Sweet on Stollen

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Do you Atkins? If you’re even vaguely trendy, you’ve probably been counting carbs at every meal lately, and eating bowls of plain whipped cream for dessert. New York restaurants now offer those bowls without blinking.

But because God provided me with double the skeptic gene, I was naturally disbelieving when I first learned the details of the Atkins diet. The way I heard it, the idea for the first two weeks was to eat no fruit, only salad for veggies, Wendy’s bacon cheeseburgers without the buns, bacon and eggs, and yes, lots of whipped cream.
This didn’t sound altogether awful to me.

I love bacon and eggs, think everything is better with cream, crave salads, and, except for berries, can often take or leave fruit. (I have, though, sworn off of burgers that don’t come from my own kitchen.)
But two weeks of this? That sounded gut-wrenching, and foolish. After all, isn’t the idea when you want to lose weight to change your whole attitude about food, and not do some goofy fad diet?
Now, though, I’m starting to come around. Mention Atkins, and I’m bound to hear three testimonials in five minutes, many of which come from people I respect, and who have indeed changed their attitude about food. Then there’s been all the media coverage of the trend, including some in-depth stories with statistics that are hard to ignore.
The theory behind the diet isn’t as easy to explain as its counterpart (eat fat, get fat), which most of us have been trying to heed for years. In the simplest terms, it goes like this: The body will use carbs first for energy. Deprive it of carbohydrates, and you’ll burn fat instead.
That means cutting out many of the foods we’ve been told to focus on in the past 20 years, including pasta, bread, and rice.
This is where I get stuck. The principles of a low-carb diet may make sense, but do they really make for a fun life? In part, the answer is yes. Because you can be on Atkins and not feel hungry, many people prefer it to other diets — what fun to eat and still lose weight. And they claim less fatigue once they’ve made the switch.
But, especially as a baker, I can’t quite imagine a life without bread, and without some sweets. And no wine? After pregnancy and nursing, I’ve now gone through long stretches without wine, and it’s not the way I’d like to live the rest of my life.
So I start to feel ornery when I hear too much about this diet. It makes me want to run into the kitchen and start kneading. And I keep returning to Julia Child’s prescription for a long life: moderation in all things, and gin every day. Now there’s the diet for me.
If, in this short, iced-over holiday season, you can take a break from carb-watching, these recipes will be a grand place to start. Moderation means that in my family, stollen gets made once, maybe twice a year. And then, bring on the butter. Based on a recipe from my Grandma Kebschull, this German bread takes center stage on Christmas morning, butter-slathered and accompanied by steaming coffee. I can’t imagine that Dr. Atkins would have anything good to say about them (oh, the horrors of the candied fruit alone) — but your family certainly will.

Recipe: Stollen (and butterhorn rolls)

First published in the Independent Weekly, December 25, 2002

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