Stollen is a bread traditionally served in German households at Christmas time. This year I got adventurous and made stollen using a recipe from Peter Reinhart's excellent book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn to bake breads or to improve their baking skills.
Note this recipe requires some advance planning. The fruit is soaked in brandy, rum, or schnapps for at least 24 hours prior to preparing the rest of the recipe.
DAY 1: Fruit Blend
- 1 cup (or 170 grams) golden raisins
- 1 cup (or 170 grams) candied fruit
- 1/2 cup (or 113 grams) brandy, rum, or schnapps
- 1 tablespoon (or 14 grams) orange or lemon extract
Stir together, cover, and set aside at room temperature overnight. If you wish to give the fruit some extra time to plump up, consider adding a bit more of your liquid of choice.
DAY 2: Sponge
- 1/2 cup (or 113 grams) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (or 64 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons (or 12.5 grams) instant yeast
To make the sponge, warm the milk to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Centigrade). Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour and yeast to make a paste-like batter. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge is foamy and ready to collapse when tapped.
- 2 1/4 cups (or 284 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (or 14 grams) sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons (or 5.5 grams) salt
- 1 teaspoon (or 3 grams) grated orange zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoon (or 3 grams) grated lemon zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoon (or 7 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 5 tablespoons (or 71 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- About 1/4 cup (or 57 grams) water, at room temperature
- All of the fruit blend from day 1
- 1/2 cup (or 57 grams) slivered blanched almonds (or marzipan)
Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then stir in (or mix in on low speed with the mixer's paddle attachment) the sponge, egg, butter, and enough water to form a soft, but not sticky, ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Add the fruit and mix in with your hands (which is really fun) or for a few seconds on low speed with the paddle attachment to incorporate.
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should feel soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for about 45 minutes. The dough will rise a bit but it will not double in size.
Again sprinkle flour lightly on counter and transfer the dough to the counter. For a single loaf, roll the dough out into a 9" x 16" rectangle; if you prefer to make two loaves, roll each half into 7 "x 5" rectangles. Sprinkle slivered almonds or a generous bead of marzipan over the top along with additional fruit if you desire. Roll the dough up into a loaf shape, sealing the crease by pinching the dough with the edge of your hand. Lay the loaf (or loaves) on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Mist the dough lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and proof for 1-2 hours at room temperature, or until the dough has risen to 1 1/2 times its original size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Centigrade) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20-50 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. The bread will be a dark mahogany color and should register 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Centigrade) in the center. Transfer bread to a rack and brush the top with vegetable oil or melted butter while the loaves are still hot. Using a sieve or sifter, immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top of the bread. Wait one minute, then tap a second layer of powdered sugar over the first. Let the loaves cool for at least 1 hour before serving.