This week for One Good Loaf I cheated.
I made stollen instead of bread. I know, I know, it’s more of a cake not bread, but my doctor has restricted my activities and so I have to carefully pick and choose what I’m going to do during the week, and this week there was just no way around it–I wanted stollen. And hey, it uses yeast and flour, so really it is bread, right? I love stollen, especially stollen with a ribbon of marzipan running down the center.
Stollen is a traditional German Christmas loaf-shaped cake filled with things like fruit, nuts, and spices. Stollen is thought to have originated in Dresden, Germany sometime in the 1400s. However it started as a particularly tasteless confection since at the time the use of butter was forbade during Advent by the Catholic Church (as part of the fasting rules in preparation for Christmas). But then some Dresden foodies came to the rescue! The ban was finally lifted in 1650 (but only in Dresden) when Prince Ernst von Sachsen successfully petitioned (at the request of Dresden bakers–go foodies!) Pope Urban VIII to lift the restriction. The bread reportedly possesses religious connotations. The oblong shape with tapered ends and dusting of confectioners’ sugar is said to symbolize the Christ child dressed in swaddling clothing. Today in Dresden, the city holds the Dresden Stollen Festival each December, where a 3 to 4 ton stollen is carried through town by a horse-drawn wagon, accompanied by a procession of the bakers and chefs who helped to create it. The procession’s final destination is the Christmas fair where the “Royal Master Baker” and “Stollen Maiden” cut and serve the loaf to the spectators. I’ve been in Germany at Christmastime, and it’s absolutely wonderful, but someday I would love to actually be in Dresden to see and taste that massive stollen loaf!
My aunts and uncle remember my Oma making stollen every year, but none of their memories are very fond ones, as they all report that her stollen was exceptionally dry. I do know, however, that my uncle and I share a love for stollen with marzipan in it. When December rolls around, I start craving it. When Mr. Fuji and I lived in Memphis I had a wonderful source for marzipan stollen, but haven’t found a place yet near us that sells as good of a loaf. (If anybody has a source please tell me!) So I started doing some research and looked at a bunch of recipes, and finally used a modified version of this one from allrecipes.com.
First I gathered my ingredients . . . don’t they just scream Christmas to you? Such wonderful color!
Then I whipped up the dough and threw in all of the yummy extras.
Here’s where I ran into problems. The day that I made my stollen it was pouring rain outside. My yeast was fresh and I had no problems proofing it at the beginning, but once it came time for the first rise, my dough just didn’t want to budge much.
Stollen can take a long time to rise (up to 3 hours), but mine just wasn’t convinced that it wanted to rise much at all. However, I pushed forward, patted out my dough, added a layer of marzipan,
then shaped them, and into the oven they went. They cooked beautifully, and when they came out I brushed them with a healthy dose of melted butter and then doused them in a shower of confectioners’ sugar and let the loaves cool.
The results were good, but not as good as I had hoped. Due to the insufficient amount of rising the loaves were a bit more dense than I would have liked, and the bottom crust was a bit thick. But the flavor was wonderful and it definitely wasn’t dry (sorry Oma!). In the future I am definitely going to try this again, but on a dry day. I think the dough was just a bit too fickle for a rainy day!
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (110 degrees Fahrenheit/45 degrees Celsius)
1 large egg
1/3 c. white sugar
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/3 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a few drops of almond extract
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves
3 c. bread flour
1/3 c. currants
1/3 c. sultana raisins (golden raisins)
1/3 c. red candied cherries, quartered
1/3 c. candied lemon peel
1/3 c. candied orange peel
7 oz. marzipan
extra butter, melted (to brush on loaves after baking)
confectioners’ sugar (to dust on top of loaves after baking)
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the egg, white sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, cloves, and 2 cups bread flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has begun to pull together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead in the currants, raisins, dried cherries, and lemon and orange peel. Continue kneading until smooth, about 8 minutes. (Dough will be quite sticky.)
3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. (This can take up to 3 hours.)
4. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 equal pieces and pat each piece out into a lightly rounded rectangle. Roll out the marzipan into 2 rounded rectangles that are slightly smaller than the dough rectangles and place on top of the dough. Fold the dough over to cover it; pinch the seems together to seal. Place the loaf, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius), and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. While still hot, brush generously with melted butter and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Allow loaves to cool on a wire rack. When cool, wrap in foil or place in an airtight container and keep cool.
* Can be baked in advance, as it will keep for about 2 weeks, and time just improves the flavor!