It's the end of the month, a time when the Daring Bakers around the globe traditionally unveil the secret recipe they have been testing, baking and enjoying throughout the month. This month, the challenge was all about tradition. Christmas tradition, of course.
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie 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 is a traditional German cake, eaten during the Christmas season, when it is usually called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen. It is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and a selection of various dried fruits. Traditionally, candied orange peel and candied citrus peel, raisins, almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added to the Stollen dough. Other typical ingredients are milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum and eggs. Vanilla, and other dried fruits and nuts can be added too, as well as marzipan or Quark cheese. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar because the finished cake is brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with icing sugar in order to keep its freshness longer.
Since I missed out on few challenges over the past few months, I decided to participate in the December one, no matter what. You can imagine the look on my face when I discovered what we were supposed to bake. My husband did mention his inclination towards Panettone and Stollen over the last few years, but I never actually considered baking them just for him. Yes, yes... I'm a terrible wife, I know. Anyway, because of that and the fact that I have lately grown to like and consume dried fruit and nuts quite a lot, I decided to go ahead and dig into this Stollen business. Turns out I kind of liked it, too. It wasn't nearly as sweet or dry as I thought it would be, and the taste was fabulous! D. loved it as well and said that he could die a happy man now that he lived to see me baking a fruitcake. But, apparently, we were the only two people in the family that liked it. Since the wreath was huge, we took some to both my parents' and the in-laws for Christmas. The Stollen received some pretty strange looks followed by few ironic remarks and eventually never made it to to table. I suspect they never even tried it after we left. They don't know what they' re missing out on.
Christmas Stollen Wreath
2 packages (14 grams) active dry yeast or 30g fresh yeast
240 ml milk
140 grams unsalted butter
770 grams all-purpose plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
115 g sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
135 g mixed peel
170 g firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons rum
12 red glacé cherries for the color and the taste (optional)
100 grams flaked almonds
melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
powdered sugar for dusting wreath
Pour warm 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.
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.
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 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!