Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Stollen

The holidays are a busy time in so many kitchens, and ours is no different. From cookies to pies to gingerbread houses, the month of December always
keeps our oven going and the flour flowing. While we have several standards on our holiday baking rotation, this month's Daring Bakers' challenge added a new recipe to this family's holiday baking arsenal.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I have heard of stollen before, as my mother in law is a huge fan, and there is always a store-bought stollen in the house when they become seasonally available. For some reason, I have never been tempted to try it, though. Maybe it is how dense the bread looks, maybe it is the candied fruit (of which I have never been a fan), or maybe it's some strange unknown reason, but I just never had the urge to try a piece, even when it was right in front of me. So I was excited for this challenge on behalf of my mother in law - I figured I would make the stollen and give it right to her! A completed challenge and a holiday gift all in one - what could be better?

As I soon learned, this stollen was better!!

The recipe was a little bit involved, but very straightforward. While there were many steps (and many dishes!) involved, and while the process takes two days to complete, it was not overly complicated.
The first step for me was choosing what fruits I would use in place of the standard candied fruits that are usually involved in a traditional stollen. I didn't stray far, opting to go for dried fruit rather than candied. I chose raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots and chopped dried pineapple. The recipe calls for the fruits to be soaked in rum, which I am sure is delicious, but wasn't going to happen here (what with the four year old and being, at least at the time that the stollen was prepared and that this post is being written, pregnant), so I chose to soak my fruits in some delicious passionfruit-aloe juice that I had in the fridge. While the fruit soaked, I set out my other ingredients to prepare to make the dough, including the eggs and yeast (which is blooming in that little bowl). On a burner over low heat, butter was melting into milk, and in the bowl of my mixer, my dry ingredients were whisked together. As I said - many dishes involved in the preparation of this dough.
It was interesting to watch this dough come together. I let my KitchenAid mixer, with the dough hook attachment, handle the majority of the kneading, which was a big help. The dough did keep creeping up over the collar of the dough hook, which slowed the process considerably, as I had to keep stopping the machine to scrape it down, but the resulting dough was beautifully smooth and speckled throughout with the dried fruit. It was at this point that this ball of dough was moved to the refrigerator to have a slow-rise overnight. Peter Reinhart generally explains the cold-rise as allowing the flavors to develop better than a quicker, warmer (room temperature, usually) rise. I always thought that the warmer temperatures encouraged a better rise, but I wholly trust Peter Reinhart, so did not worry too much.

The next morning, I was amazed to see that my little ball of dough had risen amazingly despite the cold of the refrigerator. I took the bowl out of the refrigerator to allow the dough to warm a bit so that it would be easier to work with, then little miss and I got down to business turning our beautiful ball of dough into a stollen. As usual, little miss's favorite part of most bread-baking tasks is punching down the dough, and this time was no different.

The next several steps are different from other breads, but help to create both the texture and shape of the stollen, and are best shown in pictures.

The deflated (ie: punched down) dough is rolled out into a very large, very thin rectangle:








This rectangle is then rolled up into a long, thin cylinder:








This cylinder is then shaped, with the help of a bowl, into a circle (we are making a special, holiday shaped stollen here... you'll see!):








(and you can see here that our rolling job wasn't quite as even as we thought, making the ends thinner than the middle... something to work on...)

Once the bowl was removed, the circular stollen was further shaped with the help of some kitchen scissors:







The result? A wreath shaped bread, which, after proofing at room temperature for two hours, was ready to be baked:









While the wreath baked, I prepared the ingredients for the final steps of the process. The baked stollen, right after being removed from the oven, is covered in a generous layer of melted butter, then triple coated in powdered sugar. As you can imagine, little miss thoroughly enjoyed watching me make it snow on the stollen, and enjoyed even more helping me "clean" the extra powdered sugar from the counter top.

Now, remember how I mentioned way up at the top that I'd never been tempted to taste stollen? The smell in my kitchen at this point not only had me tempted, but had me seriously impatient to cutting into this fresh loaf. So we called my mother in law and asked if they would be up for visitors... as long as we promised to provide an afternoon snack. They agreed, and we soon had our afternoon tea.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised by this stollen would be an understatement. The bread had a deliciously thick crust but smooth and light crumb (interior texture). The fruit added the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor to the bread, and the powdered sugar, well, that was just fun! Everyone asked for seconds (little miss asked for thirds!) and everyone kept a big chunk of it to serve as breakfasts and snacks throughout the week. If that's not the proof of an awesome recipe, and thus awesome challenge, I am not sure what is.


Penny, thank you so much for this challenge. I am pretty sure that I would not have tasted stollen, much less tried my hand and making it, without this challenge, and now I am excited to try different variations and to incorporate this recipe into my annual holiday baking.

To see the other beautiful and delicious stollen prepared by my fellow Daring Bakers, check them out here.

25 comments:

  1. Absolutely beautiful and gorgeous.. cute hands punching down..sure it tastes so good. Great job on the challenge. Hope to post mine tomm.

    Pavithra
    www.dishesfrommykitchen.com

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  2. Gorgeous Stollen, Shelley! I oohed and ahhed when I first saw it on the forum. The photo of the slice captures the lightness of crumb perfectly.


    Happy Holidays!

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  3. Delicious stollen I love stollen, you have a cute little helper around in the kitchen.

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  4. Aw I'm so glad you are converted to stollen. Yours looks beautiful.
    And you have shamed me that I made my one myself without any input from the kids. Well, I guess, sometimes I just need peace to get on with something. Maybe we'll make a stollen together next year.

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  5. Your stollen looks beautiful, and the crumb looks so moist! I didn't get as much rise as you did in the fridge, will have to tweak the recipe a bit and try again.
    It's nice to have a little helper around, isn't it? Enjoy the holidays!

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  6. Having the end thinner than the middle happened to me too when I made one big wreath. It was better when I made two small ones. I like that red rolling pin! Your Stollen looks very nice.

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  7. You know I always come here to see the little angel helping you...and I am never disappointed! Wonderfully done on the stollen Shelley, it's gorgeous. Great crumb too. happy Holidays!

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  8. It is so nice to see your little one helping...Your stollen looks wonderful and your pictures of the steps are great!
    Happy Holidays!
    www.sweetsadiesbaking.com

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  9. Shelley, you did such a wonderful job on this challenge, as always. Your step by step pics are really helpful and looks like your little miss is having a great time! Merry Christmas!

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  10. Your stollen looks great! After seeing yours in the forums I seriously thought about making it this month. Congratulations on the challenge! Did you have your new little one already?

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  11. Your stollen looks beautiful, and the crumb looks so moist! It is so nice to see little helping hands! great work!. =)

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  12. YOur stollen looks just right. I'm happy to see a few others feel the way I do about candied fruit. :)

    Seasons greetings and best wishes for a happy new year.

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  13. I love to read your posts, seeing little miss helping out... what a great mum you are! (Thank you for all your encouraging comments in the forum, the group would not be the same without you!

    Happy Christmas! xxx

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  14. Your stollen looks fantastic! Love the little helping hands -- so nice to have a little helper!

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  15. Wow! Your stollen looks gorgeous! Love all the step-by-step photos! Great job on this month's DB challenge ^_^

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  16. Your stollen looks so airy and moist, nicely done!

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  17. Lovely Stollen!

    I was pleasantly surprised as to how good it was too, not being a fan of fruitcake and such.}:P

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  18. Beautiful stollen! Great job on this challenge.

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  19. I'm also sure that will make it every Christmas!
    I like the dry fruits you use! The dry apricot and pineaple soaked in passion fruit juice look like a perfect combination!
    Love your blog ;)

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  20. Your stollen looks delicious. I'm so glad that you liked it. It isn't Christmas at our house without it. I bet the dried pineapple tasted great in it

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  21. Well done on a great challenge and I thoroughly agree! The smell of this stollen was so good. I loved it too and have never been tempted before either :)

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful start to 2011.

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  22. I am so in love with the picture of that perfect slice of stollen! It looks heavenly!!! I too really enjoyed this challenge =)

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  23. Happy New Year, Shelley! Just got back online full time after a 'puter crash and catching up with all the DB'ers. I wish I could have taken part since I never made one before. Yours is magazine beatiful :)

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