Stollen is a traditional rich Christmas bread eaten in Austria and Germany. It is full of dried fruits and candied peel with hidden marzipan centre topped with a drizzle of glace icing. The way the yeast dough is rolled around the marzipan log is intended to remind us of the cloths that swaddled baby Jesus in the manger. The usual shape is to simply fold the sides of the dough in over the marzipan centre so there is a central ridge. I decided to make my Stollen dough into a plait so it looked more like swaddling bands. I make Stollen on Christmas eve to eat at Christmas morning breakfast. If there is any left later in the week it is lovely toasted.
The recipe I use comes from the book Delia Smith’s Christmas (1990 edition). It is worth making a double quantity, especially if you have guests for Christmas. Delia says it freezes very well, though I have never done so. Despite Delia’s original instructions saying that you should not use easy blend yeast, I have used it very successfully and have amended the instructions accordingly. The remaining ingredients are as listed in the original recipe, but are simply added in a slightly different order. Delia suggests a light glaze of glace icing, but I simply dust my Stollen with icing sugar, which is more traditional making it much less sweet. I also decided to make my own marzipan, which was very quick and simple: better than buying it ready made.
5fl oz/150ml milk
2oz/50g caster sugar
1 sachet easy blend yeast
12oz/350g strong white bread flour
¼level teaspoon salt
4oz/110g softened butter
1 large egg, beaten
1½ oz/40g currants
1½ oz/40g no-soak apricots, chopped
1oz/25g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
1oz/25g mixed candied peel, finely diced
1oz/25g almonds, chopped
grated zest ½ lemon
6oz/175g marzipan – home made is so easy!
For the glaze:
4oz (110g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1tsp (aprox) icing sugar
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/375oF/Gas 5
2. Warm the milk, first of all, till you can just still dip your little finger in it. Warm the butter until just starting to melt.
3. Sieve the flour into a large bowl reserving a little to flour the surface when you knead later – about 1oz/25g. Add the salt, sugar and yeast and combine.
4. Pour in the warmed milk, part melted butter and egg. Mix together well with your hands.
5. Begin to pull the mixture together into a ball. When it is well blended and leaves the side of the bowl cleanly, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead until it starts to lose its stickyness and becomes a smooth ball.
6. Flatten the ball onto the work surface and pile the fruits, peel, nuts and lemon zest onto the middle. Fold the edges of the dough over the fruits and continue to knead, distributing the added ingredients as evenly as possible. If any pieces fall out then just push them back into the mixture. Continue to knead the dough until it is springy and elastic – about 5 minutes more.
7. Return the dough to the bowl and leave the dough in a warm place, covered with a clean tea towel or a layer of plastic, until it has doubled in size. I use the airing cupboard. (The time the dough takes to rise varies depending on the temperature and it could take up to 2 hours.)
8. Turn the risen dough onto a board floured with the reserved 1 oz (25 g) of flour. Knead the dough, knocking the air out of it and continue kneading until it is smooth and elastic. Roll or press out the dough to an oblong 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm).
9. Using your hands, roll the marzipan into a sausage shape that almost fits the length of the oblong. Place this along the centre of the dough, finishing just short of the edges.
10. Either: Fold the dough over the marzipan (for the traditional shape),
or: make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes along the long edges of the dough. Alternately fold each one over the marzipan to give a plaited appearance, making sure the marzipan is fully enclosed. (This gives the appearance of swaddling bands.)
11. Carefully place the Stollen on a baking sheet, big enough to allow for expansion. Leave it to prove in a warm place until doubled in size once more.
12. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Leave it to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then lift it on to a wire rack to finish cooling.
13. For a glazed Stollen: Mix the sifted icing sugar with the lemon juice. Using a small palette knife spread it over the top of the stollen (while still warm).
For a icing dusted Stollen: Gently sprinkle icing sugar over the Stollen while still warm. I find the easiest way of getting a fine powder rather than lumps of sugar is to rub it through a plastic mesh tea strainer or similarly fine sieve.
14. Serve as fresh as possible, cut into thick slices, with or without butter. It also toasts well when it is no longer fresh.