Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Speculaas Carrot and Apple Bread with Tipsy Raisins

The season is upon us. Not sure about you Dear Reader, but for me the best part of the holiday is getting ready for it. And by that I do not refer to holiday shopping, decorations, and Christmas crackers, no no no no no. It's the list. The List. The list of all dishes I am going to cook during the holiday break. And it's like THIS looooooong.

My daughter does not believe in Santa anymore. But I do. And I am a VERY nice believer. I do not bother Mr. Claus with presents; no need for pretty shoes or fancy kitchen equipment, no need to come down the chimney at all; all I want from the Old Man is to gift me the time and stamina to pull The List off. It's a mighty admirable task, a culinary Ironman so to speak, and I need all the help I can get.

No. 1 item on the list is the Christmas cake. Mine is from Sri Lanka and it can tell stories. As always, I made three cakes in August, and left them to age in the darkness of the pantry. (Note to self -- check one item as completed. Thank God.)

No. 2 is the duck soup. The soup is an annual Christmas tradition my little buddy Prince Filippos and I started seven years ago, and traditions must be honored.

No. 3 is speculaas. And by that, I mean the bread not the cookie. This one is for Miss Pain -- she is a worshiper of anything dusted with speculaas spice. We've abandoned the cookies a long time ago, since the bread is so much yum. Think of an uber-moist carrot apple loaf, loaded with speculaas spice and tipsy with rum raisins. We even have a pan fit for this dish; it's beautifully ornamented, just like the cookie, so that my little creation rightfully carries its name. (By the way, did I mention that you can mix the spice yourself? If you put it in a fancy jar and tie a ribbon around it, makes for a helluva Christmas present.)

No. 4, 5, 6  Speaking of breads, I will also bake the Guinness bread and the fougasse, to go with all the cheese and sausages we will eat during the holidays. And Jim Lahey's no-knead bread. Everyone is raving about it and it's about the time I give it a try. Although, I do not get why no-knead is such a big deal? Isn't kneading the best part of bread-making. It's relaxing, meditative, and good for toning the arms. As far as I am concerned, I could knead the entire holiday and be happy about it.

No. 7, 8, 9, ... , 786, 787  Pickled prunes (this recipe on Food52 is carved in stone), Paula Wolfert's kofte tagine, pannettone, NOPI's butternut squash with ginger tomatoes and lime yogurt, and this (because it's a mighty awesome dish and I have not made it in a long time). Candied pecans. And these candied pecans too. And the bread house, for kids to decorate. I am doing banana this year, instead of gingerbread. (And going bananas in the process.)

No. 788  Oh, I forgot, I want to cure salmon. I want to cure it in Lapsang Souchong and serve it with horseradish pannacotta. Ha!

Now you see why The List is the best part of the holiday. The List is a blaze. It's the wishful thinking, the adventure of hunting for rare ingredients, the anticipation of how a delicacy will turn out, the excitement of cooking something new, the profound sense of comfort in tasting an old favorite, and the sense of deep veneration that comes with the dishes we get to eat only once in a year. The List is all of that and so much more!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not always make it to No. 788. But that's OK. That's what the lists are for; just like New Year's resolutions, they are meant to be broken. But no matter how many items remain uncrossed, the glorious feeling remains.

What will you make this holiday? Drop me a note, I would love to hear. And who knows, maybe it will end up on my list next year.

I am checking out for the year. (I know, I always say that and then end up posting something on December 31.) But just in case, have a great one guys! And remember the oh-so-wise words from The Polar Express:

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Happy Holidays!

Speculaas Carrot and Apple Bread with Tipsy Raisins

dry ingredients 

* 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 3 tsp baking powder
* 1 tbsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
* 1/2 tsp ground cloves
* 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
* 1/4 tsp ground ginger
* 1/2 tsp salt

wet ingredients, first pass 

* 1 cup sweet butter, melted
* 1 cup Turbinado or medium brown sugar
* 3 medium eggs
* zest of half orange
* 1 tsp vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)

wet ingredients, second pass 

* 10 oz shredded carrots
* 10 oz shredded apples
* 3/4 cup Thompson raisins
* 4 tbsp rum

* about two teaspoons of softened butter and some flour for greasing the pan


* one 8x4-inch loaf pan

In a small bowl, combine the raisins with the rum and 4 tablespoons of warm water. Soak, until the raisins are plump and most of the liquid has been absorbed, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 360F (335F convection).

Grease the loaf pan with butter and dust with flour. Shake off the excess flour.

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

In another bowl, mix together melted butter and sugar. Gently beat the eggs and add them to the mixture. Add the orange zest and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Slowly add the butter and egg mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix gently until combined. Add the apples, carrots, and raisins and mix until fully incorporated. Try not to overmix the cake.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool before taking it out from the pan.


  1. Postovana!
    Napravila sam tri komada ovog kolaca. Fin, mirisan, pravi praznicni...
    Jedini problem je kolicina putera izrazena u soljama. Zasto, u zagradi, ne dodate i mere u gramima za nas koji Vas pratimo iz Evrope?
    Sve najbolje, Tijana

    1. Tijana, potpuno ste u pravu. Previse sam Amerikanizovana :) Doduse ovaj kolac je jako dobrocudan i ne trazi veliku preciznost, tako da su solje prihvatljive. Ne bih nikada to uradila da su u pitanju vanilice ili neki od nasih sitnih kolaca. Puno pozdrava i srecni praznici!

  2. Merry Christmas, Saska! And here's to three more halves in 2019 - Chris

    A crunchy peppermint cookie my family makes every year:

    Pfeffernusse ("feff-err-noos")
    1 c. sugar
    1 c. butter
    1/2 c. molasses
    1/2 c. white karo
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. cloves, ground
    1/2 tsp. allspice
    1/4 tsp. ginger
    1/4 tsp. salt
    Boil gently 5 minutes, cool, then add:
    1 egg, beaten
    1 tsp. soda
    1/3 c. buttermilk
    1 tsp. oil of anise
    Work in flour to hard stage (7-8 cups w/ mixing spoon)
    Roll into thin strips, chill overnight, slice thin
    Bake in 275-325 F oven until set, lightly brown (7-10 min)
    Dust with powdered sugar, store in tightly closed jar (keeps well)

    1. Chris, I loved your photo and the recipe card, it made my day. Thank you. My mom used to write her recipes like that. We are having an international bake-a-thon in the mountains and I am going to add these to the list. (Just need to find white karo). Happy Holidays!!!


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