Without exaggeration this past week has been one of the most productive weeks for me and my team at Bakery Normand. We didn't just slide into the Holiday Season, we leaped with abandon and energy, casting aside all doubts and fears. For a brief time on Friday, I thought that there were only two more weeks until Christmas; that's when the doubts and fears really started to creep in. Then someone told me to relax (something I'm not inclined to do in any event) because there were, in fact, three weeks more until Christmas.
This week saw the introduction of some of our more popular Christmas cookies, included various Macaroons (Almond and Hazelnut), Hazelnut Crescents, Lebkuchen Ornaments, Anise Cookies, Gingerbread Boys and Girls, Spekulatius Cookie People, and Polar Bear Paws- a variation on our popular Bear Paws, but with the substitution of red currant jelly and white chocolate in place of apricot jam and dark chocolate, and with the addition of red, white and green sprinkles on the white chocolate tips.
But the highlight of the week was the introduction today of perhaps the two best baked goods we make at this time of year. Both are my personal favorites, and judging by the number of calls we've been getting asking when they will be available, I'm guessing that there are many fans out there. The first product is our proprietary Black Forest Stollen. It's the last of the four types of Stollen we make every year and it is by far the best tasting. Made with the same base dough as our other Stollen, we add sweetened tart sour cherries soaked in Kirschwasser liqueur and rich dark chocolate chunks. It is our interpretation of the classic Black Forest Torte, only in Stollen form. To our knowledge, when we started making this variety 20 years ago, no one else had gone in that direction before. Because Stollen tends to be rich and sweet, the addition of tart dried fruits and a more bitter chocolate creates a wonderful balance.
Now that all our Stollen varieties are in the store, I can relax. Of course, more batches of each are in the pipeline in the coming weeks, so my work is far from done. As long as the demand is there and my time allows, I'll try to keep up with the production. But I would urge everyone not the wait until the last minute to stock up on Stollen for yourself or for gifts. When time runs out, so will the supply.
I would also like to underscore that Stollen is not your proverbial holiday fruitcake, something to throw out with the tree. It is, rather, a rich and flavorful, sweet and delicate yeasted confection that marks the pinnacle of yeasted German breads. Its characteristic use of cardamom, nutmeg and lemon as spices and flavor notes evokes, at least for me, the essence of the holidays. It should be sliced thin and served with a strong coffee or tea, or even with a glass of schnapps. It should never be toasted, and if stored cool and dry, it will keep for several months.
The second product which completed our production this week is Spitzkuchen,
Spitzkuchen translates as 'pointed cakes.' The gingerbread dough used in their production is the lebkuchen dough I've mentioned in previous postings. The lebkuchen dough was made in early November and stored in our cool basement to rest and mellow. Once the proper flavor and acidity level is reached, the dough is ready to be leavened and baked.
Spitzkuchen is made from the same dough as our Lebkuchen Ornaments. The only difference is that the Spitzkuchen dough is enhances with currants. Like the Lebkuchen Ornaments, the Spitzkuchen dough, once baked, is hard and tough. It must be re-moisturized by wrapping it in damp towels and sealing it in plastic bags overnight.
The next day, once the dough has softened up, the individual pointed shapes are hand-cut and hand-dipped in dark chocolate.
Spitzkuchen are incredible. They are, perhaps, the most anticipated product we make at the bakery at any time of the year. And they are only available until New Year's. Words cannot describe the unbelievable flavor and texture of these spicy, addictive morsels, and I would encourage anyone reading this who knows and loves this product to email me your impressions. Perhaps by sharing your enthusiasm, you can persuade others to give them a try.
As the season progresses, please check our "Christmas Specials" page for a more comprehensive list with images and explanations of all the holiday goodies available during this party season. And remember to order early if you need large quantities or if you have specific and unusual requests.