Makes 2 loaves
In old New York at Christmastime, bakeries sold stacks of paper-wrapped and beribboned stollen, the beloved German holiday bread. When I serve samples of fresh-baked stollen at the bakery, the customers' faces light up with discovery. Once I served it and a customer asked what he was eating. "It's stollen," I said. With a straight face, he replied, "Well, you should give it back!" This recipe, inspired by pastry chef Dieter Schorner, is extraordinarily light and flavored with rum-scented raisins and other fruits and nuts.
Baker's Note: This bread uses the "sponge" method of bread making. An initial thin dough is made with some of the flour mixed with milk and yeast, which gives the yeast a head start on developing flavor. The rest of the flour is added with the other ingredients to finish the dough.
The bread's folded shape and sugary coating are said to represent the pure white swaddling clothes described in the Nativity story.
1. The day before baking the stollen, prepare the rum raisins. Place the raisins in a heatproof bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand until the raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Return to the bowl. Add the rum and vanilla and toss together. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours.
2. To make the stollen, crumble the compressed yeast (or sprinkle the dry yeast) over the warm milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes, then whisk to dissolve the yeast. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and stir well to make a thin, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the remaining flour, the butter, sugar, salt, almond extract, lemon zest, and orange zest. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed just until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, adding more flour if needed, about 3 minutes. Add the rum raisins, apricots, cherries, pears, pecans, and almonds, and mix until they are incorporated into the dough. Gather up the dough and shape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.
4. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Very gently shape each portion into a ball—do not knead the dough, as you want to retain its light texture. Place the balls on the floured work surface and cover each with a clean kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 45 minutes.
5. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Press one ball into a thick round about 7-1/2 inches in diameter. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom. Starting about one-third from the bottom, using your thumbs, firmly press a deep semicircular trough in the dough, reaching almost through the dough. This will keep the stollen layers from separating when baked. Repeat with the second ball. Transfer each to a prepared pan and cover with the towels. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes.
6. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Uncover the loaves and bake, switching the positions of the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until deep golden brown, almost walnut-colored, about 35 minutes. The stollen may look a shade darker than you might expect, but do not underbake them.
7. To make the coating, combine the superfine sugar and vanilla seeds on a half-sheet pan. Brush the hot stollen twice with warm melted butter. Roll each loaf in vanilla sugar to coat well. Return to the pans and sprinkle with the remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. Generously sift confectioners' sugar on top. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.)
This page created December 2010
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