Last week, some good (nay–amaaaazing) friends gifted us a loaf of Stollen–a German Christmas Yeast Bread; we ate it record time. There may have even been a few squabbles between me and my husband regarding who just exactly ate how much of this stuff. When the inevitable heel of the loaf appeared, I thought, “hey–this can’t be that hard to make.” And I was right. It takes the a day to bake and the better part of a week to let the loaf “ripen” into its decadent glory, but most of it is inactive, soaking or rising time.
I got the recipe inspiration from Slate and customized it to what we had in the pantry (and liquor cabinet.) First, you let a cupful of chopped, dried fruit of your choice macerate in some brandy, whisky, or rum (I used cranberries, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, and golden raisins in spiced rum, and I highly recommend it). It may seem like an odd choice of fruit, but I had a tropical fruit salad mix in the pantry and I’m a big fan of using what you have. Plus, the assortment of colors was divine.
I let the fruit sit in the rum overnight. The next morning, I started on the dough–a mixture of sugar, butter, flour, yeast, whole milk, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and spices like ginger and cinnamon. The dough rises once for a few hours, gets mixed with the fruit, shaped into loaves, and then the individual loaves rise once again. They quickly bake in about 30 minutes, depending on the size of your loaves, get sprinkled with sugar or drizzled with glaze (I did both), dry, and then are covered in a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Wrapped tightly they should keep over a week or more, and what’s even more amazing is that stollen tastes even better after a few days.
I made four small loaves from this recipe and varied the toppings. With 3 tablespoons of the leftover rum from the fruit-soaking, I made a glaze–whisking it with 1 cup of powdered sugar and the juice of half of a lemon. I drizzled this over two of the warm loaves after they came out of the oven. I followed the recipe below with the other two–a sprinkling of gingered sugar and then a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
Although it takes some time, this dense yeasted cake is worth every minute--redolent with rum-soaked fruit and a hint of lemon zest it's the best accompaniment for coffee on Christmas morning.
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup assorted chopped fruit like papaya mango, kiwi, apricots, pears, etc
- 1 cup rum
- 1½ cups 3 sticks butter, divided
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar divided
- Zest of one lemon
- One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Oil or butter for greasing the bowl and baking sheet
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
Combine the fruit and rum in a small bowl. Stir to combine, cover, and let sit at room temperature while you make the dough or overnight if time allows.
Combine 2 sticks of the butter and the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until the butter melts). Combine the flour, ¼ cup of the sugar, the zest, the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the ground ginger, the cinnamon, and the salt in a large bowl. When the butter mixture cools to 100°F—it will feel warm but not hot—add it to the flour mixture and stir with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand. Lightly beat together the eggs and vanilla and stir them into the dough.
Knead the dough with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until it feels smooth and elastic, about 7-10 minutes. Grease a large bowl, add the dough, and turn it over to coat it lightly with oil or butter. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
Punch down the dough and add the fruit mixture. Knead the dough in the bowl with the dough-hook attachment of a stand mixer or by hand until the fruit is evenly incorporated. (The dough will be sticky.)
Grease a baking sheet and shape the dough, as well as you can, into 2 to 4 long, oval loaves on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, put it in a warm place, and let the loaves rise for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the baking sheet and bake until the loaves are golden brown, about 35 minutes (for smaller loaves) to 1 hour (for larger loaves).
When the stollen is done, melt the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave). Brush the tops and sides of the stollen with the butter while the loaves are still warm.
Combine the remaining ¾ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger and sprinkle over the stollen. Cool thoroughly. Sprinkle the powdered sugar all over the stollen, pressing lightly to help it stick. Wrap each loaf in foil or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 day before serving.