Last Thursday was my daughter’s nameday. When I was pregnant with her, I was for some reason positive that I was carrying a boy and when discussing names for our firstborn, we picked a name for a boy but never settled on a name for a girl. And than the baby was born, a little early, and it was a beautiful girl and the nurses kept asking what name they should put in her papers. And in my foggy post-delivery brain, there was only one girl’s name I could remember: Esther. I checked with my husband and he agreed and so it became Esther.The name is originally Persian and means a star. It proofed to be so fitting that I always felt that it was not a name given by us, but that it simply was meant to be her name all along. Even as a baby, she had amazingly bright, star-like eyes and it was not just us, her biased parents, who thought so. Now she is thirteen and a beautiful person, compassionate and full of love besides being a very bright student.
This star bread is something I started baking for Esther’s nameday many years ago. It fits nicely not just with her name, but also with the season, her nameday being less than a week before Christmas. The star shape is cut from an enriched dough and filled with a mixture of hazelnuts and raisins, scented with the seasonal cinnamon and orange zest flavors. It’s only sweetened with honey and dried raisins,no sugar. If you don’t have a girl named Esther in your family, this would make a great Christmas Day breakfast.
To simplify, you could omit the filling and just make unfilled star-shape bread, decorated with small star shapes.
Have a very merry Christmas!
Christmas Star Bread with Hazelnut-Raisin Filling
Adapted from Vreni de Jong: Wat eten we vandaag
500 g (4 cups) all-purpose or unbleached flour
½ tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp honey
300 ml milk, tepid
50 g (½ stick) cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
50 g butter, at room temperature
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp ground cinnamon
125 g (1cup) hazelnuts
50 ml whipping cream
90g (2/3 cup) dark raisins
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Make the dough:
Keep about 100 g flour apart and put the rest in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the milk (the milk must not be too warm or the temperature will kill the yeast), add sugar or honey. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the warm milk. Mix in some of the flour to make a sponge in the middle of the bowl. Slice the butter and put the slices around the sponge (the warmth of the sponge will soften the butter slightly and make it easier to incorporate) and sprinkle the salt on top of the butter. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave for about 20 minutes, until bubbles have formed. Then mix everything together and knead until the dough feels silky and smooth. Add as much of the flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, but no more ( you will probably not use all the flour). Cover the bowl and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, an hour or more depending on the room temperature. Because of the butter content, it is better to let the dough rise in a room that is too warm.
Meanwhile, make the filling.
Cream butter with honey, orange zest and cinnamon. Finely grind the hazelnuts and add them to the butter mixture, stir well. Add the cream and stir to loosen the mixture. Finely chop the raisins and add them to the rest. Keep the filling at room temperature, so that it remains spreadable.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 F) Draw a 5- point star with a 30 cm (12 inches) diameter on a piece of cardboard (I do this free hand, but if you’d like here’s a tutorial). Divide the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured surface. Place the rolled out dough on a baking sheet, lined with parchment. Put the star on top of the dough and cut the shape out. Add the remaining pieces of dough to the other half. Roll out a circle slightly bigger than your star. Place the star on top and cut out the second star, cutting about 1 cm from the edge, so that the second star is slightly bigger. Spread the filling on the smaller star, leaving a free edge of about 1 cm (½ inch). Brush the edge with water. Put the bigger star on top, pressing gently to seal the edges. Roll out the reaming dough and cut out small stars for decoration. Brush the star with the egg yolk and decorate with the smaller stars, then brush them with the glaze, too.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden. Let cool on a wire rack.