Holiday Bread: Stollen

This bread is a very old German Christmas bread that I have never heard of until this Christmas. My son came home from work raving about this wonderful fruity bread filled with dried fruit and topped with a blizzard of powdered sugar that he had tried that day. I was intrigued.

I was challenged!

It sounded somewhat familiar too.

So I started digging, like Indiana Jones going through ancient parchments, through my myriads of baking books. Sure enough I started finding recipes. Then I went on-line. Yep, Stollen…stollen…stollen. Seems like there are as many Stollen recipes as there are bakers. Some are dryer, aged bread while others are a little bread holding together loads of fruit. They all pretty much hold true to a unique shaping created about 500 years ago that is somehow supposed to represent the Christ child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Sure. I’ll eat that.

So while I really don’t know that you will want to try making your own Stollen when I am sure your nearby German market would have some, I am going to post the recipe anyway. Someday when I am dead-n-buried, someone somewhere might remember my Stollen bread and want to recreate it. Or not. I really put this in here so next year, when I cant remember what recipe I used, I can look back here and have that ‘ah-ha’ moment. That happens a lot.

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Unlike my first batch, this one turned out moister and softer. Also a wee bit taller.

First some notes. Many of the recipes call for candied orange or lemon peel or both. Our family is not very fond of those, but if you want to use them as part of your dried fruits, I have a recipe to make your own here. Othewise use whatever dried fruit combos float your holiday bread boat. I like golden raisins, chopped cherries and cranberries.  Some recipes call for more liquor than I use. Others call for lemon or orange zest. As you see, it’s all about flavorings. I have Fiori Di Sicilia from the King Arthur Bakers Catalog. It has a unique fruity aroma and flavor I love and hoard, using sparingly. It is perfect in this bread. That, the little bit of rum, the dried fruit, the Cinnamon Plus ( from Pampered Chef and made with nutmeg, orange peel and more) all add to the flavorings of your particular loaf. Chopped almonds are an option as well, not seen in many recipes but I like it. They are so thinly sliced that their presence is subtle. I tried mixing the fruit in at the beginning, but the dough did not like to rise very much and the resulting bread was heavier, denser. One recipe skipped the first proofing entirely, figuring, I guess, that the sponge was enough of a lift. I tried it, but like the texture of the extra rise time.

So, in essence: mix the sponge and let it raise, soak the fruit, mix the dough, raise, shape, raise, bake.

IMG_3001 (1024x765) (1024x765)

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Here I am pushing down the one side of the dough a bit after folding.
Here I am pushing down the one side of the dough a bit after folding.

IMG_3004

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IMG_3045 (1024x869)
Newest batch. Moist, flavorful, soft. I am in love.

Christmas Stollen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried fruits soaked in 2 Tbsp. rum and a little boiling water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon Plus (or cinnamon, nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (or your choice of lemon, orange flavorings)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2-4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, soft and cut into 12 pieces.
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • lots powdered sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak the dried fruit of choice in the rum with some boiling water for at least an hour. Then when ready to use, drain.
  2. You will make a ‘sponge’ out of the warm milk, sugar, yeast and 1 cup of flour by mixing it until smooth and letting it sit, covered, for 1 hour. It will be frothy. Unless you are using old yeast. Make sure your yeast is fresh.
  3. After the sponge is done bubbling, after the hour is up, you will make the dough. In a large bowl put the sponge, eggs, cinnamon/nutmeg, any flavorings you might be using, salt and 1 cup of flour. Beat until combined.
  4. Start adding the butter, pieces at a time either by hand or with a standing mixer.
  5. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the rest of the flour until the dough is smooth and just clears the sides of the bowl. Knead for a few minutes more, then oil the surface, put in a large bowl and let raise for about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Deflate the dough and put either in a bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl to add in the soaked fruit.Drain the fruit and start mixing into the dough. It will want to keep falling out, you just keep pushing it back in.
  7. Now cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  8. On a floured surface, cut the dough in half.
  9. Take half of the dough and pat or roll into a rectangle about 12×8 inches and about 1/2 inch thick.
  10. With a rolling pin, make a ditch or crease down the middle of the long side of the dough. Fold one side of the dough over the crease to the other side, not quite lining up the edges. Push the top flap/edge back over itself a little and press down all along its edge, making it like a ridge in the middle. Brush with butter.
  11. Do the same with the other piece of dough and brush with butter.
  12. Lay them on a parchment lined baking stone or, if using metal baking sheets, double them to insulate bottoms from burning.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and let raise for at least 1 hour or until not quite doubled in size.
  14. Twenty minutes before baking preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  15. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Try not to over bake.
  16. After removing from oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. After completely cool, dust heavily with powdered sugar.
  17. Cut into thin slices to serve.
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