Over the last 12 years or so and across three different postings, I’ve somehow managed to amass a small collection of German friends. During my last three years in St Andrews, my flatmate was even German. Since I’ve been periodically surrounded by Germans speaking German to each other for quite a few years now, it would be logical to assume that I’ve have picked up a fair amount of German and can hold a basic conversation. If you have a vague grasp of German, you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this post that this really isn’t the case. Aside from being able to swear in German (because that’s always the first thing you learn in any language), declare my love to people and throw out a few random words, my ability to speak German is more or less limited to “Achtung! Ich bin eine Kartoffel!” Which translates to “Warning! I am a potato!” Really useful stuff, right there. If I ever get hopelessly lost in Germany and have to ask somebody for directions, I’ll have to choose between declaring my love to them, telling them I’m a potato or swearing at them. Luckily I can read maps quite well, so hopefully that particular situation will never arise…
Whilst my friends may have failed miserably at teaching me any useful German, they have successfully introduced me to some rather delicious foods, including stollen. I’ve been a big fan of this Christmas bread-like fruitcake for quite a long time now, and I always look forward to it in December. It was a treat that I’d only get if I was round at a German friend’s house, which made it that little bit more special. Now of course, it’s quite easy to find stollen in the UK, which makes it a little less special, but I still love it. I considered trying to make some last year but realised that it involves yeast, which scares me a little – I’ve attempted to bake with yeast a few times, but it never seems to turn out how it should.
This month’s Breakfast Challenge is hosted by Krithi’s Kitchen and she’s chosen “Bread” as the theme, so I decided to give baking with yeast another go. I’m not sure whether stollen is technically classed as bread, but it’s very bread-like and involves yeast, kneading and a bunch of waiting around, so I think it makes a suitably bread-like entry, right? I’m going with yes. I don’t actually know if stollen is considered a breakfast food in Germany. I rather suspect that it isn’t – based on the Germans that I know and have had breakfast with, breakfast seems to be more of a savoury affair (edit: it’s been kindly pointed out to me on Twitter that, as with any country, breakfast foods vary widely across Germany and that some families do eat sweet things for breakfast, including stollen at Christmastime. I clearly just managed to make friends with those that eat ham and cheese!). But I love stollen, so when it comes up to Christmastime I’d happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I thought that was a remotely balanced diet.
So, did I manage to conquer the yeast? You may have guessed from the photos that I did! I decided to make the stollens with marzipan down the middle, and they worked perfectly. Kat, Craig and I reunited in St Andrews last weekend, so I took one of the loaves up with me and tested it on them, just like old times, and they gave it their seal of approval (“über-wunderbar, ja!” “Genau!” – which may or may not be real German…). Although rather time-consuming, the recipe that I used turned out to be really quite straightforward, and after such delicious results, I’m less scared of baking with yeast. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m confident yet, but I won’t automatically disregard recipes that involve yeast, which is quite a step forward…
I know this looks like the world’s longest recipe, but it’s worth it, I promise!! The marzipan is optional – just leave it out when rolling the pastry up to make the loaf – but I’d leave the crème d’amandes (unless you’re allergic to almonds or something, obviously!) in, as it subtly moistens the loaf a little bit. The dough for the stollen can be made up to the end of step 8 and kept in the fridge for up to a week, then baked on the day required (or the day before). The finished stollen also keeps very well for several days, wrapped tightly in tin foil and stored at room temperature.
For the stollen:
Dark rum to cover the raisins
770g all-purpose flour
115g caster sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
60 ml lukewarm water (around 43°C)
14g dried active yeast
240 ml milk
140g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
135g mixed candied peel
100g flaked almonds
For the marzipan:
200g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
1 egg white
For the crème d’amandes:
75g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
20g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
5 tsp dark rum (use the rum that the raisins were soaked in)
For the glaze:
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp dark rum
About 15 tbsp icing sugar
To make the stollen:
1. Place the raisins in a small bowl, and just cover with dark rum. Cover with foil and leave to soak for about 12 hours, stirring regularly (you can also soak them in a sealed jar and shake it regularly).
2. In a large mixing bowl (use the largest you’ve got), sift together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the lemon and orange zests.
3. Pour the lukewarm water into a small bowl (I didn’t bother faffing with a thermometer to get the exact temperature, I just used water that felt warm against the inside of my wrist) and gently pour the yeast over the top of it. Allow to sit for about 5 mins before stirring to dissolve the yeast completely.
4. Gently heat the milk and butter together in a small saucepan until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool for about 5 mins until lukewarm.
5. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla and lemon extracts with a fork.
6. Pour the yeast mixture, eggs and milk and butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir together (I used a spatula in order to be able to scrape the bowl better) until the dough comes together. This should take about 3 mins, and the dough should form a soft, but not sticky, ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 10 mins.
7. Add the mixed peel, flaked almonds and drained raisins to the dough and mix them in using your hands. Dust the counter with flour and turn the dough out onto the counter. Knead for about 8 mins to distribute the dried fruit throughout the dough (add more flour if necessary). The dough has been kneaded enough when a few raisins start falling off the outside of the dough ball – the dough should be tacky, not sticky.
8. Lightly oil a large bowl and add the dough ball, rolling it around to coat it in the oil (I used organic rapeseed oil since I find that it’s flavourless). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The dough will harden, but it will rise.
9. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to rest for about 2h in order to warm and soften. Whilst waiting for the dough to warm, line a large baking sheet (or two small ones) with baking paper and prepare the marzipan and crème d’amandes.
To make the marzipan:
10. Add all the marzipan ingredients to a mixing bowl, and mix with your hands until it comes together (it will be dry at first, but it will get stickier as you work the ingredients together). Set aside.
To make the crème d’amandes:
11. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl, using a fork and set aside.
12. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter using an electric whisk, until soft (it helps if the butter is already at room temperature, but this isn’t necessary). Add the sugar and mix with the electric whisk. Once fully mixed, add the ground almonds and mix. Once fully incorporated, add the flour and cinnamon and beat together until fully mixed. Add the egg and mix again until fully incorporated. Finally, add the alcohol and mix until smooth. Chill the crème d’amandes in the fridge for about 15 mins until required.
To put together:
13. Punch the dough down (no really, give it some serious punches. But don’t hurt yourself). Turn the dough out onto the counter (it shouldn’t need to be floured), and punch it into a vague rectangle. Roll the dough out into a rectangle of about 40 x 60 cm. It should be about 5mm thick. Cut the rectangle in half along its width (so you should have two rectangles of about 40 x 30 cm each).
14. Evenly spread half of the crème d’amandes over one of the rectangles of dough, leaving a 2cm border all the way around. Take half of the marzipan and carefully work it into a cylinder of about 27 cm long (the marzipan will crumble if you try to roll it, so it’s easiest to gently squeeze it into a cylinder). Lay the marzipan roll at one of the short ends of the dough (it should be just shorter than the dough), and roll the dough up tightly around the marzipan. Pinch the ends to close them a little. Transfer the stollen to the prepared baking sheet, with the seam sitting underneath.
15. Repeat for the second half of the dough, using the remaining crème d’amandes and marzipan, and transfer it to the baking sheet (make sure there is space between them for them to increase in size, both before and during baking).
16. Allow the stollens to prove for about 2h at room temperature, until about 1½ times their original size.
17. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Bake the stollens for 20 mins, rotate the baking sheet so that they bake evenly (separate them if they’ve joined a little in the middle) and bake a further 20-30 mins until a dark mahogany colour. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove to a wire rack.
18. Whilst the loaves are baking, melt the butter for the glaze in a small saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the rum. As soon as the loaves have been transferred to the wire racks, brush their tops with the melted butter, and sift a layer of icing sugar over the top, followed by a second layer 1 minute later. A few minutes later, brush more melted rum butter over the top of the icing sugar (this looks totally messy and unpresentable and icing sugar will go everywhere, but don’t worry), and sift another layer of icing sugar over the top. A few minutes later, brush the remaining melted rum butter over the top of the icing sugar and immediately sift another layer of icing sugar over the top, followed 1 minute later by a final layer. Allow the stollens to cool completely before serving or wrapping tightly in tin foil to store.
Enjoy! (Natürlich ja, genau…)