When someone suggested that I try making a German Christmas Stollen bread, it occurred to me that while I knew I'd had Stollen when I was little, I couldn't for the life of me remember what it tasted like (other than that it was obviously sweet) or what the consistency of it should be. Was it a cakey bread? a bready bread? The suggestion was accompanied by a translated recipe for Stollen from Dr. Oetker (specifically from an old Dr. Oetker recipe book) and, while yeast and I are not friends, the lack of yeast and the proportions of some ingredients in this particular recipe seemed a bit odd to me, so I decided to look up Dr. Oetker and see if there was an official "interwebs" version of the Dr. Oetker Stollen; indeed there was. The two recipes were comparable except for a few of the measurements including those relating to baking soda and baking powder.
As I am skeptical of my bread-making abilities at the best of times and under the most auspicious circumstances, I decided to go with the official web version rather than the translated version. I made a few very minor changes here and there: I added cranberries instead of currants and no candied peels as A. is not fond of them and, while I like them in some instances (e.g. coated in chocolate), in baked breads they make me think of English fruit cake which, frankly, I loathe. I also didn't put the butter and icing sugar on at the end, as I traditionally should have done, mostly because as I didn't know how sweet it was going to be, I didn't want to oversweeten it to my and A.'s taste buds by adding the icing sugar coat on the exterior. For us this turned out to be a wise move.
I don't know if you can picture me in my kitchen, Baby Saffron behind me in an entertainer which she now manages to scoot in around the floor, always trying to reach my legs so she can wrap her arms around them, so that while I was kneading this thing together and trying to incorporate these massive quantities of dried fruit, I was pushing the entertainer back with one leg, stretching it back as far as it could go to get my little girl back to her starting point. Did I mention that at the speed she attains and with the uncanny persistence we now have come to think as characteristic of her, I have to push her back to her point of origin about every two minutes?
So here I am, having made this Stollen, "slaved" over it, pushed back the little one over and over and over again. And then it's in the oven baking. And then I pull it out, it smells quite wonderful actually, and I leave it to cool without putting the butter and icing sugar coat on it. And then it's a bit later and I'm sitting on the stairs leading into the kitchen with Baby Saffron, speaking to A. about something while he organizes food on the counter to make dinner, his back to me. I look down briefly to fuss with some item of clothing on her, and when I look up, A. has turned around and is standing in front of me, stuffing a piece of Stollen in his mouth. When I say to him "did you cut the Stollen?" and he realizes in a split second that he has committed the cardinal sin for a food blogger's spouse, he hastily clamps his mouth shut, puts his hand behind his back, and shakes his head no. I laugh, go look at the cut (like it was a pie, people, rather than a loaf of bread) and just figure then that my Stollen had been stolen. It was sliced to control visual damage and pictures were taken accordingly.
Anyway, it was fairly easy to put together, but I have to make several points about my results:
1) Ultimately, I underbaked it. After 60mn it looked golden enough to me but really should have been a darker, more bronze-ish, shade of golden. It was quite good but because it was underbaked you can see some of it had more of a cake consistency. My advice to you on this is be ye not so hasty and let it get a very rich and deep golden color.
2) Because I'm not very gifted in the kneading-of-bread department it was also quite dense. I realized, upon tasting a proper Stollen brought to me by Meeta when she came for FBC, that the density of mine was not far off, but that it should have been a bit lighter. Having said that, I don't know how one obtains this or not, I suspect it may have something to do with the addition of flour to make the dough non-sticky, but perhaps one of you out there who reads this will know better and could enlighten me.
3) Theoretically, for those of us with a great deal of discipline, one is supposed to wrap the Stollen up and leave it to "mature" in the refrigerator or some other cool and dark place for about 3 weeks before eating it. Well, we all know how that went. So there you have it.
4) I will be trying this recipe the next time I make Stollen, since I firmly believe that while yeast and I are not very friendly, a Stollen really seems like it could benefit from some yeast in the texture department, and all the Stollen testing I could possibly ever want to do has already been done for me by using Nicky's favorite recipe.
Christmas Stollen Recipe
For the Stollen:
3 1/3 cups / 500g all-purpose flour
1 pkg or 1/2 Tbsp / 8g baking powder
3/4 cup / 180g sugar
1 pkg or 1/2 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp / 9g Vanilla sugar
4 drops Almond extract
5 drops Lemon extract
1 mini bottle Rum Flavoring (I had no rum or rum flavoring so omitted this)
2/3 cup / 120g cold butter
1 1/4 cups / 250g Quark or Cream Cheese (quark is almost zero fat cheese, so you can easily use light cream cheese)
1 1/2 cups / 200g raisins (I used sultanas)
3/4 cup / 100g currants (I used dried cranberries instead)
1 1/2 cups / 150g ground almonds
1 cup / 100g chopped candied orange & lemon peel (I omitted this)
For the icing:
1/4 cup / 50g Melted Butter
1/2 cup / 50g Sifted Icing Sugar
- Preheat oven to 325F (160C)
- Grease a 15"x 10" jelly roll pan (any large cookie tray will do)
- Sift flour and baking powder together.
- Make a well in the center and put sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon extract, orange extract, rum and eggs in the well.
- Bring flour into the well from the edges, working it into the liquids to make a thick paste. (do not panic if you do not get a paste yet, adding the quark or cream cheese will make your dough smooth).
- Cut cold butter into small pieces over the flour/liquid paste and knead together lightly so as not to melt the butter too much. (Again same note as above, if you dough is not a paste or thick dough yet, it will turn into one once you've added the quark or cream cheese).
- Add quark/cream cheese, fruit and nuts into the flour mixture and knead together to make a smooth dough. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour until it "just" no longer sticks.
- Shape the dough into a loaf and place on the pan.
- Bake on the middle rack for 50-60mn or until golden (see above).
For the icing:
- Melt the butter enough for it to be brushable.
- Brush the bread with the melted butter immediately after it comes out of the ove.
- Sprinkle icing sugar onto the bread right after the butter so that it will stick to the butter.
- Let the bread cool before serving if, like us, you're not going to wrap it in something and store it for three weeks. Does anyone really have that kind of willpower?