Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas: on the first day of Christmas ...

... my true love gave to me: a spectacular home-cooked meal that he then cleaned up! I love being married to a man who not only cooks amazingly, but is also home for two weeks at Christmas and we REALLY get into the partying of the season ...

We started Christmas with heading to Midnight Mass last night -- Lego Maniac served and the rest of us behaved so well and had such a wonderful time listening (and joining in) to the Christmas Carols before Mass. What a wonderful way to kick off the season ... even if it was a bit late before everyone settled down (BamBam wanted to open ALL presents when we got home and when we reminded him that Father had said to go to bed first, he declared "I'm going to sleep for 1 minute!" He did sleep till 7:15 a.m., thank goodness.)
Gift opening included:A "fur" collared sweater and matching hat for String Bean
One of those mind-numbing Lego sets for Lego Maniac (1034 pieces which are almost completely made into a Star Wars Republic Attack Ship).
and a full pirate costume for our own little Jeff Gordon!
Breakfast was a glorious Stollen and homemade hot chocolate with homemade mint marshmallows (recipes below).A fantastic start to the Christmas Season was had by all ... even though we sure do miss seeing family today, we're thrilled to have a relaxing day of lego-building, knitting, potholder making, and carpet hockey-playing and then a sumptious feast of filet mignon, Smithfield ham, shrimp, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, hot vegetables, skillet cornbread and salad for a late-lunch/early-dinner Christmas feast!

STOLLEN ( -- make sure you start the night before as stollen's high sugar content, we find you'll make a better loaf by beginning with an overnight sponge. This bubbly mixture of yeast, flour and water is a good base upon which the sugar, milk, and butter-rich stollen can successfully grow.

  • 1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast


  • 2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temp
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup candied fruit
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted for 15-20 minutes in a 350 oven (just till brown and starting to smell almondy)

Sponge: Combine the flour, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl, stirring till smooth. Let the mixture rest overnight at room temperature.

Dough: Add the flour, butter, egg, milk, sugar, salt, yeast, almond extract, and vanilla to the sponge. Stir to combine, then knead thoroughly, using your hands, an electric mixer, a food processor or a bread machine, till the dough is very smooth and supple. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl (or leave it in the bread machine), cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. It probably won't double in bulk, but will become puffy.

While the dough is rising, stir together the candied fruit, raisins, flour and almonds. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly greased work surface. Knead the fruit into the dough till it's well-distributed; a good way to do this is to pat or roll the dough into a rough 12 x 15-inch rectangle, press the fruit and nuts evenly over its surface, then roll it up like a jelly roll, starting with a long edge. Divide the roll into two pieces, shape each piece into a rough 9-inch log, cover the logs, and let them rest for 10 minutes.Pat each log into a 10 x 8-inch oval. The fruit may try to "fall out" of the dough; that's OK, just stick it back in.

Fold each oval lengthwise, bringing one side over the other but leaving a 1-inch gap, as if you were making a Parker House roll (in other words, fold the dough not quite in half). Press the edge of the top half to seal it to the bottom half, tent the dough with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until it's noticeably puffy.Bake the stollen in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. The finished loaves should be golden brown, and their internal temperature should register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the stollen from the oven, and rub cold butter on them to cover.Transfer the buttered stollen to a rack to cool completely. When the stollen are cool, dust them heavily with confectioners' sugar. Yield: Two stollen, about 14 servings each

Marshmallows (

2 envelopes (each 1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure mint extract or vanilla extract
vegetable-oil cooking spray
red or green food coloring
1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch combined and used as described below

Coat a 13x9 glass dish with cooking spray; then coat with equal parts powdered sugar and cornstarch; set aside. Pour 1/3 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin; let mixture soften, about 5 minutes. Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover; bring to a boil. Remove lid; cook, swirling pan occasionally, until syrup reaches 238 degrees (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. With mixer on low speed, whisk gelatin mixture, and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering). Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume, about 12 minutes. Add extract, and beat 30 seconds to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; smooth with an offset spatula. Drop a few drops of red or green food coloring and swirl into marshmallows. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Dust top of marshmallows with equal parts powdered sugar/cornstarch; cut into squares with rotary pizza cutter. Put in gallon ziploc bag or plastic covered container and shake sugar/cornstarch until all sides coated. Store in airtight container for up to one week.

ETA: Homemade Hot Cocoa -- you really need to have the homemade to mix with the mint marshmallows as the pre-packaged cocoa is so darn sweet! This is the recipe Mom made for us for YEARS and it's still as good today ... it's from the Betty Crocker cookbook:

  • 2 tbls sugar
  • 4 tbls cocoa
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee (I added this to the original)
  • 5 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I added this to the original)

Mix sugar, cocoa, water and coffee in medium pot and heat over low heat for about 20 minutes (stirring periodically). Add milk and stir till hot -- about 5 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted and combined into cocoa. Serve hot, poured in a coffee mug over a marshmallow. YUM!

We hope that one and all have as wonderful a first day of Christmas as we had! Blessings and prayers go out to you all!


Theresa said...

Merry Christmas, Mary! Thanks for sharing those yummy-sounding recipes. The kids have been dying to try making home-made marshmallows and the mint ones sound great.
Anyway, merry Christmas and I hope you have a new year filled with peace, love, and happiness.

MaryM said...

Merry Christmas to the G. family. I was just thinking of you today in regards to the two year ago blizaards and 12 days of Christmas. We miss you.

Debbie said...

I'm trying to type this through my veil of tears...we sure do miss ya'll too! (sniff, sniff...) But, we realize you have bigger fish to fry...(sniff, sniff...) and more traffic to wait in...and...maybe someday ya'll will wake up and smell the morning commute and say, "We could be in the beautiful Rocky Mountain Denver metro region right now and smell the same commute there!"

Happy and blessed Christmas to ya'll from all of us over here!

Jean said...

Years ago, my neighbor's German-born friend used to bring her a stollen every Christmas. My neighbor would thank her profusely and then give it to me to eat.

I thought it was wonderful! Your photos brought back fond memories of both.

Alice Gunther said...

The children are completely beautiful!

I need to try some of these recipes--they sound heavenly.