Since the beginning of September we have been determinedly preparing for Christmas. Long gone the days when, as children, my brother and I were forbidden to talk about Santa Claus until November.
In the bakery, we have been planning and executing Christmas logs for weeks. First the biscuit at the bottom, then the middle insert – a fine chestnut ganache or a passionfruit gelée – and finally the mousse. The freezers are small (space is limited in Paris for parks and bathtubs and commercial kitchens) and one of my most valuable skills is at the game of Puzzle, in order to find the space for one more log, a last stack of rum cakes into the chest freezers. That, and my unique ability to reach boxes down from the highest shelves. Like a superhero, me.
Besides these preparations one of my nicest colleagues has started on her Christmas presents. Just like for our rich moist rum cakes, the dried fruit in the stollen she is making has to be soaked for several months. Last year she gave away 25 of the sugar-dusted loaves, sweet with marzipan and the boozy fruit.
I love the idea: a universally appreciated Christmas cake, one that keeps and travels well. With 10 weeks to go (eek!) I might soak some fruit too, just in case I should miraculously find the time to bake stollen. Maybe not 25 of them. Worst case scenario, the dark rum perfumed with apricots, prunes and raisins can be skimmed off and used for Noel cocktails or added to hot grog with a little honey and lemon. Or the fruit could be stirred into icecream to make extra-special rum and raisin, or festive (alcoholic) pancakes or or or…
The recipe for stollen is still forthcoming, for the moment there is only the very easy:
Stollen, step 1
1 kg dried druit (raisins, apricots, prunes, cranberries, figs)
1 bottle dark rum (Negrita, for example)
Roughly chop the larger dried fruit (apricots etc). Tip all fruit into large container, cover with rum. (I used about three-quarters of the bottle.) Seal and leave for 2 months in a cool (not refrigerated) dark place.