With Christmas just around the corner, there are just so many things that need to get done (shopping, baking, decorating the house), that I have to get a few things started as early as possible. Most of my baking at Christmas is making cookies for everyone. I usually have all of this done in advance and freeze the cookie dough so it’s easy to just pull the dough (already pre-formed into individual cookies) from the freezer and bake them off. This usually takes an entire weekend of baking.
However, last year on December 23rd my Oma passed away. We have since gone through and found what recipes we could. I have a box of pieces of paper. While there were a few recipes in the box, most of the pieces of paper were coupons from the 80’s and grocery lists. So there are now a lot of things that I remember from my childhood and growing up that are gone. I had over the years forced her to give me some of her recipes. She tried hanging on to her recipes and refused to give them to anyone. She always said, you don’t need that, you can just buy it in the store. But we all know, buying something from the store is never quite the same as making it yourself.
We always have our traditional German Christmas dinner – Sauerbraten and spaetzel – no turkey for us on Christmas day. I finally made her show me how to make this and gave her no choice to show me how the make the Sauerbraten. She tried just giving me a recipe in a book, but I told, I’m sure you do things different than in the book, I will be at your house in the morning to watch you do everything. She was not pleased. But now that she’s gone, I have the recipe and this is one tradition that we can all still keep having. I only wished I had fought more for the rest of the recipes that she had.
I decided this year I would try and make a Stollen. So I started sifting through the box of paper that we found. Unfortunately there was no recipe in there for Stollen. I asked my mom and she had said that once Oma had stated that Martha Stewart’s mother had a recipe similar to what she made. So that was my starting point. This is almost exactly (with a few changes and a few omissions) to what Martha Stewart’s recipe is for Stollen.
First off, the day before you start, measure out your currants and raisins into two separate bowls and pour the cognac over the currents and the orange juice over the raisins and let them soak over night in the fridge. Also, the night before take your butter out of the fridge to make sure it is nice and soft. (Now, we don’t use any of the candied fruit in this or dried apricots – but if you want to add those in, go right ahead, my mom just really doesn’t like all that “other stuff” in her Stollen and seeing as I’m making these for her, I make them the way she wants them. Oma used to make two different kinds, one with the candied fruit and one without, so by all means used candied fruit in your final Stollen or don’t, I won’t tell, I promise).
The next morning, when you’re ready to start, take the raisins and currents out of the fridge so they can come to room temperature. Measure out your butter (again, if I don’t have sticks of butter I weigh out my butter – 5 oz. or 10 Tbsp.) and 1 cup of milk. Place this into a pot and warm of low heat until the butter is melted. Make sure this mixture isn’t took hot (no more than 100°F). Once you have started warming the milk/butter, proof your yeast (5 tsp.) with 1/4 cup of warm water (around 100 to 105°F) and a pinch of sugar. Also, lightly beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl (sorry no photo of this, almost forgot to even add the eggs – whoops!)
While everything is warming and proofing, measure out your dry ingredients – flour, sugar, mace, nutmeg and salt. I give this a good whisk before pouring in the wet ingredients just to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
Once the yeast has proofed and the milk and butter mixture have cooled to the right temperature, add everything in to the dry ingredients (not no eggs, yup almost forgot them). Add in the eggs as well at this point. Mix this on speed 3 for 1 minute and then speed 2 of a Kitchenaid for 5 more minutes, just until you get a smooth dough.
While the dough is mixing, you want to zest 2 oranges and 1 lemon. We only need the zest here, so try and think of something to do with these after you’ve zested them. As well, we need 1 1/2 cups of slivered almonds. Just quickly run your knife through them to give a quick chop as well.
Then dump all the fruit and nuts and zest into the mixer with the dough and turn the mixer to 3 for the first minute, just to get the fruit and nuts mixed into the dough and then turn it down to 2 and mix for an additional 5 minutes. Once it’s done being mixed in the mixer, dump the dough out onto the counter and just knead it by hand for an additional minute, just to make sure the fruit and zest and nuts are completely incorporated and evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Then place the dough into a greased bowl and wrap with plastic wrap and a towel and place in a warm spot for 2 to 2 1/2 hours to rise. (Start checking at 1 3/4 hours though, depending on how warm your kitchen is it could be doubled in size by then).
While the dough is rising, I roll out my almond paste. Now, we use a lot more almond paste than the original recipe calls for, because as my mother states, it should be a filling, not something you barely notice is there. If you don’t like almond paste, you can leave it out, or use less. It’s completely up to you.
Once the dough has risen nicely and doubled in size, divide the dough into 3 (this will make 3 rather large loaves (although the recipes says to divide it into 2 – they would be so huge doing this I honestly didn’t feel this was necessary – I actually wanted to divide the dough into 4 and make 4 loaves, but as I was told, 3 is just fine, they’re not “that big”. Yes, yes they are. They won’t look that big at first, but trust me, they are big. ) Now roll each piece of dough into a rough rectangle, just large enough to fit your piece of almond paste in the centre. (if you want your almond paste in a roll in the centre by all means do this) Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter (do not soak it in butter, just a light brushing of melted butter will do). Place your piece of almond paste in the middle of the dough and fold the dough over the almond paste. Pinch the seam closed and flip it over so the seam side is down on a parchment lined baking sheet. (I had to sort of curve the ends to make it fit on the baking sheet – this was my first mistake – second mistake was thinking I could fit all 3 on one baking sheet – don’t do this – use 2 baking sheets).
Cover and let the dough rise again, for 1 1/2 hours. At the 1 hour mark, preheat your oven to 350°F (I apparently read the wrong recipe and preheated my oven to 375°F – they worked and didn’t burn, but try not to do that okay?) Bake the Stollen for 40 minutes, until they are golden brown (mine got a bit more dark brown than I would have liked), turning the pan half way through to ensure even cooking.
While they are cooling – sift some powdered sugar (icing sugar, confectioners sugar – whatever you call it) onto a sheet pan. Allow them to cool (not completely though), until you are able to handle them. You still want them to be slightly warm when you finish them off. While still slightly warm, using softened butter (not melted – softened), brush the bottom and top and well, everywhere with the softened butter. Place this bottom side down on the sheet pan with icing sugar on it. And then using your sifter, sift more icing sugar on top of the Stollen. The butter will help the icing sugar stick. You want a thick layer, so be a little heavy handed at this point. Make sure you get it everywhere (I really did get it everywhere – the floor, the counter, the kitchen table).
Allow the Stollen to cool completely at this point (at least 3 hours) and then wrap them in foil or saran and store them in a cool place. The longer they sit the better the flavour will be. I don’t have a cool room, so my mom is picking them up to put them in her cool room for storage. Now she’s supposed to let them sit so the flavours can develop, but I have a feeling they won’t last that long. Enjoy.
Stollen (makes 3)
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe
1 1/4 cups currants
1/4 cup cognac (or slightly more)
1 1/2 cups raisins (Sultanas)
1/4 cup orange juice (or slightly more)
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
5 oz. butter (10 Tbsp.), plus 3 Tbsp. melted (for brushing the dough later)
1/4 cup warm water (100 to 110°F)
5 tsp. (2 packages) active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds, chopped
18 oz. almond paste (or marzipan – 6 oz. per Stollen)
Icing sugar for dusting
Softened butter (approx. 6 Tbsp.)
- The night before, in two separate bowls, soak currants in cognac and raisins in orange juice. Store these in the fridge over night.
- The next morning, in a small sauce pan, combine 1 cup of milk and 5 oz. (10 Tbsp.) butter over low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until luke warm (around 100 to 110°F).
- Pour 1/4 cup warm (100 to 110°F) water into a small bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
- Measure out flour, sugar, salt, mace and nutmeg in bowl of stand mixer (or if doing this by hand in a large mixing bowl). Give this a quick whisk to combine thoroughly.
- Crack eggs into a separate bowl and give them a quick whisk.
- Grate the zest of 2 oranges and 1 lemon and set aside.
- Measure out slivered almonds and give them a rough chop. Set aside.
- Add milk/butter mixture, yeast and eggs to flour mixture and mix for 1 minute on speed 3 (on a Kitchenaid) and then turn down to speed 2 for 5 minutes. Once you have a smooth dough, stop the machine and add in the currants (with remaining liquid), raisins (with remaining liquid), almonds and zest. Mix on speed 3 for 1 minute, then turn down to speed 2 and knead for 5 minutes longer. At the end of this 5 minutes, turn the dough out onto the counter and knead by hand for an additional minute, to ensure that all the fruit and nuts and zest are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a towel and place in a warm place until double in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Divide the almond paste into 3 portions (6 oz. each) and roll into a rectangle, smaller than you will be rolling out the dough, so it will fit nicely into the centre of the dough. (You could roll this into a cylinder if you wish).
- Punch down dough once double in size and divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each piece into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush lightly with melted butter (we’re not making cinnamon rolls, so go lightly here). Place almond past ein the middle of the dough and fold the dough around the almond paste, overlapping the dough and pinching the seams.
- Please the dough, seam side down, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow to rise an additional 1 1/2 hours.
- After 1 hour, preheat your oven to 350°F. Once the dough has risen, place in a preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes, rotating half way through.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Do not let them cool completely, you still want them to be warm to the touch. Brush with softened (not melted) butter all over. Sift powered sugar onto a sheet pan. Place Stollen onto the sheet pan with the powered sugar on it and sift additional powered sugar on top to coat.
- Once completely covered in icing sugar, return to the cooling rack and allow to cool completely before wrapping tightly in foil and allowing the flavors to develop (at least a week). Store in a cool, dry place.