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Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas Stollen- Daring Baker's Challenge-December/2010

Christmas Stollen

I joined a group called The Daring Bakers! For those of you who have never heard of this group, it is a huge group of bakers who cook the same recipe each month, given by a monthly host. We all create the exact recipe and then post about it in our personal blogs on a designated date. We are not allowed to post it before the designated date. My first challenge was December's Christmas Stollen. I was excited but also very nervous when I saw the challenge. I have had problems baking with yeast and have just recently conquered it.

Stollen is a sweet yeasty bread made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough- a very traditional German Christmas bread that is amazing and makes for a beautiful presentation. The perfect dessert to bring to any Christmas dinner or party. It does, however, take some time. One bite and you will forget how long it took you. We were required to make the stollen in the shape of a wreath. The stollen was originally meant to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Some versions are made with starters, but the recipe we used is not. Candied orange peel and candied citrus is often also added.

My Stollen started out beautifully and I was so excited but it soon took a turn for the worst. The electricity went out!! of all times to have a power surge. I had to put my yeast in front of the gas heater so it wouldn't die and hope for the best. A few minutes later, after taking 30 minutes to meticulously make candied citrus, i burnt it!! It wasn't looking good. I had to load up and go to town in hopes of buying candied lemon citrus. I was quite sceptic our small town grocery store would have it, but they did.  I went home to find live and active yeast and finished the Stollen. I wasn't out of the clear yet....It wouldn't rise! I tried so many things and gave up after about an hour. As soon as i gave up and said i would try again it started to rise. It turned out to be beautiful.

I rolled out green gumdrops in granulated sugar and cut them out with a fondant leaf press. I dusted it with 3 layers of powdered sugar, which makes it keep longer. I think it turned out quite well and was very pleased. My mom and I decided this has to be a new Christmas tradition. It was that good. I hope you will try it too!

Stollen Wreath

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people


¼ cup lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)

2 packages active dry yeast

1 cup  milk

10 tablespoons  unsalted butter (can use salted butter)

5½ cups all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)

½ cup  sugar

¾ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)

1 teaspoon  cinnamon

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange ( I used lemon)

2 teaspoons  vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract ( I used 1 Tablespoon of lemon)

¾ cup mixed peel (link below to make your own)...I bought it and used lemon.

1 cup  firmly packed raisins

3 tablespoons rum

12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)

1 cup  flaked almonds

Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath

Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath
Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.

Soak the raisins. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.
To make the dough:

Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red! ( I opted out of adding cherries to the bread.) 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 be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches and ¼ inch thick.

Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch  intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size. Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter 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 at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents! When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.

The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store.
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

Here is a link to recipes to make your own candied citrus peel:


Be sure to keep checking out each month for the next Daring Baker's Challenge!!!! :)

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