27 December 2010

Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Fresh from the oven Stollen loaf... sans rum and sugar coating
Being of more French heritage than German, I've never actually tasted Stollen. I've seen it occasionally at the market, but have never felt compelled to try it, probably because there are so many treats at every turn during the holidays. Now, I don't have the best track record when it comes to yeast breads (remember the brioche incident?), but I was still interested to give it a try. After all, I've got to conquer this thing at some point.

Because I have never tasted stollen, it was not until I actually read through the ingredient list that I noticed the similarities between this and the traditional hot cross buns we enjoy at Easter. A mildly cinnamon spiced bread dotted with candied citrus, cherries and almonds, the biggest difference between the two seems to be the rum and sugar coating that is typical of stollen.

nuts, candied citrus, raisins and cranberries - all in a spiced bread.  mmmmm.....
I used the recipe suggested by Penny, and it was really pretty straightforward. Make the sponge, let it rise, punch it down, add the fruit and let it rise again before baking. For a little bit of personality, I added some chopped candied ginger to mixture of candied citrus, and substituted dried cranberries for the cherries I didn't have in the house. As soon as the stollen loaves were in the oven, the kitchen took on the familiar smell of fresh hot-cross buns - all cinnamon and citrus peel. I took the freshly baked loaves from the oven and headed off to pack for our holiday vacation at my sister's in California.

As we had an early morning flight the next day, there was no time to taste my very first stollen. So, I wrapped it up with the rest of the cookies and baking I was bringing, and packed it all in my carry-on, wondering what, if any hassle I would get as I passed through security. It was only once we were at the airport that I realized I had forgotten to brush the loaves with rum and sprinkle them with sugar. I had two very naked loaves of stollen with me. {sigh}

We arrived in LA a few hours later, thankful for the uneventful trip. For breakfast the following morning, we sliced up the stollen and toasted it. It tasted exactly like cross buns. Had I not forgotten the rum and sugar coating, I imagine it would have tasted noticeably different, but we were more than pleased with the finished bread. I'm not sure if this will make it into my Christmas repertoire the way other new treats have over the years, but I suspect I will be returning to this recipe in a few short months for Easter, when I can enjoy it again in bun form.

Happy holidays to everyone. I wish you a Happy Hanukah, a Merry Christmas, and a Fantastic New Year!

Happy Baking!

Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.

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 ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) 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 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) 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. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
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 but 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 (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking:
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 equally and shape into 2 loaves
Mist the dough with spray oil and 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 for even baking 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…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm


Aparna said...

Your stollen looks just right. As for forgetting the sugar and the rum, maybe it made the stollen better? :)

Season's greetings and best wishes for a very happy new year.

Chris said...

This is a great recipe my dear. I will definitely try this at my Seattle Home. Thanks you for sharing this.

John said...

Perfect! this is great as i was looking for a nice bread recipe and found this. thanks for sharing it here.

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Mary said...

This is really quite lovely. While I visit often I usually don't comment and my NYR is to be a better communicator. I just wanted you to know how much I like the food and recipes you feature here. It is always a pleasure to visit. I hope the new year brings you health and happiness. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary