Calgary·FOOD AND THE CITY

Three sweet loaves to satisfy holiday brunch crowds

These three recipes from Julie Van Rosendaal are satisfying to create and will make your house smell amazing.

Baked treats perfect for over-the-top seasonal gatherings or gifts

Food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal has three recipes for holiday loaves to please any brunch crowd. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

In December, holiday celebrations most often involve food.

There are cookies, loaves and dishes that make an appearance annually, or on special occasions.

Cultures around the world have festive, often fruit-studded breads: Italian panettone, German stollen and Scandinavian kanelbullar all come out on special occasions.

If you're looking for something a bit more over-the-top for a holiday brunch, to give as gifts or to start (or even rekindle) old family traditions, here are a few loaves to try.

From a simple stollen to more elaborate twisted chocolate babka and cardamom-scented Swedish kanelbullar, these three recipes are satisfying to create and will make your house smell amazing.

Christmas stollen

This German fruited bread is dense and sweet, and easier than most to shape. Use any kind of dried fruit, but make sure it's moist — otherwise it will suck the moisture out of the dough.

Cover with hot water, tea or even booze and let it sit until it plumps up a bit. Then drain well before adding to the dough.

The German fruit bread, stollen, is dense, sweet and popular at the holidays. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

1 cup milk, warmed

2 tsp active dry yeast

3 to 3½ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup butter, grated (if it's cold) or cut into pieces

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

Grated zest of half a lemon or orange (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp salt

½ cup raisins

¼ cup chopped dried apricots

¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries

¼ cup sliced almonds or coarsely chopped pecans

1 log marzipan, rolled out to the length of the loaf (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Icing sugar, for dusting

Preparation

Put the milk into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast overtop.

Let stand for five minutes until it's foamy.

Add three cups of the flour along with the butter, sugar, egg, lemon or orange zest and vanilla.

Stir until the dough comes together. Continue to knead, or mix with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed (you'll likely need 3-1/2 cups).

It should be tacky but not sticky. Add more flour if it's sticking to your hands. It will smooth out and become less tacky as it sits. If you have time, cover and let it rise for one to two hours before adding the fruit.

Add the dried fruit and nuts by patting out the dough, piling on the fruit and folding the dough over itself a few times to incorporate them.

Shape into a ball and place it back in the bowl.

Fold any kind of dried fruit that's also moist into the dough. Fruit that is too dry will suck the moisture out of the dough. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place for another hour.

On a parchment-lined sheet, pat the dough into a rough circle about eight inches in diameter.

Fold about half of the dough over itself, as if you were starting to fold a letter. (Put a log of marzipan inside the fold, if you like.)

Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough looks a bit puffy but not doubled. This should take about 30 minutes.

Bake the German stollen until it is a deep golden colour. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

As it rises, preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the loaf with beaten egg.

Bake for 30 minutes or until deep golden.

Shower with a generous amount of icing sugar while the bread is still warm.

Serving: Makes one loaf.

Kanelbullar

Kanelbullar are twisted cinnamon buns of Scandinavian origin, often flavoured with cardamom.

They aren't as gooey as cinnamon buns but are a bit tricker to shape until you get the hang of it. A quick Google search will provide more visuals!

If you want to forego the pearl sugar or sliced almonds on top, just sprinkle the finished rolls with icing sugar.

Kanelbullar, which are from Scandinavian culture, are like knotted, less gooey cinnamon buns. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Dough ingredients

1 cup milk, warmed

2 tsp active dry yeast

3 to 3½ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp salt

Filling ingredients

½ cup butter, softened

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 egg, lightly beaten

Pearl sugar or sliced almonds, for sprinkling (optional)

Preparation

Put the milk into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast overtop.

Let stand for five minutes until it's foamy.

Add three cups of flour along with the butter, sugar, egg, lemon or orange zest and vanilla.

Stir until the dough comes together.

Continue to knead, or mix with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed (you'll likely need 3-½ cups).

It should be tacky but not sticky. Add more flour if it's sticking to your hands. 

It will smooth out and become less tacky as it sits.

Shape into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk. This should take 1½ to 2 hours.

Cut the dough into two pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece out into a rectangle that's about nine by 2 inches.

In a small bowl, stir together the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Spread half the mixture over each piece of rolled-out dough.

Twist each strip by holding each end and turning it in the opposite direction. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Fold up each piece in equal thirds, as if you were folding a letter.

Roll it again until it's roughly eight by 14 inches.

Cut the dough lengthwise into strips about two centimetres wide.

Twist each strip by holding each end and twisting in opposite directions.

While holding one end, wrap it around two or three of your fingers as if you were wrapping up an electrical cord. Then tuck the end over, under and through the hole in the middle. There is a great visual of this online by British food writer Izy Hossack.

Kanelbullar can be dusted with pearl sugar or sliced almonds. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Place each rolled bun on a parchment-lined sheet.

Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar or sliced almonds.

Let them sit while you preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden.

Serving: Makes about 1½ dozen kanelbullar.

Chocolate Babka

Babka is traditionally made chocolate or cinnamon.

To make a cinnamon version, swap the chocolate filling with a mixture of ½ cup packed brown sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, 1 tbsp cinnamon and, if you like, ½ cup of raisins or currants.

You can make cinnamon babka instead of chocolate by swapping out the filling. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Dough ingredients

¾ cup warm milk

3 tsp active dry yeast

½ cup sugar

3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

½ cup butter, cut into pieces and softened

Filling ingredients

¼ cup butter

6 oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

½ cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp cocoa

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

To make the dough, put the milk into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Sprinkle over it the yeast and a pinch of the sugar.

Let stand for a few minutes, until it gets foamy. (If it does nothing, toss it and get some fresh yeast.)

Add about half the flour along with the remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt.

Stir or beat with a dough hook until well combined.

Add the remaining flour and stir or beat, adding the butter a few pieces at a time until you have a sticky, smooth dough.

It should be very soft and tacky, but as sticky as batter. It will smooth out and be easier to handle as it rises.

Shape into a ball, place in the bowl and cover with a tea towel for two hours.

  • Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal's full explanation of how to make these holiday loaves

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chopped chocolate over medium-high heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and cocoa; the mixture will have the consistency of thick paste.

Line two eight-by-four-inch loaf pans with parchment.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half.

Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10-by-14-inch rectangle.

Spread each piece with half the chocolate mixture.

Starting at a long side, roll up jelly roll style.

To shape the loaves, either turn the ends together, pinching to make a ring. Stretch the ring out even wider and twist it twice, like a double figure eight.

Stretch the ring out and twist it twice, like a double figure eight. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Tuck into the pan or cut the log in half lengthwise.

Lay them side to side and pinch them together at the top to join.

Then weave the pieces back and forth over each other, like braiding but with only two pieces.

Tuck into the baking pan, tucking in the edges. Don't worry about it being perfect.

Cover and let rise for another hour or two.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the tops of the loaves with beaten egg.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until deep golden.

Some recipes say the bottoms should sound hollow when tapped, but I find the dough is too dense and loaded with chocolate for this to be an accurate gauge.

Try to let them cool almost completely before slicing — but chocolate babka is pretty fabulous while it's still warm.

Serves: Makes two loaves.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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