both her mother and grandmother making them before her. That makes five generations that we can account for, including my sisters and me---six, if my niece carries on the tradition. My grandmother had two sisters, and so my cousins all make them.... and friends and neighbors.... and now coworkers too. It isn't a closely guarded family secret, by any means; it has always been given freely. And it has always been much requested.

See how pretty they are on a Christmas cookie tray. And they taste both as good, and as unique as they look. It's fun to bring them to holiday get-togethers, because people are generally stumped by the stripes. They always want to know, how did I do that? But it's not a feat of magic. It's so easy, a child can do it. I know, because I did growing up.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago, at the ripe old age of 95. While cleaning out her apartment, I found her hand-written recipe card, yellowed by time, that had become one with the plastic sleave she put it in long ago for protection. That was just like her.

In case you can't read my grandmother's handwriting, here's my version:

Ribbon Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 ounce milk chocolate, melted
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture.

Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Mix the chocolate and nuts into one part and press evenly into the bottom of a waxed paper lined 9x5" loaf pan. Set pan in freezer for a few minutes or until firm. Stir the cherries into the second dough portion and press evenly into pan over the chocolate layer. Put back in freezer until second layer is firm. Add poppy seeds to the remaining dough and press evenly over the cherry layer. Cover pan and chill in the refrigerator until firm.


Remove dough from loaf pan and cut into thin slices (about 1/8 inch). Bake on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets about 10 minutes at 375ºF. Watch closely because they can burn fast, but they should be starting to color a little around the edges.


These cookies should be crispy when completely cool. If they're not, they may be sliced too thick, not baked long enough or oven is too hot (or not hot enough). Leave some space between them on the cookie sheets, because they grow quite a bit. I make my slices across the short side of the loaf (side to side) and then cut that in half for two medium-size cookies. One year I used unbleached flour and the cookies were not as light or crispy, so it's bleached for my Christmas cookie baking. I add a drop or two of red food coloring to the cherry dough now, because candied cherries aren't as deeply colored as they used to be. They just don't impart as much color to the dough. If you use unsalted butter, you might want to double the salt.

AnnieT's picture


Here is my authentic Scottish Shortbread recipe which came from Margaret McLaren, a Scottish friend from when I lived near Atlanta back in 1967.

3 sticks butter (I use Challenge unsalted)room temp.

1 heaping cup powdered (icing) sugar

1 egg yolk

4 cups ap flour

Preheat oven to 300*, cut wax paper circles to fit 8"-9" cake pans. I wonder whether parchment would work?

Sift the sugar into a large bowl and knead in the butter. Add the egg yolk and mix in well. Add the flour one cup at a time. Roll into a lump the size of a jelly roll, cut into 3. Pat onto the wax paper to fit the pans. Prick all over with a fork and crimp the edges, and cut almost through in wedges. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour - mine didn't take that long. The shortbread should be pale in color. Cool on rack, careful, I managed to crack all of mine!

I also forgot that I wanted to add some rice flour because I had read that it gave a nice crunch. Oh well, next year. Merry Christmas from Whidbey Island, A.





mroberts2404's picture

Pizza dough help

Hello. Glad to be part of your forum. I'm looking for some help with making pizza dough. I finally have a good recipe that produces the desired taste and texture for the crust. However, the dough at the stage when I'm ready to shape the pies - is difficult to work with. Specifically, if I lift one end, the weight of the remaining dough pulls and stretches very quickly - it's too elastic. Ultimately, it's difficult to transfer to the peel, but once there is easy to shape and bakes nicely.

I initially mix the dough by hand (stirring until I can't any longer, about 5 or 6 minutes) until it's sticky (I'll be getting a KA or Electrolux mixer once the economy improves). I transfer it to floured surface and cover it w/ a bowl, letting it rest for about 20 minutes. I then add/knead in the remaining cup of flour for another 7 or 8 minutes and cut it into smaller pieces/balls which I then refrigerate in containers for a day or two. I remove them about 2 hours before I'm ready to make the pies. The resulting dough tastes great but seems fairly loose. Is that the tradeoff for working with moist doughs?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks! And good holidays!


bobkay1022's picture


Ok folks. How do you know when you look at a recipe if it is a measuring cup full of flour 8 oz. cup? Or if it is a weight amd measure of a common ingredient  like Un bleached bread flour which for a cup of flour is 4.5 oz,

Certainly make a big difference and one big mistake or am I missing some thing.

To all the folks that wrote on my problems with convection baking.  I have now put in a conventional stove with a oven. How nice the bread is comming out  One loaf of Italian made 2 days ago such a nice chewey crust and a delicious crumb. Nothing to do with my question but two pix of the freah Italian Bread below.

Have a nice holiday every one.

Mr. Bob

Strega's picture

Cookie Melt down...Recipe Needed

Does anyone have a recipe they would be willing to share for a shortbread type cookie dough to use with the old Rycraft cookie stamps? The recipe didn't contain any baking powder, soda or eggs in order for the stamp design to remain on the baked cookie. 

Thanks for any help or advise.

Shiao-Ping's picture

Holiday baking at sunshine beach, Queensland, Australia

We started our annual beach holiday this year without much preparation, unlike previous years.  It has been a very busy year, and so when we arrived at the North Folk Island Pine Tree-lined boulevard right next to the beach front, looking for our holiday unit, we were exhausted.  There was a feel of South of France here at this little north facing beach in the south of Queensland, bordering New South Wales. 

After a quick lunch, it was time to be off to the beach ....




On the 1st full day at the beach my son didn't surface until after 11 am.  I said to his Daddy that as soon as the young man woke up, he's going to want food.  Sure enough, the first thing that he said when he emerged was, "Pretty hungers; pretty hungers."   

The wind was howling after we had our brunch, no good for the surf, so the Daddy took the opportunity and went out with the daughter to get her surf board fixed.  He asked if the boy would want to come along.   Why would he? - There was chocolate milk and Tim Tam in the fridge; plus, there was cricket on the TV (Australia vs. West Indies)!  As they say, "You can lead a horse to a drink but the pencil must be lead."

I purposely brought only my starter and a selection of old, almost expiring, flours with me, but none of my usual implements for making sourdough bread.  When I found out that the unit wasn't even equipped with measuring cups, I thought to myself that I should have at least packed my scale.  No matter.  Early evening as I was refreshing my starter, my husband was making a celery/onion sauce to go with the meat pies being warmed up in the oven, and my children helped setting up the table.  Thirty-six hours later, these were my first holiday sourdough breads:








Evidently I mixed the dough a bit dry to achieve the nice openings on the surface but somewhat dense interior.   The flour I used was Laucke's multigrain bread pre-mixes with no commercial yeast.  I promised myself that the next sourdough I made would have a lot more hydration for more open crumb, as below:




I never envy commercial bakers' job but I often wondered why making sourdough bread was such a satisfying act and I think I got the answer during this holiday.  Whether or not we are happy with our sourdough and whether or not it is a piece of crafty work of art, no one can deny that there is a creative spirit in the making of it - the bread comes out differently every time!   It is like allowing a piece of us emerging and taking shape.  It is a means for expression.  

An Aussie participant in the SFBI courses that I took back in August told me that American all-purpose flour is equivalent to Australian plain flour that is available from all supermarkets and is used in pastry baking.  He is a very accomplished baker and works with Leon Bailey, the Australian master-baker.  The protein level of plain flour is roughly the same as in French style flour.  I experimented with 1/2 wholemeal plain flour and 1/2 plain flour and was quite happy with the result:




On many a night my husband cooked dinner and my children did salads and set the table while I sipped on my Chardonnay (they must have been secretly reading my blog where I said I don't know why housewives get excited about holidays).  One night my husband asked me to try Henschke's Pinot Noir that he was drinking.  I took a sip and said it's too young for me and that it would be good for many years to come.  He said, "A bit like me-self?" 






Half into the first week of our holiday I was already getting into a good routine of morning and afternoon exercises.  I thought of a book that I once read, Running High; how true, the wonders of endorphins.

As the week progressed, left-over sourdough was piling up in the freezer.  I've always loved the Italian Panforte and I also absolutely adore Stained Glass Fruit Cake, but I did not feel like any pastry making.   Perhaps I was a bit conflicted but, anyway, I used some of the left-over sourdough bread and made a Christmas Stained Glass Panforte, the only festival baking that I made (actually no baking at all, just cooking the fruits with the left-over sourdough and letting them set with the nuts):







                                           Very morish with a cup of homemade latte


When I was little I read stories that ended with "Happily living ever after;" and when I was a bit older I knew that they were fairy tales but I wondered what it was like.  Beach holidays can hardly be a Chinese thing and no exception to me.  But this time I had one of the better beach holidays that I could remember.  I think "Happily living ever after" is entirely possible if one just lives in the moment ... like a new born baby.

And thus we finished the two weeks' beach holiday - short enough for me to take, and long enough to make a difference.  Yesterday my kids helped me with the Christmas tree.  I have missed the many little figurines that happily adorned our Christmas tree for nearly a whole year and I am very pleased to say Hello to them again: 



      Father Christmas


                                Master Jester


                                                      One of the clowns


                                                                                       One of the fairies





Wishing all of you home bakers out there a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!



Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Friday night Sourdough Pizza

I was trying to get creative and use as much starter as I could before leaveing for Massachusetts so I ad libbed a crust recipe that my wife gave two thumbs up. The eveidence has long since dissapeared but the recipe will make a return by New Year's Eve

100g starter (100% hydration)

130g water (lukewarm)

200g AP flour

1 tsp salt

1TBS olive oil + 1 TBS olive oil

This is crude but it worked the first time out and I'm convinced others can repeat this.

Mix the starter with the water in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt, blend in starter mix, add oil, and stir. Cover and rest at room temp-70F- for 30 minutes. Knead and place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover and bulk ferment for 2 1/2 hours with two quick stretch and folds. I turned out the dough and shaped it for a piece of parchment paper that fit on my sheet pan to load onto a rectangular stone. I covered the dough and let it rest for about 45 minutes. The oven and stone were preheated to 450F. Using a tip from the America's Test Kitchen Family baking book I brushed the edge of the dough with olive oil and sprinkled the rest with grated parmesan cheese.

I baked the crust for about 6 minutes and took it out to dress it with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, Italian sausage, and mozzarella. Then I loaded the pie on the the paper onto the stone, baked for 10 minutes, removed the parchment paper after turning the pie around and baked for another 6 minutes. I took the finished pizza out and let it cool for about 5 minutes. The crust really worked. The edges were golden and the bottom was browned nicely. Not shabby at all for something I started at 145PM and served at around 7PM. Remember the parmesan I sprinkled on the crust before the start? The sauce stuck to the parm and the ingredients stayed inplace, not sliding at all when we sliced or bit into the slices.

OK, so that's not perfect technique wise but I won't argue with my results. I think that just about everybody can read this, follow the instructions, and have a good time and good pizza as long as they have skills to bake a loaf of bread. After nine months of searching for a recipe and the method to make a good pizza, I feel that I can go to work on making this even better.


Well seasoned and floured holiday wishes from the west bank of the Missouri River. PG

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Travel Kit for New England

My wife and I are leaveing the the flatlands of Kansas to visit my family in cold and snowy Massachusetts for my first Christmas in more than twenty years. I promised my parents that I'd do some breads for them while there and bragged a little that I'd even do some sourdough.

Now, my mother is a pretty good baker for deserts with scratch pies and cakes a large part of her repertoir. She even fed us whoopie pies from a Maine recipe and a still impressive Toll House cookie when I was growing up. She still has a lot of equipment around her kitchen. So I've got to figure out what to pack in the one check in bag that my wife and I are allowing ourselves.

Based on what I saw on DSnyders' posting, some dry starter and rye flour, a scale- Mom's the volume kind of baker, and my instant read thermometer come to mind first.

Does anything else need to be packed in for our journey to the land of King Arthur flour?

twofunnydog's picture

Wooden Bread Bowl

I am a civil war reenactor and recently purchased a wooden bread bowl at one of the events.  Am wondering what I need to do to make it "useable".....meaning that it is just the raw wood and seems to absorb whatever liquid is put in the bowl, i.e. water when I rinsed it out.  Should I rub oil on it?  I would like to use it but am a loss at what to do.  Thanks for your help.