Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On The Ninth Day of Christmas - Pamela Callow

Christmas celebrations in my family always revolved around food. We are foodies, us Callows. My mother was born in Germany, and my father is British. Thus, our Christmas meals involved the best of both those cultures: German treats and English meats.

My favorite Christmas memory is baking traditional German Christmas stollen with my mother. The recipe we used was typed out on an old index card, smeared with flour and buttery fingerprints. I don’t even know where it came from. But what I do know was that Christmas stollen was the most highly-prized baked good in our house.

The making of our stollen took two days. One day to shop for the ingredients, one day to mix and bake. The ingredient shopping was fraught with uncertainty: Would we find the suet? Would we find the marzipan? It usually involved trips to several stores to round up everything we needed. Halifax now has a lovely assortment of specialty stores, but when I was a child, these things weren’t as readily found.

Now to the actual act of stollen creation. The kitchen table was cleared and a clean vinyl tablecloth was laid on it. Then we weighed the flour, the ground almonds, the butter on our old stainless steel kitchen scale. The flour was then dumped into the middle of the tablecloth, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients. I would shape this fine white mountain into a large mound, then hollow out a hole in the middle. A dozen eggs were added to this creation. Butter was cut into small cubes, suet was added (my nose would usually crinkle in happy disgust at this stage.) We’d roll up our sleeves and start kneading.

Eventually, from the goo and flour dust, a dough would form. We’d shape it into long ovals. And then the final, most crucial ingredient: marzipan. We’d roll the marzipan between our palms and lay it down the middle of the oval. Then one side of the dough was laid over the marzipan, and the other side was pulled over to seal the deal.

The loaves were laid on baking sheets, two to a sheet and put in the oven for an hour. The recipe usually yielded about a dozen stollens. Some were given as gifts to our most cherished friends, and the rest were for us, carefully wrapped in foil and put in the freezer.

Every Advent Sunday, my mother would light a candle on the Advent wreath and we would eat stollen. Christmas Day would not be Christmas Day without it.

And thus, my favourite Christmas memory has become a cherished Christmas tradition.

What is your favourite Christmas treat?

Pam has kindly donated a copy of her MIRA debut, DAMAGED, to the prize box! You aren't going to want to miss this, especially as the follow up, INDEFENSIBLE, is due out in January.

The clue for today is MARZIPAN. Drop me an e-mail with today's clue to be entered in the draw!  One entry per day, please!

16 comments:

  1. Now that has my mouth watering. I will have to find a bakery that has it and try some. I know it won't be anywhere near the taste of homemade but I'm not going to try making it.

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  2. Hi Pamela, the recipe sounds tantalising. My favourite treat would be homemade fruit cake. And pudding made with coconut cream.

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  3. My favorite are 'Peanut Blossoms'. The peanut butter cookie with the Hershey kiss on top!

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  4. That sounds very good!! My favorite holiday treat is Baklava. I am not Hungarian, but we have friends and their grandmother bakes for weeks during the holidays. All of it is delicious!!

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  5. HI Kaelee - some bakeries do make a very authentic version. There is a yeast-based version, which is NOT the one I'm describing. And try to get one with real marzipan, not almond paste. There is a difference (and my mother was a real stickler for it)!

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  6. Hi Nas Dean - I LOVE homemade fruitcake. My mother made that, as well. And plum pudding. I adore it. I also love rice pudding made with coconut milk - really, anything with coconut milk!! Thanks for dropping by!

    Pam

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  7. Meljprincess - yum, peanut butter! I was just eating peanut butter fudge today. I'm with you on the Peanut Blossoms!

    Pam

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  8. Judy - as you can probably see from my other comments, I love desserts -- and baklava is one which I adore. We have a greek restaurant up the road which makes fabulous baklava.

    Pam

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  9. Colleen4:35 PM

    Love M&M cookies and my grandmother's recipe for pumpkin pie... It does not feel like Christmas without those two items in the house!

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  10. what a wonderful memory, Pam. Do you carry on that tradition with your girls?

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  11. That sounds so good! I lvoe cookies but I cannot have them any more. ihave to be glutenfree. bummer
    debby236 at att dot net

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  12. I like sugar cookies, we only seem to make them at Christmas time.

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  13. Colleen - M&M cookies sound delish! And I say pumpkin pie is a real treat all year long!

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  14. Hi Cathryn,

    It's something I plan to do with them now that they are older! We have special cookies we make each year, as well.
    Pam

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  15. Debby - It's difficult being gluten-free. I hope you find something else you can love!

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  16. Linda ~ I love sugar cookies, too! That is something my kids really enjoy doing. We have all kinds of cookie cutters and sprinkles for them. I feel a baking urge coming on...

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