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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nothing Says "Merry Christmas" Like Dried Fruit Soaked in Booze or Stollen!

Stollen is a Christmas tradition with my family. BarmyMom always made one or picked one up from the local bakery and it was our Christmas morning breakfast. Yum. I've decided to continue this tradition with G and Myself, except that I'm going to make the Stollen myself. Stollen is German in background and I have found a brief history of it on Wikipedia, if you would like to know a bit more about it. This is a slightly sweet yeasted cake full of dried fruits and almonds and is traditionally sprinkled with confectioners sugar (although I have seen it iced before). It is very good all by itself, toasted, or served with butter or jam. I do enjoy it naked sliced right off the loaf. This recipe is from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, and I have to say, if you love baking bread or would like to learn how to bake bread, this is an excellent book to own. Enough said.

Stollen: (Makes one large or two small loaves)

The Sponge:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tsp. instant yeast
-Warm 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 touched. While this is fermenting, combine:

The Fruit:
1 cup golden raisins (I didn't have golden raisins and had to use regular raisins) plus a bit extra for sprinkling on the final dough.

1 cup candied fruit mix (I only had candied cherries and orange peel, so this is what I used) plus a bit extra for sprinkling on the final dough.
1/2 cup brandy, rum or schnapps
1 Tbsp orange or lemon extract (I had neither, so I skipped this ingredient)
Now you should be ready to make the final Dough:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp grated orange zest (optional, but as I didn't have the extract, this will be going into mine, and I love orange zest)
1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional, I will have it in mine)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
5 Tbsp (2.5 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
about 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds (I only had sliced almonds)
melted butter for topping
powdered sugar for topping
-In a 4 quart mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the flour, sugar,
salt, orange and lemon zests, and cinnamon. Then stir in (or mix on low with 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.
-Add in the fruit and mix it 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 feel soft and satiny, tacky, but not sticky. Knead for approximately 6 minutes (or 4 if 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.
-Ferment at room temperature for 45 minutes. The dough will rise somewhat, but will not double in size.
-Sprinkle flour lightly on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Flatten the dough with your hands into an oval shape. Sprinkle the top with the extra fruit and the almonds.

-Take a small rolling pin and press down the center of the oval, then roll the dough in the center only leaving one inch at the top and bottom of the oval as thick as they were originally (only roll out the center). The interior will be about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the extra fruit and the almonds over the indentation, and fold the dough in half, making the top fold slightly overlap the bottom, and press lightly to seal. Turn the dough over and plump up the shorter side of the fold to form a bit of a hump. Transfer the loaf to a sheet pan lined with parchment, shaping the loaf into a slight crescent. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and Proof for approximately 1 hour at room temp, or until the dough is 1 1/2 times its original size.
-Preheat the oven to 350f with oven rack in the center of the oven.
-Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, rotate the pan 180 dgrees for even
baking and bake another 20 to 50 minutes depending on whether you made one large or two small loaves. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
-Transfer bread to a cooling rack, brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Tap a layer of powdered sugar over the hot loaf. Wait one minute, then tap another layer over the first. Let cool for at least one hour before serving. When completely cool, store in a plastic bag, or leave out overnight to dry out a little bit.

Mine poofed up a bit more than I had expected it to, it resembles a bloated cresent moon more than anything else, but I'm very happy with that. I'm thinking that if I had wanted smaller more dainty stollen, I should have made two loaves instead of one! The apartment smells indescribably good, and I am just waiting until I can slice into this!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year from the Barmy Household!

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