Apparently this is the month I make treats that I’ve had in mind for years, but never gotten around to. First it was this amazing chocolate mint cake that I thought about for a decade, now it’s a gorgeous stollen. Hey, I’ve only lusted after this fantastic bread for 9 years. I know many of you plan to entertain family and friends for the holidays, so put this one on your list. It really stands out from the crowd. This stollen is not only beautifully interesting, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s loaded with good things like dried fruit, almonds, lemon and orange zest; and great things like…cognac!
The sweetness is very subtle, mostly coming through the dried fruits, though the icing is there just to make you want to keep coming back for another bite. Though there’s a real heft, somehow the the bread stays so tender and almost delicate. Don’t let the thought of dealing with yeast deter you here, either. This bread may look or even seem a bit daunting, but it’s not. The recipe is simple. I used a stand mixer, though the entire recipe can be made in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. It’ll take a little muscle power, but not much. One of the reasons this bread turns out so brilliantly is due to not overworking the dough.
One final perk is that the stollen keeps well. Of course I had a slice of it when it was still warm– because really, there was no stopping me. It was incredible. But here’s the thing, it was still incredible the next day and the day after that. To store it, I simply applied plastic wrap around the cut ends and kept it in a air-tight container. If you are busy and don’t want to deal with breakfast, this works perfectly. Serve it along with juicy clementines and maybe even a mimosa. Your guests will love you even more than they already do.
The Recipe: Stollen
(makes one large wreath-shaped loaf)
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for work surface
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup milk, warmed
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted plus 2 more melted tablespoons for brushing, plus more for bowl
1 1/2 ounces (2 envelopes) active dry yeast or 1 ounce fresh cake yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups currants soaked in 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 cup golden raisins and 1/4 cup dried cherries soaked in 1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cups blanched almonds, chopped (see note)
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3-4 tablespoons orange juice
Note: To blanch almonds place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for a minute. Then begin to “slip” the peelings off of them with your fingers. Don’t let them sit in the water too long, or they will become soggy. It’s best to blanch the almonds in advance, so they have time to dry before being mixed into the dough.
In two small bowls — soak the raisins and cherries with the orange juice and the currants with the cognac. Set aside. In a small saucepan with the heat on medium, combine the butter and milk until melted. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, mace, and nutmeg into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the milk and butter. Add the yeast and eggs and mix until combined. Detach the paddle attachment and put on the dough hook. On top of the dough, sprinkle the currants, raisins, and cherries along with their soaking liquids. Add the orange zest, lemon zest, apricots, and almonds. Turn on the mixer and “knead” until everything looks combined, roughly 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for a few seconds, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Form a ball and place into a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 16 x 24 rectangle and 1/4 – inch thick. Starting with the long side, roll the dough tightly into a long, thin cylinder. Carefully transfer dough to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form a wreath shape and join the ends together by pinching with fingers to make it stick.
Using a sharp kitchen shears, make cuts along the outside of the circle, in 1- inch intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 hour. The dough all not rise all that much. Brush dough with remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until golden brown and crusty, about 35-45 minutes. Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool.
Mix the confectioners’ sugar with the orange juice. Drizzle over the stollen. Serve warm, if desired. Keeps very well in an airtight container and plastic wrap snug around the cut ends. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Holiday Baking Special Issue, 2002
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