Taste of Europe Series: Haarlem – Kerststol

After spending two weeks in Europe, it’s rather hard not to get inspired to bake and cook. I’ve been trying to recreate some of the wonderful foods that Anna and I tasted while we were there. European food seemed fresher, back to the basics, baked from scratch…even McDonald’s food over there looked (and I say looked because I wasn’t about to eat there! :D) healthier. People seemed healthier in general too – and much more active. I say America needs to take some lessons from our mother continent! If you’d like to read more about our travels click on this link to Sisters Four.

Everyone rode bikes everywhere. It’s just the way of life for them.

Our goal was to try local foods specific to the region we were in and I’d say we accomplished that. :D Waffles, Flemish Stew, and of course, chocolate, in Belgium, Fondue and Raclette in the Swiss Alps, lots of gelato and foccacia in Italy, and bread and cheese everywhere!
I’m going to start off in Haarlem though, where we were served this phenomenal fruit bread for breakfast at Paula’s B&B. (By the way, if any of you ever go anywhere near Holland, B&B Paula’s is the place to stay!) It’s called Kerststol and is a traditional Dutch Holiday bread.
However, before making the bread, I had to make Candied Orange Peel. I’m sure you could conveniently find them in a store near you, but I didn’t even think to look when I went grocery shopping, so I made them from fresh oranges. After all, that is the way the Dutch probably do it! :D
This is a long process, so I recommend making them the day before you intend on making the bread.

Candied Orange Peel

4 oranges
4 1/4 c. water
2 1/2 c. sugar (1 c. more for later)

Quarter and peel oranges. (Reserve orange quarters for a salad – or eat them on the spot.) Slice into strips and set aside.

Combine sugar and water. Heat to boiling and let boil for 5 minutes. Add peel and turn to low heat. Set the timer for 2 hours and let simmer without disturbing. It should be reduced to a 1/4 of the liquid.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Drain peels and dredge in sugar. Lay out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Place in a 200 degree oven to dry for 1 hour. Check every 20 minutes or so to make sure they aren’t cooking too much.
Cool and chop into small pieces. (You could also leave them whole and dip in dark chocolate. Just sayin’… ; )

The first official step for making the bread is to soak 1 cup raisins (I used half golden raisins) and 1 cup dried cranberries in 4 tablespoons orange liqueur. These should soak for several hours – if not overnight.

Alright! Here goes the ingredient list!
2/3 c. warm water
2/3 c. warm milk
2 t. yeast
2 eggs
1 1/2 T. melted butter or olive oil
2 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. orange zest
1/2 t. salt
3-5 c. white flour
Combine all of the above ingredients and knead for a few minutes, adding flour when needed. Dough will be a bit sticky, but not so much that it’s unmanageable. This won’t look like much dough, but just wait until you add the goodies! (I’ll tell you a little secret here – I doubted the recipe and decided to double it, because it looked too small to make one loaf. As you can see, I ended up making two huge loaves!)
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.
Now add –
1/3 c. chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts if you can find them)
1/3 c. candied orange peel
soaked dried fruit (drain if needed)
and knead again, adding more flour as needed.
Roll 1 cup (200 grams) of almond paste into a log about 10 inches long.
Interesting tidbit ~ Almond Paste and Marzipan, however closely related are not the same. Almond Paste is made from 1 part or more almonds to 1 part sugar and is used as an ingredient in cakes, tarts and pastries.Whereas, Marzipan is made with more sugar – 1 part or more almonds to 3 parts sugar (both granulated and liquid). The liquid sweetener makes Marzipan more suitable for molding.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Form the dough on a bread board into an oval shape of approximately 8 by 12 inches. Place the almond roll lengthwise down the center of the dough. Fold the dough over the almond paste and gentle pinch to seal. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 390 degrees. Brush loaf with water and bake 40-45 minutes until brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack and brush with melted butter or olive oil.