Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Taste of Germany for the Holidays: Christmas Stollen

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, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen. The cake is typically made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices.  Similar cakes around the world include the Dutch Kerststol, the Italian Panettone, and the infamous mail-order fruitcake in the United States.

For my first stollen, I borrowed the main ingredients from Mary Cech's Sweet Potato, Golden Raisin, Cranberry and Pecan Strudel (Savory Baking), featured on Leite's Culinaria. I also played around with some decorative dough, and only used a light dusting of powdered sugar.

I spread two roasted, mashed sweet potatoes over the dough,
and then sprinkled the dried fruit and nuts evenly over the top prior to rolling

I made a second, more traditional stollen for a German Christmas Eve dinner hosted by our friends, Mike and Ruth Ann. This one featured dried cherries, cranberries, golden raisins, all soaked in dark rum, toasted almonds and marzipan. Traditional recipes also use red glacé cherries and mixed candied citrus peel, but I omitted these and added a little more dried cherries, cranberries and raisins instead.

Cherry-Almond Stollen Wreath
Adapted from The Daring Bakers' challenge recipe, here
Makes one large wreath. Serves 14-16 people


1/4 cup lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup milk
10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
5 1/2 cups (770 grams) all-purpose flour (Measure flour first, then sift); plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon (salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon orange extract
2-3 cups dried fruit (I used a combination of cherries, cranberries and golden raisins)
1/2 cup dark rum (or brandy)
1 cup sliced almonds (toasted)
1 package (7 oz.) Marzipan

Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath


Soak the dried fruit and toast the almonds:

In a small bowl, combine the dried cherries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins. Pour about 3/4 cup rum over the top, stir and heat in the microwave about 30 seconds. Cover and allow to macerate several hours, or overnight. Toast the almonds in a pan over medium heat and reserve.

Make the dough:

Pour 1/4 cup 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 milk and 10 tablespoons butter over low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add vanilla and orange extracts.

In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and orange zest.

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 soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands, or on low speed, to incorporate.

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 a tea towel and allow to proof for about 2 hours. You can also put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath:

If you refrigerated the dough, let it rest for 2 hours after taking out of the refrigerator in order to warm slightly.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C, with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the almond paste crumbles evenly over the dough. 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 1-1/2 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 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 helps keeps the stollen fresh.

When completely cool, store in a plastic bag, or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style. The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days. It tastes especially good toasted, with butter.

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

The beauty in this challenge was the ease in adapting the recipe to personal tastes.  You can use so many combinations of fruits, nuts, spices, and fillings.

Happy Holidays!


bunkycooks said...

This is just gorgeous! You always do such a fabulous job with these creations. Hope your X-mas was a great one!

GourmAndrea said...

Your Stollen is Stunning! The sweet potato layer is so creative, love it

Anonymous said...

Both of your stollen look amazing, but I'm so taken with the beauty of the first one! Amazing! Definitely a beautifully executed challenge!

Jenny said...

I love what you've done, and the sweet potato swirl is vivid genius.

bakercoz said...

I love the detail that you put into your stollen, so beautiful!

Carmen said...


anchan said...

Utterly stunning! Wow, this is probably my favourite this month - you totally rocked this challenge! xxx

Audax said...

I'm super impressed with both of your version but the one with the coloured dough on top is so beautiful and creative it is so so pretty well done. And I love the idea of sweet potato that is so clever outstanding work and the photos are so clear and tempting. I love that orange layer through the stollen

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Anonymous said...

What gorgeous stollen! The lovely orange swirl of the sweet potato and the festive cut outs on top made it just jump off the screen! I too really enjoyed this challenge.

Tiffany @ Conor & Bella said...

They look wonderful! The first one is gorgeous. I'm going to try making stollen next year, can't wait!

Ben said...

I've seen a lot of these in the past few days, but your stollen is just gorgeous. I love the colors.

Cookinva said...

Your stollens look absolutely fabulous! I am in awe at the way your decorated the first one... Absolutely mind blowing!

Namratha said...

Wow, lovely stollens! Can't seem to get my eyes off the first one. You did a great job!

Urvashee@dessarts said...

This looks absolutely beautiful. Nice job! The sweet potato adds a nice color.

Wolf said...

That first one is absolutely stunning! The second one made me hungry.}:P

Anonymous said...

I just love what you did with the decorative dough around the top. It's just so pretty!!

Stephanie said...

Such beautiful decorations! your stollen turned out amazing!