Stollen

Stollen can be tricky. It can turn out too heavy, too dry, not spicy enough, outright boring. Commercially baked ones often override the latter by adding lots and lots of sugar, but that doesn’t do it for me.

I’ve experimented with traditional yeast dough, the Dresdener Stollen variety (a half-way-house between yeast dough and short pastry), with and without marzipan… Crucially, the German recipes specify live yeast, and that’s something not easily obtainable in England. And typically, German recipes have very long rising times in cold conditions, which is where I was stumped for years, trying it with dried yeast and being lazy (or impatient?) by using a breadmaker for the initial rise.

I’m not saying that this one is ‘perfect’, but it gives my best effort yet. It’s a complete hybrid between the Dresdener Stollen and the Christstollen out of ‘Bayerisches Kochbuch’ (1998, Birken-Verlag GMBH) and Christstollen from ‘Biologisch Kochen und Backen’ (1986, ECON Taschenbuch Verlag), plus my own desire for lots of flavour and fruit.

To start the dough off, add in order to the bread maker tin:

2 teaspoons dried yeast
400 g plain white flour or a mix of plain and white bread flour
100 g ground almonds
(can be replaced by flour if you prefer)
175 g butter
3 eggs
150 mL milk
100 g runny honey
zest of one lemon
spices (cinnamon, coriander, maze, almond essence – to taste – be generous)

In the bread maker, a dough mode that lasts 3 – 3¼ h works well. If you don’t use a bread maker, follow instructions for any rich dough recipe with dried yeast with these ingredients and let it rise at room temperature for several hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the additional ingredients:

150 g candied citrus peel (get chunks from the whole food shop and chop them yourself, the ‘chopped mixed peel’ variety disappoints with lack of flavour)
200 g sulanas or sultanas mixed with raisins (soak them in rum for a week before use)
100 g hazelnuts (freshly chopped)
150 g almonds (freshly chopped

If you want a richer (slightly heavier) Stollen, increase the amount of fruit and/or nuts you use (favourite with me).

Some people like to find of marzipan in the middle of their Stollen. If you are among them, you’ll need around 200 g, either home-made or bought.

Once the initial rise is done, knock back the dough and knead in the fruit and nuts. At this point you can adjust the consistency with a little flour or fluid (milk/rum). I tend to keep it on the tacky side, rather than making it overly dry.

Leave the dough to rise cold (in a larder/cellar/unheated spare room/hallway) overnight.

The next day, knock back the dough and shape the Stollen. For that, the dough is rolled out to make a disc (could be an oblong if you want a thinner, longer Stollen) of around 5 cm thickness. If you use marzipan, form it into a ‘saussage’ just short of the length of your finished Stollen (diameter at this point) and place it across the disc/oblong. Wet the outer edge of the disc/oblong and fold the top ‘half’ over the lower half. The top can be slightly short, so that there is a ‘step’ in the shape of the finished Stollen. Press gently together.

Let the Stollen rise for a couple of hours at room temperature, until the dough ‘rebounds’ when pressed gently.

Bake the Stollen on a buttered baking tray in a pre-heated oven (180ºC) for 1 hour or so – until it has a nice golden colour, but no browning. Tap it to find out whether it’s baked through, it should have that slightly ‘hollow’ ring…

Once out of the oven, leave it on the tray and immediately cut a generous wedge of butter and lather the Stollen with it all over, several times, melting into the crust. Once it is nicely moist, immediately dust the Stollen with icing sugar. The icing sugar should stick to the Stollen with the butter.

Let the Stollen cool and store it for a few days in an air-tight container, so that the flavours can mingle and balance. Before serving, give it another generous dusting with icing sugar, unless you are like me and don’t like that thick sugary layer.

Stollen is great in winter, not just for Christmas!

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