Merry (belated) Christmas, you guys! I meant to post this yesterday, but better late than never. Despite the lack of posts, there was a lot of holiday baking and dish washing going on over here, as I’m sure was the case for everyone else.
The end of the month brings another Daring Bakers Challenge, and for December it was appropriately something Christmas-related: Stollen! If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a German treat that is pretty much like fruit cake in yeast bread form. Even though I’m half German, I had never had it, so it was yet another adventure for me.
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.
As with last month’s challenge, we were allowed some room for variations, primarily with the fillings used. I decided to divide the recipe and make two versions.
For the first, I went with somewhat more traditional ingredients. The recipe that Penny provided includes lemon and orange zest, vanilla and lemon or orange extract, cinnamon, rum-soaked raisins, candied citrus peel, candied cherries, and almonds. My variation (for a half recipe): 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, zest from one orange, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, scant 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, 1/2 cup dried cranberries soaked in juice from zested orange, 1/2 cup toasted chopped pistachios, and homemade marzipan.
The second was a little more adventurous and included the following (again, for a half recipe): 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 cup toffee bits, 1/2 cup chopped dried banana chips soaked in coffee, 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts.
Traditionally, Stollen is loaf-shaped, but Penny encouraged us to use Martha Stewart’s wreath-shaping technique. I was all for that since I’d never shaped bread before! All you have to do is roll out the dough into a 1/4″ thick rectangle, then roll it up from one of the short ends to the other. Pinch together the long seam, then make a circle joining together the ends. You can use a bowl to help with the shaping, but I just did this free-form. Pinch together the ends, then cut slits (using scissors) around the edge about 2″ apart.
After you bake Stollen, you have to coat it with a LOT of melted butter and three coatings of powdered sugar. Eeeek! It helps preserve it, but honestly kind of freaked me out.
Despite being half recipes, these things still came out HUGE! They lost their centers though, which maybe wouldn’t have happened had I formed them around a bowl (though maybe it was also due to their smaller size). For perspective, I took a photo with my hand, which is pretty big for a girl! :)
Since Stollen keeps so well, it makes for a great gift to mail. Because of this, we were also encouraged to creatively wrap our creations. I decided to give one of the wreaths to my grandma since I thought she’d like it, especially since she’s German. (She’s the one whose recipe I used to make veggies ‘n dumplings, by the way!) Since I saw her on Christmas Eve, I didn’t need to mail it, but did wrap it up in tissue paper. It’s not very creative, but did the job!
That’s right…my grandma got
stolen Stollen from me for Christmas! :P
And finally, one last photo of slices of both versions…
Top: Orange Cranberry Ginger Marzipan Stollen; Bottom: Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Toffee Stollen
We had the second one with our Christmas lunch dessert and everyone said they liked it! It had a moist texture, and I actually quite liked the buttery sugary crust. The chocolate chips and hazelnuts were most prominent. I didn’t notice the bananas or toffee bits at all unfortunately, but maybe they contributed to the overall flavor. My grandma let me open her Stollen and cut a slice, thankfully! It was a little drier and definitely had a different flavor profile. Overall, I think I should have used a little less ginger, but it was good. The marzipan took on the orange flavor!
Anyway, I enjoy working with yeast breads, so this was a fun challenge! I think if I make this again, I’d like to try it with dried pears (maybe soaked in amaretto), lemon zest, chocolate, ginger, almonds, and marzipan.
Be sure to check out the other Daring Bakers‘ Stollen! :) As always, there are so many awesome variations.