Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Baking: Stollen

Baking stollen for Christmas has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember. My maternal Grandmother used to bake it yearly for my Grandfather. After Grandma passed away, my Mom continued the tradition and baked several loaves of stollen, reserving the largest and best loaf to ship to Grandpa. This is probably my absolutely favorite Christmas bread. For the past three years, this has been the snack of choice to tide us over until breakfast on Christmas mornings while opening presents.

Stollen is a traditional German holiday cake - basically, the German version of fruitcake. I despise American fruitcake - but, as you have probably guessed, I am very fond of the European variations.

This stollen recipe is incredibly easy and perfectly moist once baked. Many stollen loaves can be extremely heavy and dry, but these loaves remain perfectly moist due to the special (and non-traditional) addition of a buttery cinnamon sugar filling. Since Paul and I are huge fans of lemon glaze, we normally forego the traditional heavy coating of powdered sugar, choosing instead to drench our loaves in glaze. Delicious!

adapted from Betsy Oppenneer

For the Fruit:
1 cup mixed candied fruit (fruitcake mix)
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum, amaretto, or orange juice

For the Sponge:
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Dough:
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace (or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon all-spice, cinnamon, or cardamom)
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds
3-4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Prepare Fruit: Combine the mixed fruit, raisins, and rum (or orange juice). Cover and set aside. Shake or stir the mixture every so often to coat the fruit with the rum.

Prepare Sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F and add it to the yeast along with the honey and 1 cup flour. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and let rise until light and full of bubbles, about 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the fruit mixture, honey, egg, butter, zest, salt, mace, almonds, and 2 cups of the flour to the sponge. Using the paddle, beat the mixture on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.

First rise: Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

To Shape and Fill, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 7 by 9-inch oval. Brush the melted butter over the top of the oval. Combine the cinnamon and granulated sugar and sprinkle over one lengthwise half of the oval. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and carefully lift the bread onto separate parchment-lined baking sheets. Press lightly on the folded side to help the loaf keep its shape during rising and baking.

Cover with a tightly woven towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake loaves for 25 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees F. Immediately remove from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool.

To serve, drizzle with lemon glaze before slicing.

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