Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Stollen

I'm a few days late, but Merry Christmas!! We had an absolutely wonderful Christmas here at the Leaven household - now we're preparing for the NYE festivities. I'm at the end of a glorious 4-day weekend, Mr Leaven had to go back to work today but swung by for a leftover lunch, and next Friday's another day off. We've spent so much time with family over the holidays so far, opening gifts at my brother's house on Christmas Eve then pigging out and playing games on Christmas Day here at our house. We volunteered to make Christmas dinner (instead of the usual potluck) because everyone's so busy and some of our beloved family members have been under the weather recently. Pics and recipes from the feast will follow, but for today we're talking about the Daring Bakers' challenge for December.


I finally really feel like a Daring Baker. The challenge was a special Christmas bread from Germany called stollen - I hadn't ever heard of it, but now I'm seeing them everywhere. They're usually loaf-shaped but the hostess suggested we try a wreath shape, perfect for the holidays. I did enjoy the challenge, though fruit in bread is not really my thing, and Joe loved the stuff. So did his co-workers and mine. This recipe makes a lot of Stollen.

Now, of course I omitted the raisins (because everyone knows raisins ruin everything they touch, as do bananas) and subbed dried cranberries, blueberries, and currants. Other than that, I think I was pretty faithful to the recipe as written. You don't mess around with baking recipes (at least I don't).

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.

Stollen Wreath

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

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (27 ozs) (770 grams) flour (plus extra for dusting)
½ cup  (115 grams) sugar
¾ tsp  (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 tsp (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
1 tsp (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract (I didn't have this so I used some lemon juice)
¾ cup (135 grams) mixed peel (I made my own - see below)
1 cup (170 gms) firmly packed raisins (or cranberries or currants or blueberries)
3 Tbsp (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional - I didn't use them)
1 cup (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
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 (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 350°F/180°C 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.


Yes, it's lopsided. It still tasted good.
 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.

Wow... I made that!
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.

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