and what better time than now, to enjoy Stollen. If you asked most people about Stollen, they would say " Oh no, I don't like fruit cake, not for me". That is because they have never tasted a good one or should I say an authentic one. You see, it is really a holiday German bread with a cake-like texture, which is due to the prodigious amount of butter in the dough. I vividly remember the first time I ate a real stollen; the dried fruits had been perfectly plumped before incorporating them into the yeasted dough, and the nuts had been lightly toasted to bring out their true flavor. My friend and fellow baker Michael London carefully taught me how to form the traditional shape. As you can see in Quentin Bacon's photo, the folded edge is prominent on the top of the stollen. That is the classic look which you rarely see anymore; anyone who really knows stollen will agree. You will see the photo I took of myself making this fold in the recipe below.
From Sarabeth's Bakery:From My Hands to Yours (Rizzoli, 2010)
Makes 2 loaves
In old New York, at Christmastime, bakeries sold stacks of paper-wrapped and beribboned stollen, the beloved German holiday bread. When I serve samples of fresh-baked stollen at the bakery, the customers’ faces light up with discovery. Once I served it and a customer asked what he was eating. “It’s stollen,” I said. With a straight face, he replied, “Well, you should give it back!” This recipe, inspired by pastry chef Dieter Schorner, is extraordinarily light and flavored with rum-scented raisins and other fruits and nuts.
BAKERS NOTE: This bread uses the “sponge” method of bread making. An initial thin dough is made with the some of the flour mixed with the milk and yeast, which gives the yeast a head start on developing flavor. The rest of the flour is added with the other ingredients to finish the dough. • The bread’s folded shape and sugary coating are said to represent the pure white swaddling clothes described in the Nativity story.
½ cup seedless raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ounce (2 packed tablespoons) compressed yeast or 3 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup warm (105° to 115°F) milk
2 ½ cups bread flour, divided, plus more as needed
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, well softened, plus more for the bowl
½ cup superfine sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Grated zest of ½ orange
¼ cup (1/3 -inch) diced dried apricots
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup (1/3-inch) diced dried pears
1/3 cup (1 ¼ ounces) toasted and coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup (1 ounce) toasted sliced almond
2/3 cup superfine sugar
Seeds from ½ plumped vanilla bean
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1. The day before baking the stollen, prepare the rum raisins. Place the raisins in a heatproof bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand until the raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Return to the bowl. Add the rum and vanilla and toss together. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours.
2. To make the stollen, crumble the compressed yeast (or sprinkle the dry yeast) over the warm milk in the work bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes, then whisk to dissolve the yeast. Add ¾ cup of the flour and stir well to make a thin, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the remaining flour, the butter, sugar, salt, almond extract, lemon zest, and orange zest. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed just until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, adding more flour if needed, about 3 minutes. Add the rum raisins, apricots, cherries, pears, pecans, almonds, and mix until they are incorporated into the dough. brown from the addition of the Gather up the dough and shape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large bow. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.
4. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Very gently shape each portion into a ball—do not knead the dough, as you want to retain its light texture. Place the balls on the floured work surface and cover each with a clean kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 45 minutes.
5. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Press one ball into a thick round about 7 ½ inches in diameter. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom. Starting about one-third from the bottom, using your thumbs, firmly press a deep semicircular trough in the dough, reaching almost through the dough (see photo below). This will keep the stollen layers from separating when baked. Transfer each to a prepared pan and cover with the towels. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes.
6. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Uncover the loaves and bake, switching the positions of the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until deep golden brown, almost walnut-colored, about 35 minutes. The stollen may look a shade darker than you might expect, but do not underbake them.
7. To make the coating, combine the superfine sugar and vanilla seeds on a half-sheet pan. until combined. Brush the hot stollen with warm melted butter. Roll each loaf in the vanilla sugar to coat well. Return to the pans and sprinkle with the remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. Generously sift confectioners’ sugar on top. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.)