Instead of the December 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge, I went back in time and decided to tackle the 2010 challenge, hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to make Stollen by adapting a friend’s family recipe and combining it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. 

Stollen is a traditional German Christmas bread that tastes fabulous and looks pretty. Made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough – candied orange peel and candied citrus are often also added – the bread-like fruitcake has changed from being a simple, fairly tasteless bread to a sweeter cake with richer ingredients over the centuries.

The shape of the cake was originally meant to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.  Some have Marzipan in the middle and others have Quark. This version is simple and does not have an overwhelming amount of fruit or nuts but it has a definite Christmassy feeling and will surely bring some festive cheer to your Christmas breakfast table, like it did to mine.

On this note, I’d like to wish Merry Christmas to my readers and subscribers. May the joy and peace of Christmas be with all of you! May your world be filled with warmth and love! May the stollen moments of today become treasured memories of tomorrow!

CHRISTMAS STOLLEN

Ingredients:

2 tbs (30 ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)

1 package (10 g) active dry yeast

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk

5 tbs (70 g) unsalted butter

3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon extract or orange extract

1/2 cup (100 g) mixed peel

1/2 cup (65 g) firmly packed raisins

6 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped)

1/2 cup (50 g) pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Melted unsalted butter, for coating the wreath

Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar, for dusting wreath

 

Method:

  • In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.
  • To make the dough, pour the lukewarm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes.

 

  • Stir to dissolve yeast completely. In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter.
  • Over medium – low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

 

  • Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
  • In a large mixing bowl (4 liters), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.

  • Then stir in the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes.
  • It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. Cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

  • Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit, cherries and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.
  • You can substitute the raisins with cranberries or other dried fruit and the lemon/orange zests with lime zest.

 

  • Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky.

  • Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency.

 

  • You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough.

 

  • When the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil.

 

  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge.
  • The dough will rise slowly, raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

  • Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

  • Punch dough down, divide into 2 parts so that one is larger than the other. Shape each portion into a cylinder.
  •  Set the shorter cylinder on top of the longer one and transfer to the sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

 

  • Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
  • Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.

 

  • Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. Wait for 1 minute.
  • Then tap another layer over the first. The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.

 

  • Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh – especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!

 

  • When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
  • The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly. Serves 10-12 people.

 

  • Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months.
  • Keeps well for 2 weeks at room temperature and one month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

 

Merry Christmas folks!

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