I just can’t resist fitting a bit of fruit mincemeat into my Christmas baking, so this year it comes in a quick bread. Quick breads cover a wide range, from biscuits and scones, which are made from a dough, to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.
Quick breads have evolved as a distinctly different tradition after the introduction of baking powder in 1850. Before that, breads and cakes were leavened with yeast.
These breads come in all shapes and sizes. Even though they are called breads, lets be clear, they are a cake of sorts. Some breads are light and airy, others are hearty and dense. The ingredients used will greatly affect the final volume and texture. Oats gives breads a somewhat dense and chewy texture. Sugar helps to keep breads tender and without salt will taste flat.
The basic way to prepare a quick bread is the two-bowl method. This entails mixing all dry ingredients separately from the liquid and sugar, then quickly combining the two with only a few strokes. The idea is to not overmix or overbake.
If you like mincemeat, this loaf is so nice to have on hand during the Christmas season.
Mincemeat Quick Bread w/ Orange Spread
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 4 1/2-cup ring mold pan or bottom only of a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat eggs; stir in mincemeat, brown sugar, milk & butter.
In another bowl, whisk together flour baking powder & salt. Add to wet mixture, combining ONLY until flour mixture is moistened. Pour into chosen baking pan
Bake about 45-50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven & cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish. Serve warm or cool with Orange Butter.
In a small bowl, beat marmalade with butter until softened & blended.
If you have never eaten a German pancake, think of it as a cross between a souffle and an omelette with undertones of French toast. Often called a Dutch baby pancake and not unlike a sweet Yorkshire pudding. ‘Eggier‘ than your typical pancake, but sweeter and lighter than an omelette, with more pastry-like characteristics. The sides of the pancake rise high above the edges of the pan, creating a light, puffy crust with a tender, custard-like middle.
Story has it that the name ‘Dutch Baby’ was coined when a restaurant owner’s daughter (in the USA) could not pronounce ‘Deutsch’, the German word for German, and out of her mouth came ‘Dutch’. Originally served as three small German pancakes with powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice, the Dutch Baby, moniker was born.
These German pancake ‘bites’ are kind of a fun spin on the classic Dutch baby pancakes. The fresh apricot/raspberry sauce along with the Greek yogurt filling, bananas and chocolate makes them such a decadent addition to brunch.
German Pancake Bites
In a food processor, place pitted apricots, lemon juice & sugar; pulse several times until the apricots are COARSELY chopped. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Lightly boil over medium heat, uncovered for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add more sugar to taste depending on how sweet your apricots were. Add raspberries & simmer 1-2 minutes or until raspberries are heated through & softened. Set aside until ready to use.
Greek Yogurt Filling
In a bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar with a hand mixer. Add Greek yogurt & beat on medium-high until smooth & creamy. Set aside until ready to use. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, blend eggs, milk, vanilla, flour & salt until well mixed. Pour a small amount of the melted butter in 8 MINI loaf pans. Pour 1/3 cup of the mixture into each of the individual spaces.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven & invert on a cooling rack. Place 'bites' on a serving plate. Divide yogurt filling, placing some in the bottom of each individual pancake. Top each with some apricot/raspberry sauce & some banana slices. Drizzle with chocolate & sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
About fifteen years ago, I had the opportunity to work in a Dutch bakery over the Christmas season. It wasn’t until then that I learned about the wonderful ‘speculaas spice’ and ‘banket‘.
Bankerstaaf (Dutch Christmas log) or letterbanket is a sweet pastry stick or alphabet letters that originated in the Netherlands. They are popular during the Christmas season to celebrate Sinterklaas. Almond sticks and Dutch letters follow pretty standard, northern European, almond paste- filled pastry recipes. The custom of edible letters goes back to Germanic times when, at birth, children were given a letter made of bread as a symbol of good fortune. Convent schools in the Middle Ages used bread letters to teach the alphabet. When the letter was learned and could be written well, the pupil could eat the bread letter.
Letters became associated with Sinterklaas in the 19th century, when a sheet was used to cover St Nicolas’ presents. A bread dough letter, placed on top of the sheet, identified where a child’s gifts were located. Chocolate letters were first manufactured around 1900.
I was so amazed at the huge volume these almond-filled pastries sold in that Dutch bakery at Christmas time. One taste and I could understand why. If your’e not interested in the time consuming puff pastry process, there are some good quality ones in the frozen department at the supermarkets. I also found some real nice almond paste at an Italian grocery store. If you are an almond lover, this dessert is for you!
If you would like to make your own almond paste there is an easy recipe featured on a site called daringgourmet.com
Dutch Christmas Log
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry sheet& cut in half lengthwise.
In a bowl, combine almond paste with orange zest & knead until blended. Divide almond paste into 2 even pieces & roll each one into a log approximately 1-inch shorter than the length of puff pastry.
Place each almond log onto a puff pastry half. Fold 2 shorter ends of the pastry onto almond log. Brush one of the long sides with egg wash. Roll up almond log in pastry so that seam is on the bottom. Transfer logs to baking sheet, brush with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until slightly browned on top.
In a microwave-safe dish, heat apricot jam for about 30 seconds or until jam is runny. Brush baked logs with apricot jam; sprinkle with sliced almonds & dust with powdered sugar.
The Difference Between Marzipan & Almond Paste -
- almond paste is softer and is used in baked goods.
- marzipan is firmer and used in making candies/chocolates or as fondant for cakes. Marzipan also uses rose water.