Thursday, December 22, 2011


A special treat just before Christmas in our home was when my dad would bring home a special Christmas sweet bread. It was a very rich dessert bread full of fruit and almonds. Christmas Stollen (we pronounced it Shh tollen) was different from the Fruit Cake we see all the time nowadays.

We lived among some eastern European neighbours then, and stollen, originally baked in Germany, became popular all over the .neighbourhood

Long before Columbus discovered America, stollen was baked at Christmastime in Dresden Germany. The dried fruits are macerated in liquor and when the bread comes out of the oven it is then slathered with melted butter and rolled in sugar. It thus represents the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Since the 15th century, there was a Stollenfest in Dresden every year, right up to the fall of the monarchy in 1918.

If you have never eaten stollen, you are in for a gustatory delight. This moist specialty bread  is a little like the Italian Pannettone or the Danish Julekage, but its special shape is very appealing to Christians in particular and its flavour to everyone.

If you are a baking enthusiast, bite into some serious history here; make yourself a Christmas Stollen.

Adapted from The Practical Encyclopedia of Baking, Hermes House, N.Y. 1999

Christmas Stollen             1 loaf


½ cup (115gm) golden raisins
¼ cup (60gm) currants
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum or brandy
3 ¼ cups (800ml) white flour, plus a little to sprinkle on top of batter
½ teaspoon (2ml) salt
¼ cup (50ml) sugar

¼ teaspoon (1ml) ground cardamom
½ teaspoon (2ml) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2ml) grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon (2ml) grated orange zest
1 ½ ounces (45gm) yeast
½ cup (125ml) lukewarm milk

¼ cup (50ml) melted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (100ml) candied fruit
1/3 (75ml) blanched whole almonds, chopped

Melted butter, for brushing

For The Almond Filling

1 cup (250ml) ground almonds
¼ cup (50ml) sugar
½ cup (100ml) confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon (2ml) lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350F (180C)
  2. Put the raisins and currants in a heatproof bowl and put in the oven just to warm, 3-4 minutes. Pour on the liquor and set aside. Shut off the oven. Stir the fruit to immerse fully in the liquor.
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and stir in the sugar, spices and zest.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the slightly warm milk.
  5. Pour this into the flour and stir a little of the flour from around the edge into the milk mixture to make a thick batter.
  6. Sprinkle some flour on top of batter, then cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  7. Add the melted butter and egg and mix into a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
  8. Place in an greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  9. Working on the almond filling: combine the ground almonds and sugars.
  10. Add the lemon juice and enough egg to knead into a smooth paste.
  11. Shape into an 8 inch (20cm) long sausage, cover and set aside.
  12. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch down.
  13. Pat out the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and sprinkle on the golden raisins, currants, candied fruit and almonds.
  14. Fold and knead the dough to incorporate the fruit and nuts.
  15. Roll out the dough into an oval- about 12 X 9 inches (30 X 23 cm)
  16. Roll the center slightly thinner than the edges. Place the almond paste filling along the center and fold over the dough to enclose it, making sure that the top of the dough doesn’t completely cover the base. The top edge should be slightly inward from the bottom edge.
  17. Press down to seal.
  18. Place the loaf on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a lightly oiled or greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
  19. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
  20. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on its bottom.
  21. Brush the top liberally with melted butter and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  22. Dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar just prior to serving.  

So that’s how to bake a Christmas Stollen. A little detailed, but these step by step instructions make the method easy to follow.

Enjoy with coffee or black tea.

Monday, December 19, 2011


We’re in a supermarket walking through the frozen seafood section where my eyes view a package of cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp. I mutter disdainfully “who would want that?” The tipster counters derisively: “who wouldn’t; it’s cooked, peeled and deveined and all the work is done for you.”  I retort that the head and shells are where the flavour lies. You can make a wonderful stock with them, or at least boil the headless shrimp in the shells, otherwise the shrimp don’t have much taste. I know that you can add zip to precooked shrimp with clam juice but I like using the shells.

My beloved convinces me to purchase a package of the aforementioned crustaceans because they were heavily discounted and I thought I would highlight the taste of the shrimp with a tasty fruit accompaniment. I decided to make a shrimp omelet.

We both agreed that the dish was very tasty in a lip-smacking sort of way. I hope you will try it; it is delicious and easy to prepare because you don’t have to peel and devein the shrimp.

Shrimp Omelet with Hot Glazed Fruit          Serves four

Hot Glazed Fruit


  • 3 cups (750ml) assorted sliced fruit (such as apples, pears, peaches, bananas, mangoes and pineapples, your choice)
  • 4 tablespoons (60ml) butter
  • ¼ cup (50ml) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2ml) grated gingerroot
  • ½ teaspoon (2ml) salt
  • 2 tablespoons  (30ml) lemon juice


  • Prepare the fruit, then slice approximately ½ inch (1cm) thick
  • Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet
  • Add the next 3 ingredients and stir till sugar melts
  • Add the lemon juice and stir in the fruits
  • Fry, stirring gently for 1 or 2 minutes until fruit is hot and glazed

This will stay warm for at least 30 minutes, giving you ample time to make the omelets.

Shrimp Omelets (4)


6 (90ml) tablespoons butter
1 lb (450gm) small shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon (4 ml) lemon juice
8 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup (50ml) milk
¼ teaspoon (1ml) garam masala (use a commercial product or see below)
½ teaspoon (2ml) salt
¼ teaspoon (1ml) black pepper
Hot glazed fruits


  • Melt 2 (30ml) tablespoons of butter in a small pan or skillet
  • Add the shrimp and sprinkle lemon juice over them
  • Stir quickly just to heat and then remove from fire and keep warm

  • Combine the eggs with the next four ingredients and beat well
  • Melt 1 (15ml) tablespoon of butter in the omelet pan or skillet over high heat
  • Before the butter turns brown, pour in  1/4th of the eggs
  • Let the eggs settle for a few seconds, then gently stir a couple of times with a fork
  • Spoon into the centre of the eggs 2 heaping tablespoons (40ml) of warm shrimp
  • Fold the omelet in half. remove and keep warm on a platter
  • Repeat with the remaining 3 omelets
  • Any remaining shrimp will be used as garnish

Put the omelets and fruit side-by-side on each plate and garnish the omelets with remaining shrimp. If you desire, garnish the fruit with sliced almonds or chopped dates.

Garam masala powder         Makes about ¼ cup (50ml)

1 tablespoon (15ml) cumin seed
1 tablespoon (15ml) cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon (2ml) whole cloves
½ teaspoon (2ml) black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
2- 3 inch (8cm) and sticks cinnamon broken into pieces

Heat a 6 inch (15cm) skillet over medium heat. Put the spices in the skillet and stir for 2 minutes.
Listen for crackling sound, they should be a little darker in colour but not burnt
Pour into a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
Put the roasted spices in a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder (clean coffee bean grinder is ideal) and grind until finely textured.
Keep in airtight jar. After about one month, the flavour starts to diminish.
This is also known as Garam Masala (warm mixture).


Sunday, December 11, 2011


While we were visiting our daughter in Florida recently, we watched a compelling documentary about a sick and overweight Australian businessman who came to the USA to perform a juice fast for 60 days. See here

It was fascinating to watch as the man, Joe Cross, traveled all over The US and stopped at farmers markets or roadside stands. In the rear of his vehicle he had a juicer and would juice the vegetables right on the spot. He checked with his MD before he began and hoped to eventually eliminate the prescribed medicine for his skin disease which was making him sicker.

Cross was losing fat, little by little. He would speak to other young people about their diet and they would mention the usual fast- food fare. A couple of people looked like they could have benefited from the juice regimen, but said they loved their junk food too much.

Cross kept juicing twice a day, and eating nothing else. His fat continued to diminish and after tests with his physician, he could actually drop the medicine routine and its side effects.

Driving through Arizona, Joe Cross met an obese over the road driver and started talking with him. The man had trouble walking from his rig to the truck-stop center. Joe invited him over to his vehicle and offered him a glass of juice. They got to talking and it turned out both men had the same disease. The trucker liked the beverage but wasn’t sure about committing to a juicing program. Joe left his number with the trucker.

At the end of the 60 day juicing program, Joe was no longer fat, sick and nearly dying. He was no longer taking the medicine and his disease had completely cleared up.  He went back home and went about his business.

Later, that obese trucker telephoned Joe and asked for help. Joe agreed to return and provide help.  The driver, although in his early 40’s, could barely walk a block without having to stop. When he was younger he was a champion swimmer in school. He followed Joe Cross’s advice and through the ensuing weeks lost a lot of fat and was able to jog long distances. He was so grateful he started volunteering to help other overweight people.

My daughter wanted me and my spouse to start juicing and purchased a juicer for us that day. We bought a bunch of vegetables and started juicing. The Education Tipster likes it and participates in the twice daily juicing event.

My daughter urges everyone to start juicing, as the concentrated nutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes etc) help stave off food cravings as they satisfy your body’s food needs. 

There are a couple of important points to remember.
  1. Wash the vegetables and fruit to be juiced.
  2. Go easy on the fruits used, too much fruit sugar is not healthy
  3. Do include a little fruit with the vegetables for a more palatable flavour.
  4. Rinse out the juicer as soon as possible, before it gets dry and is hard to clean.
  5. Drink the juice as soon as you can, before oxidation sets in.

We traveled over 130 miles round trip to buy some Bitter Melon, which is a bitter vegetable reputed to be very effective in controlling blood sugar. After awhile you can get used to the amounts and varieties of fruits and vegetables you may prefer. I use bitter melon with carrot, celery, spinach, bell pepper, zucchini, cucumber and a little watermelon, apple and orange. You can juice almost anything, but not banana or avocado.Read the manual accompanying your juicing machine for more information.

We met a Russian man at that market who has been juicing for 15 years, since he got here. He looked very healthy.

Here is a simple juicing recipe to get started: 3 carrots, 1 tomato and a handful of spinach. It tastes like V8 juice, but its much better for you because it contains live micronutrients and no preservatives.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


When the Beatles’ White Album came out, there were two old-fashioned, sentimental songs on that double set that were particularly endearing. One was called “Honey Pie”- a catchy, old-timey sounding ballad about a music hall star who makes it big in the USA while the lonesome British bloke who loves her is pleading for her to return to him back in England.

Honey pie’s instrumentation was a little unusual for the group as John Lennon played both lead and rhythm guitar tracks while George Harrison, the usual lead guitarist, played six-string bass. A clarinet was also included in that charming song.

At the time I wondered if there was such a thing as an edible honey pie, because I’d never seen an edible “cutie pie” either - but honey pie, maybe so.

After not finding it in any cookbook, I went to the library where I happened to meet a Greek-American librarian who exclaimed that honey pies are very popular in Greek cookery. They are great pies indeed but they actually should be called honey -cheese pies since they contain a lot of ricotta or cream cheese in the pie filling. What I wanted was a plain honey pie but gave up after not readily finding one.

A few months back the Tipster and I are at a garage sale where I notice a compact disk of the White Album. I picked it up and was reading the titles and when I sighted “Honey Pie” I once again thought about that pie I’d never baked.  

Am glad I did because after preparing one, I found honey pie to be a splendid pie and a treat you do not see everyday. If you like pies you are sure to enjoy this sweet delicious dessert.



1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup of sugar
¾ cup honey
3 eggs, slightly beaten
Prepared pie shell for 9 inch pie


  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Blend all ingredients except crust in a mixing bowl.
  • Pour into a prepared 9 inch pie shell
  • Bake 40 minutes and check if crust is set. If not, bake up to 10 minutes more.
  • When crust is set and filling is golden, remove from oven

You can dress up this pie by adding a meringue, see here.

For the meringue-topped honey pie, place the meringue atop the finished pie and put under the broiler briefly to barely brown the top.

If you like sweets then you will enjoy this lovely honey pie, but not too often I hope.

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