The German New Years cake is a traditional round cake with three layers of different fillings: poppy seeds, nuts & apple. Going back to pre-Christian days, ring-shaped breads and cakes were always considered fortunate because they signified continuity by ‘coming full circle’ or ‘the circle of life’.
The start of the new year has a tenancy to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious. All around the world, New Years Day is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. In some cultures, cakes or bread have symbolic items baked inside.
Poppy Seed is believed to bring a year of abundance. Nuts are a symbol of new life and potential. Apples, along with healing properties should bring a ‘sweet new year’!
Keeping all that in mind, it seems like a good reason to invest some time into making this special layered GERMAN NEW YEARS CAKE.
In a large bowl, combine dough ingredients & knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Poppy Seed Filling
In a small saucepan, combine all poppy seed ingredients. Place over LOW heat for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat & cool.
In a small bowl, combine all nut filling ingredients; set aside.
In a small saucepan, saute peeled & chopped apples over low heat with butter & sugar. Do not add any water as they need to be semi-soft, NOT MUSHY.
Assembly of Cake
Divide chilled dough in HALF, then divide one of the halves into THIRDS. Roll out the largest piece into a circle big enough to cover the bottom & sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Make sure to have a bit hanging over the top of the ring.
Add the poppy filling. Roll out one of the small pieces of dough to fit neatly on top of filling. Gently cover with nut filling. Roll second small piece of dough; fit over nut filling. Add apple filling layer. Fold extra dough edges onto apples & top with third piece of dough. Your dough base & dividers should all be rolled quite THIN.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg & add a tiny bit of water. Brush it over top surface. Bake for about 1 hour & 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. This cake is best if left in a cool place for a day or two before serving so the flavors will marry. Dust with a layer of powdered sugar before serving.
Today, December 21st, ‘our’ precious little Amigo is having his 14th birthday. Technically he belongs to my sister Loretta, who adopted him when he was only two months old. If you are a dog lover and have ever been in the presence of a Dachshund, you will understand how easily they can ‘velcro’ themselves onto your heart. Brion and I are accepted by him as if we were his aunt and uncle, so I guess you could call us part of his ‘pack’.
The antics of a Dachshund are priceless. During visits to our house he could come up with all kinds of games. One such game was to put his ball in a chosen spot then sit, out of sight, patiently waiting and watching to see how long it would take you to find it.
To be loved by a Dachshund is truly a privilege of a lifetime never to be taken lightly.
For today’s blog recipe, I thought it would be nice to have roasted chicken breast with a savory-sweet stuffing of apricot and brie, accompanied with small roasted potatoes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a plastic bag, combine potatoes, olive oil, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic & lemon zest; toss well. Place on a foil lined large baking sheet & roast for 10 minutes.
Place walnuts, 1 cup fresh basil & garlic in food processor; slowly add 1 Tbsp olive oil until mixture becomes paste-like. Next add brie, cream cheese & egg to the food processor & pulse until mixed well. Season with salt, pepper & pepper flakes.
Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & carefully flatten with a meat mallet. Divide stuffing between the 4 breasts. Roll up or fold over, enclosing filling well. In a small bowl, combine apricot preserves, balsamic vinegar & remaining Tbsp olive oil.
Remove potatoes from oven & slide them around a bit to make room for the chicken. Place the chicken on the pan; brush apricot mixture all over breasts. Place the pan back in the oven & roast for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through & potatoes are golden. Garnish with fresh basil if preferred.
I realize we are still weeks away from Christmas, but there are some things that are just better if given the time to ‘ripen’ and develop a rich and complex flavor. German stollen, also known as (Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen) is one of them.
In my previous blog I mentioned that stollen was a close ‘kin’ to fruitcake, but one thing it is not– is fruitcake! Stollen is a yeast bread that is fortified with a colorful collection of candied fruit, citrus peel, raisins/currants, nuts, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mace or cloves, brandy or rum and lots of butter.
The tradition of Christmas stollen dates back to 14th century Germany. The sweeteners in this period were honey and dried fruits; until the 17th century, sugar was a scarce and expensive commodity. For this reason, sweets were only meant for times of great festivity and joy. Originally it was made without milk or butter because these items were forbidden by the church during Advent. That changed in 1490 when Pope Innocent VIII signed the ‘butter document’ allowing bakers to use butter. It was much later when the use of milk was finally permitted.
The cake’s distinctive shape, which it retains to this day, is meant to symbolize the Christ child ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager’. Baked loaves are brushed with butter then cloaked in a thick layer of powdered sugar.
Holiday food traditions are a miraculous mix of time, place, ideology and ingredients. Often times, a single person can be the catalyst for a family culinary tradition. They bring it to the table as a delectable ‘gift’, wrapped with their own cherished memories and life experiences, enriching our holiday celebrations.
When I think of German stollen, a very unique memory comes back to me. One of the few newspapers my folks were interested in and had access to was the ‘Free Press Weekly Prairie Farmer’. It was a small newspaper published by the Manitoba Free Press for the prairie provinces in Canada. The newspaper’s middle section, ‘Home Loving Hearts’, contained ads from people requesting pen pals across Canada as well as recipes, ads for patterns of aprons, dresses, pot holders, baby clothes and knitting.
It was here my mother acquired a pen pal by the name of Renate Leitner in about 1956, that lasted for over 20 years,until the time of my mother’s passing. Every Christmas, Mrs. Leitner would send our family a beautiful loaf of German stollen bread in the mail. I remember how we looked forward to receiving it and how good it always tasted. This definitely attests to the durability of this bread.
German Stollen (Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen)
Marinate raisins, candied fruit & almonds in rum overnight, Stirring occasionally.
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water with 1 tsp sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift 2 cups of the flour. Stir in yeast mixture & lukewarm milk. Cover with plastic wrap & let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough firmly & work in beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, vanilla & pieces of softened butter.
Sift remaining 3 cups of flour with salt, nutmeg & cardamom & work in 2 cups to form a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead in remaining cup of flour mixture to form a smooth and satiny dough without any stickiness. Work in fruit & nut mixture.
Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll each portion into an oval shape about 12 x 8 inches (30 x 20 cm) & 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Brush each piece with melted butter & fold the dough over lengthwise, almost in half.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly press edges together to seal (brush tops with a beaten egg if you wish). Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden. Cover with foil if loaves are browning to fast. Brush warm loaves with melted butter & dust thickly with powdered sugar. Cool on a rack.
When completely cool, wrap tightly in foil & keep in a cool place for 2-3 weeks to ripen.
You can customize your filling ingredients any way you like. For example, use dried cranberries or cherries instead of raisins -- candied citrus peel or candied ginger instead of citron peel -- your favorite dried fruit instead of apricots. You can even use sweet poppy seed paste or marzipan to fill your stollen -- your choice!
Stollen freezes well so it can be made weeks in advance of Christmas.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray & flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, beat margarine & sugar until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest; mix well. Separate 1 egg, using the white in cake batter & yolk in lemon filling. Add the 2 whole eggs & 1 egg white to first mixture; beat well.
In another bowl, combine flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, salt & allspice. Gradually add to the margarine mixture alternately with yogurt, beating well after each addition. Transfer to Bundt pan & bake 30-35 minutes or until tests done. Cool in pan 5-10 minutes. Invert on cooling rack & let cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare filling by combining remaining egg yolk with 1/4 cup cold water. Whisk in 1 3/4 cups of hot water. Cook until clear (do not add any butter). Chill with waxed paper touching top.
Prepare dessert topping according to pkg directions. Place cake on serving plate. Cut 1/2-inch slice from top of cake. Set aside. Hollow out, making a tunnel with 3/4-inch sides & bottom. Fold whipped topping into lemon filling. Divide in HALF. Fold fruit into 1/2 of the filling. Spoon into tunnel. Place top slice back on cake. 'Ice' cake with the rest of the filling. Chill.
Combine sugar, lemonade, lime and orange juice. Stir well until sugar dissolves. Add white wine. Chill. Just before serving, add club soda & fresh fruit. YIELD: 7 LITERS or 30 CUPS