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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stollen - my first festive fruit bread

When Christmas is just around the corner, one can’t help feeling festive and want to generate Christmas spirit all around. This is my first Christmas as a  bread enthusiast and I have my eyes on a couple of festive breads. One of them is stolen,  a festive German breads eaten during Chistmas time.  The bread symbolises the blanket of the baby Jesus, and the coloured fruits represent the gifts of the Magi.


I think I only had stollen once. I bought a pre-package ones imported from Germany. It was quite sweet and dry, yet it was lovely, a very tasty bread.

I chose the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s  Bread Baker Apprentice: Mastering the arts of extraordinary breads. I changed parts of the recipes to suit what I have in the pantry (I am one of those who would try to find substitutes to recipes in my pantry instead of venturing out and buy new packs of ingredients). Some of the substitutes I had were using lemon and orange zests instead of orange/lemon extract, and using sherry instead of brandy (I know, I know, this is probably so untraditional, but let me tell you that it worked really well). I also used the pre-packaged dried fruit mix, instead of making my own fruit mix as the recipe suggested, and again it worked nicely.

I knead the dough by hand and knead it until the gluten was fully developed before adding the mixed fruit soaker. It would be almost impossible to develop the gluten further once you add fruit soaker.

The dough was very sticky when it is mixed with the fruit soaker. I had to put about 4 tablespoons of more flour in to adjust consistency of the dough. The texture was almost like a cake. The dough was still quite sticky even dough I added more flour. However, the liquid seemed to get absorbed during the fermentation and the dough wasn’t too hard to shape after all.

I had trouble shaping the loaves following Peter Reinhart's instruction. I determined to get it, I made this again the weekend after (it's actually an excuse, I love the bread and want to have it again:)). I ended following Susan’s instructions on Wild Yeast Blog which is easier to follow and quite straight forwards, yet achieving the same result.

With my first batch, I brushed the hot stollen loaves with vegetable oil but I used butter with my second bake. The ones with vegetable oil had better moisture, texture and taste

It is a very delicious bread, moist and aromatic.  We love them so much and finish one small loaf in a day, and the other a day after. I also bought a loaf from my second bake to work and my workmates love it too.  I sure will do this again and again. It's great bread all year round, not necessary for only christmas. I also think that the recipe could be good for hot cross buns as well.

Stollen recipe

Make 1 large or 2 small stollens

114 g whole milk
64 g all-purpose flour
12.5 g instant yeast

170 g golden raisins, plus additional for sprinkling on final dough (or you can use mixed fruit for the amount of golden raisin and candied fruits combined)
170 g candied fruit mix, plus additional for sprinkling on final dough
114 g brandy, rum or schnapps (I used sherry in my bake and it worked well)
14 g orange or lemon extract (I used lemon and orange zest and it worked nicely)

284 g unbleached all-purpose flour
14 g sugar
5 g salt
3 g (1 teaspoon) grated orange zest (optional)
3 g (1 teaspoon) grated lemon zest (optional)
7 g (1 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
47 g (1 large) egg
70 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
57 g water
57 g silvered blanched almonds (or marzipan)

  1. Make the sponge by warming the milk to about 100F. 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.
  2. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup each of the raisins and fruit mix, the brandy, and the orange extract. Set aside.
  3. To make the dough, in a 4-quart 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.
  4. Add in the fruit and mix it with your hands (or on low speed) to incorporate.
  5. 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.
  6. Ferment at room temperature for 45 minutes. The dough will rise somewhat but will not double in size.
  7. Sprinkle flour lightly on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. If making two small loaves, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Use the rolling pin to press the dough in the middle and roll the dough to create a well in a middle. The middle well/gap should be about an inch lower that the dough surrounding it. Sprinkle silvered almond and additional fruit mix over the top. Lift the top flap to close the dough by having the top flap sitting on top off the bottom flap.
  8. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Transfer the stolen 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 ½ times its original size.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  10. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for 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 190F in the centre of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  11. 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.

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