Stollen is a quintessential part of German Christmas, and the most renowned version originates from the East German city of Dresden, where it is called Christstollen. It is sold in Christmas markets up and down the country, but in Dresden itself they even have a special festival (Stollenfest) just before the second Sunday of Advent, where a giant-sized Stollen is marched through crowds of appreciators and admirers on the streets to many oohs and aahs before it is cut up and sold off in pieces.
Butter is one of the key ingredients that make a Stollen dough so rich, the others being eggs and boozy dried fruit. Just as important as what goes into the Stollen itself is what it is covered by, which is usually more butter and two layers of sugar. The first layer is a fine vanilla-scented caster sugar, and the second a flurry of snow-white icing sugar. This type of traditional Stollen requires a maturing period of a couple of weeks before it tastes its best. It’s quite hard when first baked, but after some time in a tin wrapped up snugly in foil, it softens and develops a moister texture. I usually bake Stollen in the first week of December.
Often a Stollen is filled or flecked with marzipan too, which I like very much – if you choose to add marzipan to this recipe simply roll some out into a sausage shape and nestle it in the centre.
MAKES 1 LARGE STOLLEN (SERVES 10–12)
75g (2½oz) mixed peel
175g (6oz) raisins
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g (2½ cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
50g (¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150g (²⁄₃ cup) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into cubes
20g (¾oz) fresh yeast, or 10g (¹⁄₃oz) dried
150ml (₅⁄₈ cup) tepid whole milk
60g (2oz) flaked (slivered) almonds
50g (3½ tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
50g (¼ cup) vanilla
sugar (see page 12)
50g (generous ¹⁄₃ cup)
sugar, plus extra to serve
Put the mixed peel and raisins into a bowl, spoon over the rum and vanilla extract and set aside to infuse while you prepare the dough.
Put the flour, sugar, salt, spices and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and egg. Crumble the yeast (or sprinkle if using dried) into the tepid milk and stir to dissolve. Pour the yeasted milk into the flour mixture and, using your hands, bring the ingredients together until a rough dough is formed. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with the heels of your hands for about 10 minutes until it becomes more elastic. Form it into a neat ball and nestle it into the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1–3 hours until visibly larger in size.
As the amount of butter in this dough is hefty, it won’t double in size when it rises; you’re looking for the dough to expand roughly by half its size again. (Alternatively, put the dry ingredients and lemon zest into the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the butter and egg. Pour in the yeasted milk and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic. Cover and set aside, as above.)
Knock the dough back with your fist and add the almonds and boozy dried fruit (along with any liquid) to the dough. Knead the fruit and nuts through for a couple of minutes until evenly incorporated. Form it into a neat ball and nestle it into the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside in a warm spot for
about 20 minutes for a short second rise.
Lightly dust the work surface with flour, gently tip the dough out and roll into a rectangle 30 × 15cm/12 × 6in. Lay the dough on a large baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment, take one of the long sides and fold it three-quarters of the way back over the dough to create a classic Strudel shape. Lay a tea towel over the shaped Stollen and put in a warm place for a third rise of 30 minutes, by which time the Stollen should have risen slightly again. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.
Bake for about 50 minutes until browned all over, checking after 30 minutes; if it looks quite brown already, cover it with a layer of foil to stop it from burning (butter-rich yeasted doughs tend to colour quite easily).
Transfer the baked Stollen to a wire rack and, while still hot, brush all over with the melted butter, repeating until there is no butter left. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the top, then sift the icing sugar over that. Allow the Stollen to cool fully before wrapping tightly in a double layer of foil. Store in an airtight container for at least a week (I think it’s best to leave it 2) before slicing and serving. The Stollen will keep well for a good 2 months. When ready to serve, dust with a little icing sugar again.
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