Thursday, December 30, 2010

German Christstollen

My how the Germans wax poetic about their beloved Christmas bread!  Apparently, the original and far superior stollen comes from Dresden.  Like so many cultures, the Germans have a traditional recipe that can only be made in a certain way by a certain handful of bakers to be considered true Dresden Stollen.

Silly me.  I made it anyway :)

If you hate fruitcake, this might be the alternative for you!  Last year, I made a Dundee Cake (Irish in origin), and is also a lighter answer to the doorstop bricks that most people associate with fruit-laced Christmas breads.  The delightful combination of fruits, nuts, rum or brandy, and sweet, yeasty goodness has me hooked on the whole idea.

After searching the web for recipes, and reading all the "only true and authentic" recipes, I came across one that made sense to me.  I had to substitute and change a few things, but that's where all the fun lies, right?  I ended up a bit under the weather on Christmas, so I baked two loaves to take to my SIL's house, and kept an extra hunk of dough in my refrigerator to make for just us on the 26th.  Needless to say, this recipe makes 3 very large loaves.  Bake it when you have company coming!

But here's a little secret - the BEST loaf was the one the next day!  That yeast dough sat in the cold fridge, "ripening" and developing flavor like nobody's business.  Knowing that, you might want to mix up your dough the day before, divide it into three portions, and bake them all the next day.  Like its more dense and substantial cousins the fruitcakes, Stollen is really tasty for a few days, and toasted with a slather of butter is DIVINE.

Alas, and apologies, there are no photos.  I was lucky to get this out of the oven and into the car for the trip to SIL's.  The loaf itself isn't lovely, but when it is double-dusted with powdered sugar?  Well, then. 

German Christstollen

1/2 cup rum
1 cup chopped citron
1 cup chopped candied orange peel
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup 1 plus tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups butter
2 lemons
2 teaspoons almond extract
7 to 8 cups flour, as needed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups chopped blanched almonds
1/2 cup melted butter, approximately
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Combine rum with citron, orange peel, raisins and currants and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, reserving rum and fruit.

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water with 1 tablespoon sugar and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until foamy. Scald milk with 1 cup granulated sugar, salt and butter. When butter melts, cool to lukewarm. Add grated rind of the 2 lemons, 4 tablespoons of the reserved rum, and almond extract. Stir in yeast and 2 cups flour. Mix well and set in warm place for 30 minutes until the bubbly. Stir in eggs and work in as much remaining flour as need to make a soft, light dough that does not stick to your hands.

Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Dredge drained fruit lightly with flour.  Knead in fruits and nuts only until well distributed. Gather into a ball, place in a lightly buttered bowl, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Place in a draft-free corner for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down, divide into thirds and set aside for 10 minutes. Lightly roll each third of dough into an oval about 3/4i nch thick.

Brush top of each oval with a little melted butter and sprinkle with a tablespoonful or two of granulated sugar. Fold each oval lengthwise, almost in half, so that edges do not quite meet. Press closed.

Slide loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush tops with melted butter and let rise in draft-free corner for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in bulk.

Bake in preheated 375 degree. oven for about 1 hour, or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom. Cool slightly, but while still warm, brush tops with melted butter and dust with powdered sugar. Cool completey and dust with powdered sugar again before slicing. Serve thinly sliced, with or without butter.

To store, place in plastic bags and tie closed, or wrap in double thickness of aluminum foil. Makes 3 loaves

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