Friday, December 24, 2010

Daring Bakers: December 2010, Stollen!

Stollen is one of those things that is all over the place in Wisconsin, even the Italian bakeries sell it, but I haven't seen it anywhere else.  However, it's also crazy expensive, usually about $10 for a pound loaf.  Over Thanksgiving break I saw it at the grocery store for $15 for a pound loaf, and thought "gee, I could definitely make it for less than that, if only I had a good recipe."  Then again, I don't usually like Stollen (or anything with candied cherries for that matter), so I thought my parents would appreciate the gesture, but I wouldn't really care.  And then low and behold, the Daring Bakers challenge for this month was making stollen.  Seriously, many of the challenges since I've started have tapped into what's been on the top of my list to try baking, for instance the ice cream cakes this summer (well, at very least, the ice cream), Crostada, souffle, perogies, apple butter, and now Stollen!  And because I made it, I reduced the amount of raisins and added dried apricots and cranberries instead and left out the stupid candied cherries.  And low and behold, I liked it!  That's because it is basically bread with stuff I approve of: cinnamon, vanilla, orange and lemon zests, orange extract (there was candied peel, but I can deal with a little of that), and of course, dried apricots (and other fruits too).  My dad said it was the best Stollen ever, which means I will probably have to make it every year for the rest of my life, but that's okay.  It's a new Christmas tradition and it's one I fully support.  Now the challenge will be getting my brother to try it.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. 

Here's what I did:
Stollen Wreath 
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people 
1/2 cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C) 
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast 
1 cup (240 ml) milk 
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter) 
6 cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour plus more for flouring
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar 
3/4 teaspoon (3 ••• ml) (4 ••• grams) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon 
3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange 
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract 
3/4 cup (180 ml) (4 ••• ozs) (135 grams) lemon peel
1/3 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins 
1/3 cup dried apricots cut into small pieces
1/3 cup mixed golden raisins and cranberries (there may have been a few dried blueberries and cherries in there, but I tried to pick them out)
3 tablespoons (45ml) dark rum 
1 cup- a little since my mom used some to decorate cookies (240 ml) (3 ••• ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds 
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath 
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath 
Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange. 
Soak the raisins 
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins. I soaked these for about 8 hours

To make the dough 
Pour 1/2 cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely. 
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. 
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts. 
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. 
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. 
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red! 
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). I kneaded for a lot more than this, maybe 15 minutes before i was convinced it was the right texture.  This may have been longer than what the recipe actually wanted, but i was happy with the texture of the end result.  The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball. Since this is an actual bread, I tried to use the window pane test of pulling a small piece apart and accepting it as done when the piece didn't tear.  However all the stuff in the bread made it tear, even after 15 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. (I just buttered the bowl and called it a day) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. 
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.  I kept this in my mom's car in "the big refrigerator" known as out garage.
Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath 
1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly. 
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. 
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf. 
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. This is what you are supposed to do.  How people roll into rectangles is beyond me.  I rolled it into an ellipse and rolled parallel to the major access of the ellipse.  it worked fine, though one side of the Stollen was a little smaller than the other.  I served that side first and no one noticed.

Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. 
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. 
Using a sharp or serrated knife, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. 
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1 1/2 times its original size. 
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. 
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. 
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. 
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first. 
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar. 
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents! 
When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style. 
The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm 
The more rum and the more coatings of butter and sugar you use the longer it will store. 
The following is for the recipe as written and uses the 45 mls of rum and two coatings of butter and icing sugar 
1. Stollen freezes beautifully about 4 months 
2. The baked stollen stores well for 2 weeks covered in foil and plastic wrap on the counter at room temperature and 
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap. 

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