Now it is end of November.
The days are getting very short and night
is long and very dark.
Here it is not like in my youth,
where street lamps defied darkness,
as later in Florida airconditioning defied tropical humidity,
denying seasonal extremities,
ironing out unevenness
oblivious to the danger of making
every season one
This would be taking me too far off my intended path,
were it not for my still very vivid remembrance
of my first German Winter. (1975)
Latitudes NY 40.71 Bonn 50.73.
Ten degrees make a big difference and the „Continent „ was
very dark, and very cold, offering a completely different feel,
hard bedrock under my feet
instead of the sandy Long Island loam I was used to.
My girlfriend Uta invited me to her Black Forest house,
the kind where the eaves touch the ground
and a big tiled stove in the middle of the house with a bench around it
to sit and warm your back when you come in from the snowy night.
There I was initiated into the real world of
German Christmas Cookies
Ah well, some things are not translatable
Zimtsterne, Vanillekipferl, Lebkuchen, Bethmännchen,
Strohhutchen, Bärentatzen, Vanillebretzeln, Walnußplätzchen,
Aprikosenringe, Mandelspekulatius, Ingwerhörnchen
Each room had a beautiful plate abounding with a full assortment.
I discovered very early that I liked the vanille Kipferle best
and unfortunately Uta got very angry at me for eating
all of them.
Later I bought a magazine with traditional recipes,
and joyfully baked them myself.
There was a time when I would send tin boxes of my favorites
to my whole family in the States-
to Boca Raton, NYC, Houston, Philadelphia, Portland.
That was long ago.
I still have that magazine from 1982 and use it every year for my recipes.
I'm sure there is nothing special about the ingredients
but I am convinced that the results would not be the same
were I to use anything else.
So here is my favorite
one and only recipe for Dresden Stollen.
I have left out the raisins, which I funnily enough don't like baked in things,
and have added maraschino cherries and a roll of marzipan inside.
Warm 250ml milk and make a yeast bread starter with 2 cubes of yeast,
some flour and a bit of sugar til it starts to get bubbly.
Then add 200 gr. sugar, 1 kilo flour, 400 gr melted butter, 1tsp salt,
1 lemon rind, 1 tsp macis or nutmeg, 1tsp cardamon, ½ cup of rum.
Knead for 10 minutes and let it rise for 50.
Add 75 gr each of corinths and chopped almonds,
100 gr each of zitronat and orangeat,
and a few drops of bitteralmond oil and 10 maraschino cherries cut into quarters.
Mix gently to combine and let it rise another 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200'
Divide the dough into 2 ovals. Roll out a marzipan sausage
and lay it in the middle. Line the baking tin with baking paper.
Fold the stollen assymetrically and bake for 20 minutes.
Turn down the heat to 160' and bake for another hour.
When they've cooled enough to handle,
more melted butter on top and dust plentifully with powdered sugar.
Hide them away for 3 weeks in a cool place til ready to celebrate.
I love the thought of all of the exotic ingredients
that came from very far away to be baked into this
special sweet. Be it cinnamon or mace, almond or sugared citrus peels,
rum, even raisins could have come from afar, brought by foot or camel
or wooden boats at great expense and danger
(your money or your life at dagger point-
a more ernest version of Trick or Treat)
over mountain passes and through deserts from foreign places
to central Europe to bake wonderful things
in honor of the King.