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.
5 hours ago