Stollen, a German Christmas bread, originates from Dresden. The bread symbolizes the blanket of the baby Jesus, and the colored fruits represent the gifts of the Magi.
This version of Stollen can be made in a fairly reasonable amount of time, about 4 hours from start to finish due to the strong sponge that leavens the dough at a brisk pace. The dough can be made into a traditional stollen shape or as a Panettone.
Makes: 1 large or two small stollen
This traditional recipe is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
Preparation: 1 hour sponge; 20 minutes mixing; 2 hours fermentation, shaping, and proofing; 50 to 70 minutes baking
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup golden raisins, plus additional for sprinkling on final dough
- 1 cup candied fruit mix, plus additional for sprinkling on final dough
- 1/2 cup brandy, rum, or schnapps
- 1 tablespoon orange or lemon extract
*If you prefer, you can substitute regular dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or apricots, for the candied fruit.
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- About 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds (or marzipan)
- Vegetable oil or melted butter for topping
- Powdered sugar for topping
Make the sponge by warming the milk to about 100°F. Whisk in the flour and yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 1 hour, or until the sponge is very foamy and ready to collapse when tapped.
Combine 1 cup each of the raisins and fruit mix, the brandy, and the orange extract. Set aside.**
**To improve the flavor and preserve the bread, it is best to soak the fruit a few days ahead of time. Here's how:
Two days before making this bread, soak the raisins and candied fruit in the brandy, rum, or schnapps and the orange or lemon extract, tossing the fruit a few times a day until the liquid is absorbed. If you'd prefer not to use alcohol, you can double the amount of extract and add 1/2 cup of water. You can also simply add the fruit, without the alcohol, into the final dough and add the extract directly to the dough.
I used raisins and dried cranberries for this recipe since that is what I had on hand. I soaked the raisins and cranberries in orange extract and water for a couple of days which gave them a very nice aroma and flavor.
To make the dough, in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, orange and lemon zests, and cinnamon. Then stir in ( or mix in on low speed with the paddle attachment) the sponge, egg, butter, and enough water to form a soft, but not sticky, ball.
This should take about 2 minutes. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the fruit and mix it with your hands (or on low speed) to incorporate.
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should feel soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 6 minutes (4 minutes by machine). Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for 45 minutes. The dough will rise somewhat but will not double in size.
Shaping the Stollen:
Sprinkle flour lightly on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. If you are making 2 loaves, divide the dough in half. (I'm making one big loaf)
With your hands, form the dough into a thick rectangle, 8 by 4 inches (5 by 3 inches for 2 smaller loaves), and dust it with flour.
Sprinkle the top with slivered almonds and extra fruit.
Take a small rolling pin and press down on the center of the rectangle,
Roll the dough in the center only, leaving 1 inch at both the top and the bottom edges as thick as the original rectangle.
The new rectangle, with its thick top and bottom edges, should be 12 inches wide by 6 inches long (8 by 5 inches for 2 loaves). The interior of the rectangle should be about 1/2 inch thick.
Using a pastry scraper to loosen the dough from the counter, lift the top edge and bring it down and over the bottom edge, going just past the bottom edge. The thin inside part of the rectangle should remain behind the bottom edge.
Turn the dough seam side up and tuck additional slivered almonds and fruit under the dough flap.
Fold the top edge back over the bottom edge and rest it on the thin center section. Tuck more almonds and fruit under the new fold. The dough should have a folded, layered look, with fruit and almonds peaking out both sides. Gently squeeze the loaf to press it together.
Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Transfer the stollen to the pan and, as you set the dough down, curl it into a slight crescent. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof for approximately 1 hour at room temperature, or until the dough is 1 1/2 times its original size. Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes.
Rotate the pan 180 degrees fro even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and brush the top with vegetable oil while still hot. Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first. The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or, leave them out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
Additional festive bread recipes and resources: