The darkness of winter is closing in and with that, the Christmas of 2011 is almost over. Last night we had dinner with a family friend; their kids played with mine, the adults talked in front of the fireplace. It's the most peaceful moment during the week leading to Christmas. The food was superb, the desserts were equally delicious. My panettone obviously needed tinkering, but the stollen came out beautifully. It will no doubt be one bread that make it to my Christmas baking ritual. To prove that I can make stollen, to prove to my walking friends that stollen is not an ordinary dried fruit-nut bread :)
And the kids, who were happily entertained by Tintin comic books.
Makes 2 large breads
3/4 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
4 ounces whole candied citron, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup dark rum or brandy
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved
3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup blanched whole almonds, chopped into medium-sized pieces
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
12 ounces marzipan, homemade or canned
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
The night before or even 2 or 3 days ahead, combine the raisins, candied citron, and liquor in a 2-pint jar with a screw-cap lid or in a resealable plastic bag. Turn the container several times to distribute the liquor evenly. Set aside at room temperature to soak.
To make the sponge: scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat-you will see steam rising from the surface and small bubbles forming around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and let milk cool to between 120 degree and 130 degree F.
Put the flour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Whisk in the yeast and sugar. Add the milk and whisk briskly to make a smooth batter. Add the egg and whisk to combine well. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise until it more than doubles in volume and then collapses on itself, about 2 hours.
To make the dough with a stand mixer: attach the flat beater and beat the butter into the sponge in 2-tablespoon installment on medium speed, beating until incorporated after each addition. Add the sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla seeds, almond extract, and salt and beat on low to medium-low speed until the dough masses on the blade, abut 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beater, and stir in the raisins and citron, along with any unabsorbed liquor. Add the almonds. Switch to the dough hook. Beating on low speed, gradually 2 cups of the flour and then knead for 3 to 5 minutes.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on your work surface and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated. The dough should feel fairly firm and only a bit tacky. If it is too sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. Push any fruit that falls from the dough during kneading back into the dough.
Wash and dry the bowl and either oil it lightly or coat it with cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning to coat all surfaces. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and divide it in half with a pastry scraper or sharp knife. Shape each piece into a all, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
To shape the stollen: divide the marzipan into 2 pieces. Roll each under your palms into a cylinder about 11 inches long. Pat or roll each piece of dough into an oval measuring 12 inches long and about 9 inches wide at the widest point. If the dough sticks at any point, dust it very lightly with flour. Make a shallow depression down the center of each oval with the handle of a wooden spoon. Place a roll of marzipan in each depression. Lift one side of dough over the marzipan, covering it completely. The edge of the top flap of dough should just reach the other edge of dough.
Line a large baking sheet (18 x 12 x 1 inch) with a silicone baking pan liner or cooking parchment. Put the stollen crosswise on the prepared sheet, placing them about 3 inches from each end of the sheet and leaving about 4 inches of space between them. Coat the stollen with cooking spray and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise just until they have increased in volume by about half, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
When the stollen are ready, remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the stollen are nicely browned. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register 195 degree F. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately brush each stollen with half the melted butter. Put the confectioners' sugar in a fine-meshed sieve and sift a generous layer all over the top of the stollen. Repeat in a few minutes if you see the sugar melting in spots. Cool the stollen completely on wire cooling racks. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a sharp serrated knife.
Notes: to age the stollen, bake in advance before Christmas arrives!
Source: A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent