St. Nicholas is referred to by many names throughout Europe such as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands (as we learned in yesterday´s post) or Nikolaus in Germany. On the night of December 5th, children put their shoes or a special St. Nicholas´ boot ("Nikolausstiefel") in front of the fireplace or the front door to find them filled with traditional, seasonal sweet treats, clementines, oranges, apples, nuts and small presents the next morning. on December 6th.
To mark this very special day, I always bake a traditional cake called “Bishop's Bread" – the name is somewhat of a misnomer as this is a cake rather than a bread, but I like the original name as it also refers to the fact that St. Nicholas was a bishop in his lifetime. There are not many special recipes for St. Nicholas´ Day, many of the special treats that we enjoy on December 6th are rather traditional Christmas cookies. To my delight, a few years back, I came across this traditional recipe when doing my usual food related research. This bread can be described as a breakfast cake, traditionally enjoyed on the morning of St. Nicholas` Day.
Bishop's Bread - Bischofsbrot
Ingredients for the Bishop´s Bread
- 6 eggs (M), separated (organic or free range if possible)
- 120 grams powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tsps. pure vanilla sugar
- 50 grams raw almonds, chopped coarsely
- 50 grams raisins, tossed in flour and shaken
- 50 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (try to go for 70% cocoa solids)
- grated rind of a lemon (organic, please)
- grated rind of an orange (organic, please)
- 125 grams AP (plain) flour, plus some for flouring the cake pan
- 1 ½ tsps. baking powder
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 40 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus some for buttering the cake pan
- powdered sugar for decorating (optional)
Preparation of the Bishop´s Bread
- Lightly butter a loaf pan, sprinkle with flour and shake out the excess.
- Separate the eggs and with a mixer cream together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn fluffy and pale yellow.
- Slowly add the vanilla sugar, the chopped almonds, the raisins, the chopped chocolate, the grated rind of the orange and the lemon. Combine well.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Beat all six egg whites until stiff.
- Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
- Fold the egg whites into the batter.
- Bake at 180 ° C (375 ° F) for about 50 to 60 minutes. NOTE: The cake is done when no imprint is left when finger-tested in the center.
- Cool the cake on a wire rack and decorate with powdered sugar (optional)
- The Bishop´s Bread will keep for up to two days if wrapped well.
- Chopped candied fruit can be added instead of the raisins.
- The cake pan that I used is a so-called "saddle-of-venison cake pan" (Rehrücken in Geman) but you can use a pound cake pan as well - if you would like to order it, you can find it online.
Like every year, our kids lined up their big winter boots last night and this morning, the boots miraculously were filled with cookies, fruits, nuts and a few small gifts. And, of course, milk chocolate coins - St. Nicholas is famous for his many acts of charity, one of which involved a poor distraught man who had three daughters and who couldn´t provide a proper dowry. As St. Nicholas learned of the plight, he came to their aid by throwing three small sacks of money through their window while they slept. The story sometimes includes the detail that the sacks landed in the womens' shoes... And I baked some traditional Kruidnoten (my recipe can be found here) that "doubled-up" with a lovely of layer of homemade marzipan (my recipe can be found here).
Have a nice St. Nicholas` Day! Euch allen einen schönen Nikolaustag!