by Donna Cain
I love Christmas and have fun trying new recipes. Our local paper and the Wall Street Journal have been filled with yummy ideas this year. I made this bread today to serve for our family breakfast Christmas morning. Byron and I had a warm slice just after it came out of the oven……..suffice it to say, I am surprised there is any left for the family:)
The newspaper title described the bread as a fruitcake upgrade. It’s actually a Stollen which is a German Christmas bread filled with yummy fruit. It takes a little extra time to make but well worth the effort. The bread dough is slightly sweet and is made with a yeast starter. Traditional Stollen becomes soft and moist with the butter and rum or brandy. ( I used apricot brandy) It actually is better making it ahead as the bread has time to absorb the brandy and fruit flavors. This bread is a beloved treat all over Germany, where it has been made in one form or another for centuries.
Christmas Stollen- makes 2 loaves
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of brandy or rum
1/4 cup diced orange candied orange peel
1/4 up candied lemon peel
1/8 cup diced candied ginger
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup whole milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons warm water
3 1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons AP flour
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 extra large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
The night before baking combine raisins, currants and cranberries with 1/2 cup brandy and let mixture soak overnight. In the morning, add the citrus peels, ginger and almonds to the bowl and set aside.
Make a starter- – Heat milk in a small pot over low heat. It should be lukewarm- about 100 degrees testing it with a candy thermometer. It’s important not to have the liquid too hot or it will kill the yeast. In a large bowl, whisk yeast with 2 Tablespoons of warm water, then slowly add the warm milk, whisking to break up any clumps. While whisking slowly add 1 cup flour, stirring until mixture is thoroughly blended. Wet a kitchen towel with hot water, wring it out well and use it to cover the bowl. Set bowl in a warm spot with a temperature of about 80 degrees and let yeast develop for one hour.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and pour it into a large bowl. Add sugar and salt, whisking until sugar melts. Add yolk and mix well. Then add the lemon zest and nutmeg until well blended.
Once starter is ready, slowly add butter mixture to it, stirring to combine. While stirring add 1 cup flour , then mix in remaining brandy. Stir in another 1 1/4 cups flour. If the dough is too stiff to mix with a spoon, transfer to a lightly floured surface where you can gently knead the remaining flour in. Knead dough until soft, pliable and shiny. (about 10 minutes) Form dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Cover bowl with a cloth soaked in hot water and wrung out well. Set aside in a warm spot until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Once dough has risen, heat oven to 350. Gently remove dough from bowl and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 2-3 times, then gently pull and stretch it out until it is as flat as possible. Drain fruit and almonds and mix them with 3 Tablespoons of flour. Pour mixture onto dough and roll the whole thing up, folding ends over so fruit is encased in the dough. Knead dough to distribute fruit and nuts evenly. Fruit will fall out at first, just tuck it gently back into the dough. Reflour work surface as necessary to keep dough from sticking.
Divide dough into two pieces. Pull each piece into a long, fairly flat rectangle, about 16 inches long and 5 inches wide and 1 inch thick, then fold loaves in half crosswise so each is about 8 inches long and 2 inches thick. Place loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until tops are golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Remove loaves from the oven and while they are still warm, brush with some melted butter. Cover with a thick dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Wrap well in two layers of plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature 1-2 weeks before eating to allow flavors to develop.
This recipe is a very special treat. If our family likes it I think I’ll make this a new tradition.
Merry Christmas from Byron, Donna and Harrison and all of the staff at the Captain Freeman Inn!