Christmas Stollen: my first Daring Bakers’ challenge

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December was my Daring Bakers’ maiden voyage.  Yes, there was champagne and confetti (though this is the way it always is around my house, so, the part about it being my first challenge was just a coincidence).

The Daring Kitchen is an online community of bloggers who “get together” each month and make a challenging baked good.  It’s very cloak and dagger.  Even though we get the recipe at the beginning of the month, it’s all hush hush until the reveal day when everyone presents the challenge via their blog.

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.

My first thought when the challenge was unveiled was, “kowabunga dude!”  My second: wait…stollen?  What is stollen?  And now I’v revealed that I don’t have a German bone in my body.

Stollen is sort of a fruity desserty holiday bread.  Yes, it’s a bread.

Okay fine. It’s fruit cake.  But not the nasty kind.

The yeast-based dough is slightly sweet, filled with fruit, candied citrus peel, slivered almonds and often, marzipan. And, as soon as I got to the citrus zest on the ingredients list, I was a convert.

Citrus zest and spices are added to a basic egg-based yeast dough recipe.

Then the real fun begins.  What goes in to one’s stollen is quite personal.  A quick peek into my pantry revealed that I happened to have dried cranberries and cherries on hand.  I re-hydrated these in some orange juice.  They were then joined by some candied orange peel I’d made the day before and slivered almonds.

Some time with the dough hook and my little bun was ready to proof over night in the fridge.

A day of grading BUAD-495 final papers and a visit to the dentist later, my dough and I were ready to get boogying.  Out of the fridge and another two hours of proofing yielded an impressive and insanely good-smelling bowl of dough.

Traditional stollen is made in loaf form (it is supposed to look like a swaddled baby Jesus).  However, those Daring Bakers’ are a little on the fancy side, so this recipe had the dough going the distance in the form of a wreath.  After a good-natured punching down, the dough was rolled thin.

And I added a rope of homemade marzipan.  I’m not including a link for the marzipan yet because I’m not entirely confident that I’ve mastered the recipe. More to come on my meanderings with marzipan.

Next, my dough and marzipan got tolled up into a big, fat, heavy log.

To get the log into wreath shape, I lined a baking sheet with parchment and placed a heat-proof bowl in the center. Then, I wrapped the dough log around the bowl, pinching the ends together.  This was followed by some snips to further articulate the wreath-shape.

Some more proofing commenced and then, into the oven until the dough was dark-golden.

But, we’re not done yet.  While still hot, I slathered the bread with alternating layers of melted butter and powdered sugar to form a sort of icing/preserver.  Speaking of preservers, the wreath was easily large enough to be utilized as a life preserver.

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I wrapped-up the cooled wreath and let it cure for a couple of days (this was very, very difficult to do).  After the 48-hour waiting period, we had arrived at the moment of truth.

If loving fruitcake is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

TD said it tasted like raisin bread.  However, most raisin bread isn’t  blanketed in a layer of crunchy yet tender icing.  This is not a light bread.  It is an eat a couple of pieces and then climb the Matterhorn sort of bread.  But with some patience, it was really fun to make.  A perfect first challenge for this virgin Daring Baker!

Stollen

Daring Bakers’ Challenge

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions:

Soak the raisins
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.

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 the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.  Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.  Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. 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.

Storage
The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

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