Recipe: Swiss Rice Tart for Easter

Discover a dairy-free version of a typically Swiss tart made for Easter with rice, vanilla, lemon zest and a thin layer of apricot jam.

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For our first Easter in Switzerland, I attempted a few dairy-free and egg-free Gâteau de Pâques. My experiments always looked bad, and the texture was never right. Honestly, I think some of it ended up in the trash. (Please note: For those of you still avoiding eggs AND dairy, I found an Easter tart recipe from aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse).

According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the first tarts in Switzerland resembling today’s Gâteau de Pâques (in French) or Osterfladen (in German) may have started as early as the 16th century, and several sources pinpoint Basel as the birthplace. These tarts typically contain either rice or semolina. At our local Suisse Romande bakery, the Gâteau de Pâques has semolina and a thin layer of apricot jam. One of the bakers I spoke with there said he preferred using semolina over rice because it makes a lighter cake.

I tend to prefer the semolina-based tarts, but for this year’s Gâteau de Pâques (which I can now make with eggs), I really wanted to tackle a rice-based tart—especially since my past attempts were so unsuccessful. My dairy-free recipe uses the apricot jam layer instead of the more traditional raisins (the thought of moist raisins mixed with sweet rice just isn’t appealing to me). Both of my sons loved this tart, so I’m finally ready to share my recipe below.


Gâteau de Pâques

Recipe adapted from cuisine de saison.
(dairy-free, nut-free)

Tools:
Tart pan, 24 cm (9-10 inches) diameter

Ingredients:
500 ml soy milk
60 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams rice (e.g., Camolino rice or risotto)
30 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
2 eggs, separated
about 320 grams prepared allergy-friendly pâte brisée (i.e., shortcrust pastry or pie crust)
100 grams apricot jam
powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

1. Stir together the soy milk, sugar and vanilla paste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then add the lemon zest. Stir in the rice. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes until the rice becomes tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Add parchment paper to a greased tart pan (using dairy-free margarine), and then place in the prepared pâte brisée. Trim the sides, if necessary. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places. Spread the apricot jam evenly on the prepared crust.

3. Melt the margarine, and stir it into the cooled rice mixture. Separately, beat together the two egg yolks, and then stir them in as well, until well-combined.

4. Separately, beat together the 2 egg whites with an electric mixture (it will take forever to do this by hand) until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Take the rice mixture and spread it evenly over the apricot jam in the prepared crust.

5. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes at 180°C/350°F until it’s set (it doesn’t wobble when you take it out) and lightly browned.

6. Once the tart has cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar (I made a quick bunny stencil with a sheet of paper, which I held down against the cake with some dried beans).

School vacation starts tomorrow, so I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques! Fröhliche Ostern! Buona Pasqua!

Swiss National Day of Allergy 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Today marks the seventh National Day of Allergy in Switzerland. Organized by aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse, this year’s event focuses on the relationship between allergies and skin, particularly during times of leisure, such as traveling or participating in sports activities. To increase awareness of allergies, aha! will be presenting images related to this year’s theme and sharing informational materials at seven train stations across Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Locarno, Lucerne and Zurich.

Image source: aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse

As part of its focus on skin, allergies and leisure in 2015, aha! is promoting several of its programs and activities related to this theme, such as its allergy-friendly camps for children and translation cards for traveling. Also, aha! offers training courses for parents of children with atopic eczema. At least two of these courses are planned for Suisse Romande this fall. Finally, aha! has lots of materials on allergies available via its website to help further this year’s message: “une bonne information et prévention pour une meilleure qualité de vie” (i.e., good information and prevention for a better quality of life).

For more information:

EAACI Allergy Awareness Campaign

Are you “trapped by allergy”? A new allergy awareness campaign has arrived in Europe that focuses specifically on food allergy and anaphylaxis during the next two months.

The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), which hosted the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting I attended in Dublin last fall, launched its allergy awareness campaign in June 2014. It started in Copenhagen, where EAACI hosted its annual congress, using a street marketing campaign that featured the message of people being “trapped by allergy.”

“Allergy is a condition that affects people’s lifestyle and ability to work. An allergic person can fear insignificant things with which we come into contact on a daily basis, such as plants, pets, insects, food or drugs, and this leads them to feel trapped in their condition.” —EAACI President Nikolaos G. Papadopoulos

For more information about the June 2014 launch of this campaign, check out EAACI’s press release or see the video below that highlights the street campaign in Copenhagen.


EAACI’s Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Wave

On March 9, 2015, EAACI released a third press release (the second press release focused on asthma) to begin the food allergy and anaphylaxis wave of its allergy awareness campaign.

In all, EAACI estimates that over 17 million Europeans have a food allergy. Furthermore, it reports that 1 out of every 20 children has at least one food allergy. Over the last decade, food allergy cases have doubled, with a 7-fold increase in the number of hospitalizations caused by severe allergic reactions. Given these numbers, EAACI finds that “more awareness and education is needed to improve management of food allergies and anaphylaxis.”

During March and April 2015, according to the campaign website, EAACI will have an online campaign targeting five countries: Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. It also plans to disseminate printed materials via primary care organizations, patient organizations, national allergy societies and pharmacist organizations.

What are your initial thoughts on EAACI’s allergy awareness campaign? I’m curious to hear what you think about it. Please leave a comment below, when you have the chance. I’ll continue to share information via Facebook and Twitter, as I learn more about this campaign.

Finally, if you are interested in getting involved with this EAACI’s campaign, check out the campaign website for additional resources and information.

Beware of Allergy

Food Allergy Support Groups in Switzerland

Outside of the doctor’s office, when you’re in need of some additional food allergy support and advice from people who can relate to your situation, there are several patient groups in Switzerland that can help. I’m highlighting three of them below—and each represents a different language—French, English or German.

Group’s name: Founded in: Primary language: How to find them:
Allergissima
2014 French
Switzerland Food Allergy Network 2015 English
  • Facebook
    (closed group)*
Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie 2011 German
  • Website (in German and English)
  • Facebook (closed group, “Forum  Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie”)*

*For Facebook’s closed groups, you can search for the group name while logged into Facebook and request permission to join the group.


Allergissima

Allergissima was started by Anita Fossaluzza Schopfer, who you may already know from the allergy-friendly cookbook she published in 2012: Recettes pour faire la nique aux allergies. Her son was originally diagnosed with 13 different food allergies. This organization is working to improve the quality of life for people living with food allergies and intolerances. Some example activities include organizing or participating in conferences and preparing articles or other written materials on food allergies.

You can learn more about Allergissima by visiting its website, Facebook page or sending an email to info@allergissima.ch.


Switzerland Food Allergy Network

Of these three support groups, Switzerland Food Allergy Network is the newest one. Using a closed group on Facebook, it allows members to join and share information privately about current research, allergy-friendly restaurants and allergist recommendations, for example. Ali, an American who lives in the canton of Vaud, started the group to help connect with other English-speakers living with food allergies in Switzerland. She has a 4-year old son who was diagnosed with 18 different food allergies at 10 months of age.

To request membership to the Switzerland Food Allergy Network, you can do so by searching for the group’s name via Facebook.


Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie

I’ve written about Verein Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie (i.e., “Peanut allergy and anaphylaxis club“) before, as this group’s founder, Angelica Dünner earned an aha! award in October 2014 from the Centre d’Allergie Suisse. Like the other group’s founders mentioned above, she is also the mother of a child with food allergies. This group provides information for and about food allergy sufferersprimarily individuals with peanut allergy and those who experience anaphylaxisand for parents of children with such allergies.

For more information about this group, you can visit their website, request membership to their closed group via Facebook (“Forum Erdnussallergie und Anaphylaxie”) or contact them directly with your questions.


Additional resources
:

  • In Switzerland, if you would like to start your own food allergy support group or locate existing groups, you can contact La Fondation Info-Entraide Suisse, which helps people who want to start self-help groups for a variety of health-related topics.
  • In the United Kingdom, Allergy UK maintains a support contact network of individuals who can provide support and advice to people living with food allergies.
  • In the United States, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has information to help people start their own support groups or you can use its online search tool to identify existing support groups in your area.

If you know of any other food allergy support groups in Switzerland, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Finally, you may have seen that I’m raising funds for Allergy UK by running in the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon in October 2015. Is there any chance you would consider sponsoring me? If so, I would really appreciate it if you would make an online donation via my JustGiving page. Thanks in advance for your help!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

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An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

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According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Swiss Allergy Center: Summer and Fall Camp Programs for Children and Teens

aha! summer camp 2014

Site of the aha! camp program in Davos Klosters (Photo courtesy of aha!)

Are you looking for a summer or fall camp for your child with food allergies? If so, aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse is once again hosting several camp programs for children ages 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years.

For several years, I attended a weekly summer camp in Minnesota, and I think programs like this create memories for a lifetime. Kids get the opportunity to make new friends and enjoy the outdoors, while learning how to be independent from their parents for a week (and now I see how it’s a nice break for parents too!). It’s great that aha! is sponsoring programs to make camp accessible for children and teens with allergic diseases, such as asthma, atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Located in the Swiss Alps, these camps have staff trained to deal with food allergies, such as responding to severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Also, there’s a dietician to help plan safe and nutritious meals for those with food allergies and intolerances. With this support system in place, children and teens with allergic diseases get to have a wonderful camp experience, and parents have the comfort of knowing their children’s medical and dietary needs are being met.

Please see the table below for a quick overview of aha!’s various camps this summer and fall. For the first time this year, aha! will be offering a camp for French-speakers.

Camp d’enfants aha!

aha!kinderlager

aha!jugendcamp

Eligible ages 8-12 years 8-12 years 13-16 years
Language spoken French German German
Date Fall: Sunday, October 11 to Saturday, October 17, 2015 Summer: Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fall
: Sunday, October 4 to Saturday, October 10, 2015.
Summer: Sunday, July 26 to Saturday, August 1, 2015
Location Crans-Montana (Valais), elevation of 1500 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters Davos Klosters (Graubünden), elevation of 1100 meters
Cost* CHF 240 CHF 240 CHF 290

*For children and teens residing abroad, the cost will be CHF 350, if the individual is not covered by insurance in Switzerland.

For all of the camps listed above, the deadline for enrollment is four weeks prior to the start of the program. You can find the online registration form for each of these camps by clicking on the links provided above. If you have any questions, please contact aha! directly at 031 359 90 50 or info@aha.ch.

Tonight, my husband and I will attend aha!’s Benefizkonzert in Bern, which will raise funds for these camp programs. A big thank you to aha! for inviting me to this event. I’ll report back soon on this evening’s festivities, for a worthy cause!

Oral Food Challenge for Baked Milk: Passed

Baked Milk Food Challenge

My son’s final doses of baked milk

“Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it!” – From In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

On Thursday evening, I read In the Night Kitchen to my sons at bedtime. It’s one of my favorite children’s books. I hadn’t planned on it, but I when came across the brown-hued cover on the bookshelf, it seemed appropriate timing considering our plans for the morning—my son’s physician-supervised oral food challenge for baked milk.

This would mark his sixth food challenge, and I feel the same way every time—nervous, worried, happy and excited. After our unsuccessful attempt at baked milk back in July 2014, when my son refused to eat all the required doses of cake, we decided to try a new approach. This time, as recommended by his pediatric allergist, I modified the recipe and baked the cake at home.

I’m elated to report that my son “passed” the challenge with a negative result—no reaction whatsoever. This is huge. I baked Zopf with milk and butter for my family on Sunday, and we all ate it together. My hope is that every child with a milk allergy can get to this point. We feel so incredibly lucky once again.


Why is baked milk okay?

When milk is extensively heated (i.e., baked), the proteins change somehow so my son’s immune system no longer considers it an allergen. From the various articles I’ve seen and our own experience, the heating standard for food challenges with baked milk is generally 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. One recent study estimates that the majority (75 percent) of children with cow’s milk allergy can tolerate eating baked milk products, like cake and bread. Another study has found that consuming baked milk products helps to increase children’s tolerance for drinking unheated cow’s milk.

Sources:

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Have you participated in a baked milk food challenge? What was your experience?  Please leave a comment below.

My son will have another milk-based challenge coming up this spring. More details soon… In the meantime, I’m making sure he has baked milk in some form every day until then. I’m thrilled to be baking with milk and butter again!

Thanks for your continued support and advice! I hope you’re getting some good news about food allergies too.

Updated: If you would like the recipe I used for the baked milk challenge, please send me an email for more information. February 2, 2015.

Swiss Allergy Label: A Special Certification for Allergen-Free Products

aha! label soy yogurt

When food products contain (or may contain) potential allergens, federal laws in Switzerland require that companies clearly disclose this information on food labels. In comparison, when a company wants to disclose that its products are free from these same allergens, Switzerland has a private certification process overseen by Service Allergie Suisse.

Over time, I’ve noticed this label on several food products we routinely purchase for my son and wanted to know more about it. Here are the questions I had about the Swiss Allergy Label and the answers I found, based on information obtained from the Service Allergie Suisse website and an email I received from this agency in August 2014.

Please note: The information shown below, particularly the number of certified products and the companies that produce them, is meant to provide a snapshot of this program at a particular period of time. For the most current information, you can visit the Service Allergie Suisse website or subscribe to its News Service.


When did the Swiss Allergy Label start?

The Swiss Allergy Label program was started in 2006 by Service Allergie Suisse, a private independent agency based in Bern.


What is the purpose of the Swiss Allergy Label?

The focus of Service Allergie Suisse is on “consumer goods and services that are produced, labeled and sold with particular consideration given to allergy and intolerance problems.”

According to the email I received from Service Allergie Suisse, three independent authorities evaluate every product being considered for this allergen-free certification. For food products in particular, companies must also demonstrate that they have systems in place for quality control and allergen management. Finally, there are regular re-audits to ensure ongoing compliance.


How many products have earned the Swiss Allergy Label?

On January 13, 2015, I found 173 products listed on the Service Allergie Suisse website, as shown below.

Table: Number of products with the Swiss Allergy Label by category

Product category Number of products
Food  84
Cosmetics  46
Textiles  24
Household appliances  8
Washing and cleaning agents  8
Technical products (e.g., air filters)  3
Medical products  0
Total  173

Source: Obtained from the Service Allergie Suisse website on January 13, 2015; http://www.service-allergie-suisse.ch/257/product-categories/?oid=1464&lang=en.


Which companies have products with the Swiss Allergy Label?

Currently, the 14 companies listed below have products that have earned the Swiss Allergy Label:

In terms of food products, the vast majority of these products are sold by Migros. Based on my search, it appears that Coop has fewer than 10 food products from its own “Free From” line that have been certified by Service Allergie Suisse.


What services have been certified with the Swiss Allergy Label?

In addition to certifying products, the Swiss Allergy Label can also be applied to services, including catering and gastronomy. At this time, two companies have been certified for such services: (1) Menu and More for catering and (2) Migros for gastronomy. Menu and More is active in catering meals for children and adolescents, according to the email I received from Service Allergie Suisse. Since October 2014, Migros has expanded it range of certified products, and you can find these products in dozens of its locations (click here for the complete list).

For more information about the requirements for restaurants to receive this certification, please review this summary document from Service Allergie Suisse.


Are you familiar with the Swiss Allergy Label? Do you have products in your home certified under this program? I’m interested in any feedback you may have about this program, so please leave a comment below if you have something to share. Many thanks!

Updated: January 15, 2015

Recipe: Swiss-French Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Raisins

It’s that time of year again, when I try to serve more vegetables to my family after weeks and months of feasting on baked goods—and I’m usually the worst offender!

My latest plan involves trying to work vegetables into all three meals, and ideally in at least two dishes. For breakfast, that means scrambled eggs with spinach. At lunch or dinner, we’ll have a salad and steamed green beans with lemon, for example. With more and newer options, I’m hoping my kids’ interest increases so they actually like eating vegetables, instead of viewing them as a necessary evil.

After a recent Sunday walk, I tried out a new a new red cabbage salad recipe from a local Swiss-French cookbook. I served it as part of leisurely brunch during our last day of the holiday break. My husband, who usually HATES mayonnaise, liked this salad. Unprompted, my 7-year old said it tasted good after his first bite. My 3-year old gave it a thumbs up, but I think he really only liked (and ate) the raisins, to be perfectly honest. We’ll keep this cabbage salad in our mealtime rotation, and I’ll have to try another one I saw recently from Migros’ Saison.ch made with orange juice (here’s yet another salad recipe with cabbage, orange and fennel that also looks good).

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Sunday walk on Mount Vully


Salade de Chou Rouge (Red Cabbage Salad)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free)

Serves 6-8

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Salad:
500 grams red cabbage (about 1 cabbage)
1-2 apples, diced
about 1/2 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)
Optional: finely chopped chives and lettuce leaves

Sauce:
100 ml vegan mayonnaise (use really mayo if you can!)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips and place in a large bowl.

2. Prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and toss until well-incorporated.

3.Stir in the raisins and diced apple(s). Best served the same day. Top with chopped chives and serve with fresh lettuce leaves, if desired.

For 2015, we have lots to look forward to in terms of managing my son’s milk allergy, like a food challenge next week and starting school in August. I hope you do too! Happy New Year, and Bonne Année, everyone!

Recipe: Swiss Stollen for Christmas

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For Christmas this year, I’ve started making Stollen. This rich yeasted cake originated in Germany, but you can find it in our Suisse romande bakeries and grocery stores (and I assume it’s even more readily available in German-speaking Switzerland).

I adapted a recipe from Croqu’menus—the Swiss cookbook students use in public school classrooms—so it’s dairy-free for my son. The dough is studded with raisins, flaked almonds and candied lemon and orange peel. My favorite part is the log of almond paste that spans the length of the cake.

store window stollen

Swiss Stollen at a local bakery

Dating back centuries, the Stollen’s oval shape supposedly resembles the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. In particular, Dresden, Germany seems to be the international epicenter for this special Christmas cake. For more information about the history of the Stollen, the Food Network has compiled a quick summary.


Marzipan vs. Almond Paste

Stollen recipes vary, but from what I’ve seen, they often contain marzipan. For the first one I made, I used marzipan. Soon after, I came across a very helpful post from The Kitchn comparing marzipan and another similar product, almond paste. Before, I thought these products were the same thing, but when I visited our Swiss grocery stores, I noticed two different products to choose from: marzipan and pâte d’amandes.

My Swiss recipe calls for pâte d’amandes, which I used in my second batch of Stollen, and I thought the consistency was better than marzipan. The pâte d’amandes seemed a little softer and less sweet. I think you can certainly use marzipan, but I prefer the almond paste—even though they only have a slight difference both in taste and appearance.


Stollen de Noël

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 268).

Makes two loaves

Dough:
150 ml milk substitute (I used soy milk)
20 grams fresh yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
300 grams all-purpose flour (and about an extra 1/4-1/2 cup for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt

Dried fruit and nut mixture:
5 tablespoons raisins (I used golden raisins)
5 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, chopped
1 tablespoon candied orange peel, chopped
2 drops of almond extract (essence d’amandes amères)

Filling:
100 grams almond paste (pâte d’amandes; marzipan works too if you can’t find almond paste)

Topping:
50 grams dairy-free margarine
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

Instructions:

1. Add the fresh yeast to the soy milk and sugar. Let is set for a few minutes and then stir until completely dissolved. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the egg and spoonfuls of the softened dairy-free margarine. Stir together until a soft dough forms.

3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Please note: The dough is very soft and sticky to start, but be patient. Add some flour to prevent sticking, but only a little at a time. Try not to add too much so it stays nice and soft. I even use Paul Hollywood’s dough-throwing method for this recipe, because the dough is difficult to handle at first.

4. When the dough is ready, quick knead in the fruit and nut mixture, along with the almond extract, just until well incorporated throughout the dough. Please note: I find it easier to do this final knead back in the bowl, rather than on a flat surface.

5. Place the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

6. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll each of the two pieces of dough out and make two ovals about 1-inch (3 cm) thick.

7. Divide the almond paste in half, so that each piece weighs about 50 grams. Using your hands, roll the paste into 2 logs measuring a little less than the length of the two ovals. Place them in the center of the ovals. Fold the dough in half, covering the log of almond paste.

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8. Cover the loaves in plastic and let rise for another hour or so.

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9. Melt the margarine and brush some over the loaves, saving about 2/3 of the margarine for two additional coatings—the second about halfway through the baking process, and the third and final coating brushed on after the loaves are out of the oven, but still warm.

10. After the first coating of margarine is brushed on, bake the loaves at 200°C/400°F for about 20-30 minutes, until the loaves have developed a deep brown color. About halfway through the baking process, give them another coating of margarine.

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11. Take the loaves out of the oven, and while still warm, brush the rest of the margarine over them. Let them cool on a wire rack.

12. After the loaves have cooled, mix together the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and coat the loaves generously with this mixture. Store them tightly wrapped in plastic. Tie them with a ribbon for a perfect holiday gift! Best eaten the first day or two after baking.

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I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015! Please check back the week of January 5th for my next post. Joyeuses fêtes, et bonne année!

Save the date: January 27, 2015 – Benefizkonzert der stiftung aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse in Bern