Written by Pastry Chef Denise Spooner
As we enter the holiday season, our ovens are usually overflowing with cookies, cakes and other seasonal treats, but what about bread?! If you are like me, and have a love for all things fermented then I suggest giving this one a try!
Your first thought might be Panettone, an Italian holiday bread. Very delicious and traditional. But there’s another great one that deserves a taste this year.
Stollen, a German Christmas bread, is the one I always find myself craving each year. This bread is packed with seasonal flavors like cinnamon and orange. But the added pieces of almond paste along with liquor soaked fruits is what gives it the boost of holiday cheer!
Let’s paint the picture of this seasonal bread. Sweetened and enriched dough is the base of this bread. Meaning the sugar content is higher with added ingredients of eggs and butter. The texture of these types of doughs are almost cake like. Think brioche and challah! With that irresistible tenderness with each bite.
Now the sound of soaked fruit might have you thinking of the dreaded holiday fruit cake. The traditional hard as a rock and filled with everything but the kitchen sink, “cake”. Seen as a symbol that you might need to rethink this friendship, kind of gift. But push those thoughts aside as we taste the flavors of this bread, because you will want to share it and be happy if this is gifted to you.
Any type of dried fruit can be added to this soak, from finely chopped cranberries, apricots to candied orange peels.The combinations can be endless. The liquor used can also be customized to suit your tastes. Most bakeries use a dark rum, but a brandy or bourbon can also be used.
To boost the seasonal flavor I suggest adding a cinnamon stick or two. Along with some clove and ginger. The longer the fruits soak the more flavorful they will become, but be sure to stash it in the fridge for a long soak. Bakeries that sell Stollen will begin to soak the fruits as early as October, to rehydrate and flavor them as much as they can.
The last component of this bread is what makes the traditional look. A torpedo shaped loaf hides a hidden almond paste tube. Each baked Stollen is covered in clarified butter and coated with powdered sugar. Like the look of a snowy Christmas morning.
The coating of butter and sugar will preserve the bread, allowing for the shelf life to be longer. As it ages, the flavors of the liquor soaked fruit become more concentrated.
Let’s recap! Sweet and enriched bread, check. Booze soaked fruits, check! Almond paste, check and a coating of butter and powdered sugar. Check and check! What else do you need in a bread!?
This is my favorite way to start the morning off this holiday season, a toasted slice of Stollen with a cup of coffee. Happy Holidays!
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves
1 cup (170g) Raisins
1/2 cup (85g) Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup (85g) Dried Apricots, chopped
Peel of 1 orange
½ cup (113g) Brandy, bourbon, liquor of choice OR fruit juice
½ cup (113g) Water
1 tablespoon (14g) Sugar
Place in an airtight container and let soak overnight at room temperature, or in the fridge for up to 1 month.
½ cup (113g) Whole Milk
½ cup (64g)All Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons ( 12.5g) Instant Yeast
Warm milk to only 70 degrees, mix all together and let sit covered at room temperature for 1 hour. It will get bubbly!
2 1/2 cups (284g) All Purpose Flour (extra for dusting or if needed)
1 tablespoon ( 14g) Sugar
3/4 teaspoon (5.5g) Salt
1 teaspoon (3g) Orange Zest
1 teaspoon ( 7g) Ground Cinnamon
1 (47g) Large egg
1/4 cup (57) Water
5 tablespoons (71g) Unsalted butter, room temperature
(60g) Almond Paste
Drained Fruit Blend (all)
Sponge (from above, all)
Melted Butter (1 Stick or 4oz)
Powdered Sugar (As Needed)
Have the Sponge ready.
Drain the fruit soak.
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, orange zest and cinnamon together in a 4Qt bowl or a bowl of a stationary mixer. Combine the sponge, egg and water into the bowl and mix until it forms a ball.
Cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the dough. Keep mixing until the butter chunks are no longer visible. Could take up to 5-7 minutes on a medium speed. (if mixing by hand, this may take a bit longer. Using very soft butter would be the best for mixing by hand)
Once all the butter is incorporated, add the drained fruit soak mix to the dough. If the dough becomes very sticky add a bit of flour to help it incorporate. Mix until evenly dispersed, about 2-3 minutes.
Place in a nonstick sprayed bowl and cover for about 30-45 minutes depending on room temperature.
Create a tube with the almond paste, and flatten the dough on a floured surface, into a rectangle. Place the tube about a third from the top, roll and seal the dough. Having the end seam on the bottom. Pinch the ends to seal together, to create a torpedo shape. Create a hump on the top, if desired to get the classic Stollen look.
Place the shaped dough on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1hr and 30 minutes to 2 hours. It should grow about 1.5x the original size.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Once ready for the oven, brush with melted butter and bake for 30-40 minutes. It should be fully golden. If checking with an internal thermometer it should be 190 degrees.
Let cool, brush with soft butter and cover completely with powdered sugar. It can be stored at room temperature covered for up to 5 days or wrapped in the freezer for 2-3 months.