Friday, December 11, 2009

When my Stollen was Stolen

Christmas Stollen
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.

Christmas Stollen
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.
Christmas Stollen
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

adapted from the Dr. Oetker website here

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 eggs
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

For the Stollen:
- 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?

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Asha @ FSK said...

LOL LOL... I can just picture that scene of "stollen" pleasure... Hmm I should try this sometime.. i love making breads.. somehow i find the kneading process very relaxing :)

Y said...

*chuckle* Lovely post, Hilda! Barry gives me the sad face sometimes, when I tell him certain things are off limits until a picture is taken. I haven't made stollen before, but I think I just might try this year.

queencake and titangirl said...

hi hilda! loved your stollen post ,especially the wonderful line " yeast and I are not friends" :) i know what you mean!have a great sunday,best,anja ( going to have some stollen this afternoon that my mother sent-i was too scared of the yeast:) )

MeetaK said...

now that i actually got to meet and know A. I can so very much imagine that! haha! the stollen looks incredible hilda! YUM!

Baking Soda said...

Ah familiar tricks; happens a lot in this household as well. Sometimes they ask, sometimes they just go ahead and sample (and take my mumbles in stride). Nice one Hilda!

Anonymous said...

You left out or substituted some of the main ingredients of Stollen, and then wonder why the consistency was wrong? I'm not sure what you made here, but it wasn't Stollen.

Hilda said...

Thanks for the nice comments.

Anonymous: Actually, I'm pretty sure I didn't leave out anything that would have changed the consistency significantly. If you look at the Dr. Oetker recipe, I simply substituted cranberries for currants and left out the rum and the candied citrus fruit; I followed the recipe otherwise. I didn't wonder why the consistency was wrong, I simply said that the consistency was not the same as that of the one that Meeta brought me, which might have been made with yeast for all I know and, if you read what I wrote, I actually called my bread-making ability into question as to the consistency. You are completely entitled to your opinion, and perhaps you don't think I made Stollen, but you might have the courtesy to post with your name if you actually mean to have a discussion rather than just cast aspersions anonymously.

shayma said...

Hilda, as always, i enjoyed reading your post- you are far too modest and humble, youre an amazing "pastry chef" (didnt want to use the word baker! ;) the photos are pretty and the post flows so well. there will always be caustic remarks from impolite people, dont let that affect the amazing stuff you share with us.

Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf said...

oh I just love those photos of the Stollen being stolen ! Such fun. It looks delicious. I should share this post with Olivier, he'll get a kick out of it for sure. "J'peux...??" He knows always to ask now, poor thing ! haha!

Anonymous, would you mind being so kind as to tell us what exactly is missing then ?! Thank you.

WizzyTheStick said...

Ohhhh yum I love stollen. It's been years since I made it last. If I remember correctly it's a yeast bread but don't quote me I'm West Indian not German. Anyway the recipe you used is very similar to our local fruit bread which also uses baking powder. The trick with this bread is actually DO NOT KNEAD. Sounds weird I know but think of this as a giant dense muffin and not a bread.

Lien said...

So funny and familiar this... sometimes the family has a hard time with a foodblogger that has to take pictures first, while they just want to taste!!!
I guess most stollen are made with yeast and are probably easier to make, that might be the difference between the one you made and the one Meeta brought. But there are many ways that lead to a good and tasty loaf!! Great job.

Kris said...

I've been wanting to try making stollen but was worried I'd end up with an unholy hybrid of fruitcake and... brick. LoL. So knowing that you weren't quite sure what you were getting into when you started gives me a little bit of courage to try it =] Thanks!

bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) said...

LOL! Such imagination! Love the twist on your stolen stollen! I Can't believe I've actually never had stollen! I must make this sometime in the next week.

Deeba PAB said...

Bahahaha what a great post Hilda.. Naughty A to have stolen a bite! Cardinal sin indeed, but I love the foodie in him! Love your pictures too, as always, so much character & beauty!

Jan Schiefer said...

Interesting reading. I am about to make the second one of these this year (the first one disappeared way too quickly), using a slightly modified version of the Oetker recipe (tweaked over the years by my Mom).

Three comments: You really really want to do the thing with the butter and the powdered sugar when it comes out of the oven, as it gives the Stollen a wonderful crust (which really is my favorite part). I guarantee you it is worth the extra calories.

Secondly, it helps with the consistency to squeeze as much of the liquid as you can out of the quark, using a fine cheesecloth or random (clean) dish towel. You want to end up with approximately half the weight that you started with.

Finally, as I can't get the German "405" flour over here, I experimented last year with a mix of regular flour and pastry flour. Bad move, turned out too crumbly. Speaking of crumbly, the original recipe calls for 50g lard. Oh well.

I don't like buying the little vials of flavoring from Oetker (too artificial), need to look for something better.

Oh, and this Stollen freezes very well.

Happy baking and thanks for your blog post!

Jamie said...

Wonderful post and I'm laughing picturing you and Baby S and then A sneaking in, a fun little holiday scene. Your stollen is stunning, just perfect!

Hilda said...

Again, thank you lovely people for your kind comments.

WizzytheStick: That makes sense actually, not kneading, except it gets confusing when the recipe tells you to knead, you know what I mean? But I'll try it the next time. Thanks!

Kris: Yeay! If I can do it you can too. It's worth a try, but maybe you want to use the next recipe I'm going to attempt (Nicky's) instead of this one?

Jan Schiefer: Thank you for the tips. Funnily, reading your comment I remembered that I did brush the bread with butter out of the oven (it's been a while since I made it), but then didn't put the sugar on it for the reason stated. But I will do it on the next one.
My only concern on draining the quark is that the water in the quark is practically the only thing that actually made the dough cohese into one mass without any dry bits. Will it still do that even if I drain the quark?
Yes, the original recipe does (is yours from the book?) but the online recipe doesn't...? (butter & lard thing)
Am with you on the artificial Dr. Oetker flavorings. I use better quality extracts like Boyajian.

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

ha ha. Funny post and cute photos!

The man of my house (apt) knows better than to even think of touching my goodies before they are photographed. He always asks first lest he gets a finger chopped off by my chef's knife or something...

Does English fruit cake refer to Christmas Pudding? I like the whole setting the thing on fire part...not so wild about the eating part though!

Jeanne said...

LOL - the stolen Stollen! Even on autopilot I don't think Nick would take a bite of anything in the kitchen before I'd photographed and offered it to him...! He has a strong sense of self-preservation ;-) I've never been much of a Stollen fan (don't like the peel) but I do like your substitutions, whatever Mr A. Troll, your anonymous commenter may say. And hey - I'm so glad to find another yeast-o-phobe! Perhaps we can form a support group?! :)

Stacy said...

Great post!

Richard said...

I was going to comment just for Haiti's sake, but then I got sucked in by the Christmas Stollen and your honesty about the results. Thanks!

Molly said...

Commenting for Haiti. The stollen looks delicious, though!

Brenna said...

Even cut it looks just lovely. So wintery. Yum.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Thanks for the opportunity.

ejm said...

I've heard 3rd and 4th hand stories of things like this happening but I've never heard a first hand one. Good for you to be so nice about it!

Cut it like a pie?! (I know it's wrong, but I'm afraid I can't stop laughing.)


(came here as a result of your Haiti initiative; so glad to have found you)

Anonymous said...

Looks good!!

pixiemama said...

Hysterical - men sneaking bites like small children would. I know the feeling. I've slapped my husband's hand away so many times I've lost count.

Kyla said...

My mouth is watering- this post reminded me of the fun I have experimenting with baking, so much more than it would have if everything had gone perfectly . . . I'm off to the store now for some muffin ingredients.

Heather said...

Flashback to high school German class; that is an excellent story.

Katie said...

it looks like biscotti. YUM

Sharon said...

I love baking bread, but have never tried stollen. This looks delicious!

Corey said...

I got quite a chuckle at the imagery of your poor husband getting caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar!

I don't think I've ever tried stollen..

Patricia said...

I adore stollen and just realized after reading this that we didn't have any this Christmas season. Is it too late?

Please thank the anonymous donor for his largess to Haiti.

Leah W said...


Linda B said...

Praying for Haiti

Trisha said...

Yummy - I love stollen!

joicecris said...

I love Stollen... too bad it has so many calories!

Wanna B Thin 2 said...

I don't think I've ever had Stollen but I think I'd like to have the icing on it. (You can never have too much icing!)

darci said...

Too funny!

Anonymous said...

A comment for haiti

Becky said...

enjoyed your stollen post - I also not friendly with yeast, but baking powder ok - biscuits, yum!

Meg Kat said...

Look like it'd be great with a cup of coffee :)

Melissa said...

*smile* My husband has committed that sin before too (I used to write a food column). This holiday, though, it was my dog who stole the stollen. Of of the table. I was so angry!

Dbe said...

Ahh..stollen...great stuff with hot chocolate.

Hai said...


Kat said...

The bread looks great :)

Sari said...

Oh, so funny! This looks like a kind of christmas sweet bread we usually make in Czech Republic.

Anonymous said...

Looks awesome

Zara said...

Oh your wonderful pics make me wanting to stole a bite or two too!:) I like the idea of baking my own bread one day too, till now I just didn't have enough courage:)as i'm only doing my first steps into baking:)

Anonymous said...

comment comment. thanks for the good work.

Ted said...

Leaving a comment for Haiti.

Valentina said...

This is one of those items on my baking list which I never get to try. It always makes me feel small, and not quite able to handle the task. you frank narrative has made me add a couple more crosses to my wish list - each cross means a 'must'. Oh, now that I met little H. i can kind of picture her wrapping round you leg, with those beautiful eyes of her, and lovely smiley.

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