Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Stollen

Stollen is one of my favorite Christmas treats.  It's a traditional sweet yeast bread enjoyed in Germany.  It has dried fruit and nuts, sometimes marzipan (my favorite), and is covered with layers of butter and powdered sugar.  It has a similar flavor profile to panetonne, an Italian bread that's served around Christmas.  I crave it bad this time of year and since a single loaf is selling for $24.99 at Metropolitan Market (pft... as if), I make my own.  I give it out as gifts and hoard the rest for myself.

I based my bread this year on the recipe, which you can find here.  I made a few changes, though.  I wish I'd printed out and kept the recipe I used last year, because I think it was better.  That'll teach me, eh?  The recipe didn't blow my skirt up.  I have listed at the bottom of this post how I changed the recipe.

Stollen is a yeast bread, so you start out by making a sponge.  That's easy enough.

But back up a minute.  This recipe didn't have any booze in it.  Shame shame!  I substituted currants for the raisins in the recipe and soaked them overnight in brandy.  They plumped up and were pretty boozy by the next morning.

I saved the brandy rather than drink it (and boy, was I tempted!).  It's a good thing I saved it because I wound up using it in a chicken liver pâté I made the very next day. 

Another deviation from the traditional recipe was to use chopped hazelnuts instead of slivered almonds.  I recently ran into my farmer buddy who sold me these nuts and I was feeling guilty for not having used them.  So into the bread they went.

From here you mix...

...knead for 8-12 minutes... 

...and let the dough rise for 2 hours.

I don't remember waiting 2 hours for the dough to rise in the past.  Because it was taking so long, I finally put the dough in the fridge overnight and finished it the next day. 

This was another deviation from the epicurious recipe: I added a marzipan filling when I shaped the loaves and I made 8 small loaves instead of 2 big ones.  The marzipan was a canned filling and I was surprised when I opened it that it was brown instead of white.  Oops.  Guess I bought the wrong kind.  I think it was every bit as good, though.

Roll these puppies up and let them rise another 2 hours.  This is a "hurry up and wait" recipe if ever there was one.

I finally got to bake them on day 2.  I reduced the baking time to about 35 minutes and checked them with a thermometer (205 degrees is ideal) to make sure they didn't dry out.

After they cooled, I brushed them with butter and rolled them in powdered sugar.  Doing so keeps them moist for a longer period of time and adds flavor.

My favorite way to have stollen is with tea.

My changes to the original recipe:
  1. Substitute currants for raisins.
  2. Soak currants overnight in brandy.
  3. Ditch the candied fruit - that's weird.  Use candied lemon instead.
  4. Replace slivered almonds with chopped hazelnuts.
  5. Add a marzipan filling.
  6. After the bread is done and warm, but not hot, brush with melted butter and roll in powdered sugar.
I guess I'm still on the quest to find the perfect stollen.

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