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Italy vs. Germany – no, it’s not the World Cup final. It’s my Christmas breads league.
I’ve not really tasted Stollen until only a few weeks ago, when they started turning up in cafes for the festive season. The reason being marzipan which I hated, and which I thought was the key player in the German team. But there – a revelation, it’s a gorgeous sweet festive bread, spiced and fruited, with only bits of marzipan playing on the wing.
So from now on: watch out, panettone, you have some serious competition.
Marzipan also turns out to be not that nasty, over flavoured with artificial almond essence, sickly stuff, when you make it at home. And my word, is it easy to make.
Stollen tastes absolutely divine when still warm from the oven but it keeps surprisingly well, better than panettone (Germany: 1, Italy: nil). Admittedly not as light and fluffy (one all). And it is as much a slog and a palaver to make, takes most of a day with the fruit soaking, proving, shaping and proving again (still one all). But the marzipan is a nice addition and the vanilla sugar coating makes you sigh in bliss (Germany’s fast-paced attack towards the Italian goal), and it will never, ever collapse or sink when out of the oven (2-1 to Germany!!! oh, no, disallowed for offside…)
So – even if World Cup final can’t end in a draw, my Christmas league can…
christmas stollenServings: 2 loavesTime: 3-4 hours plus soaking the fruit
- For the fruit mix:
- 100g raisins
- 100g sultanas
- 50g dried cranberries
- 50g mixed peel
- 4 tbsp dark rum
- 50g almonds, roughly chopped
- zest of ½ lemon
- For the starter dough:
- 175g strong white flour
- 7g instant or 30g fresh yeast
- 150ml water, at room temperature
- For the spice mix:
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1½ tbsp caster sugar
- For the main dough:
- 175g strong white flour
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 free-range egg yolk
- 40ml milk
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- For the marzipan:
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- For the sugar coating:
- 100g fine white granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
- 100g butter, melted
- icing sugar to dust
1. Put the raisins, sultanas, cranberries and mixed peel in a mixing bowl or a small zip lock bag. Pour the rum into the fruit and mix well. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and leave for a few hours, best overnight, to soak.
2. Mix all the ingredients for the starter dough in a large bowl. Cover with cling film and leave for an hour in a warm place. In the meantime grind the cardamom seeds in a pestle and mortar and mix with the other spices and the sugar.
3. Add the spice mix to the starter dough together with the ingredients for the main dough apart from the butter. Add a pinch of salt, then mix with your hands or in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment for about 2 minutes. Add half the butter, then mix for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the butter. Continue mixing until all the butter is absorbed and the dough is beginning to look silky smooth, stops sticking to your hands or bounces off the sides of the mixer bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean sheet of cling film and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
4. When the dough has risen, mix in the almonds and the lemon zest. Add the soaked fruit and mix in very gently, preferably with your hands, in order to avoid crushing the fruit. Return the dough to the cleaned bowl, cover loosely with cling film and leave to rest for another 30 minutes.
5. Now make the marzipan. Put the ground almonds, icing sugar and egg yolks in a bowl. Mix with a spatula, gradually adding the lemon juice, until the marzipan is smooth with a doughy consistency. Divide the marzipan in half, then roll on a work surface dusted lightly with icing sugar into 2 x 20cm lengths. Wrap each in cling film and refrigerate.
6. Divide the rested dough in half. Shape each piece into a ball and rest for 15 minutes. Flatten the balls gently to oval shapes, about 30 x 20 cm. Press gently down just off the middle to form a trench for the marzipan. Unwrap the marzipan, then place one piece, lengthwise, down the middle of each piece of dough. Fold the smaller part of the dough over the other, like a pasty, to cover the marzipan.
7. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper and place the Stollen on the parchment. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Place a tray with hot water at the bottom of the oven to provide steam.
8. Remove the tea towel and put the baking sheet in the lower part of the oven. Bake the Stollen for 20-25 minutes or until they start turn golden brown.
9. While the Stollen are baking, make the coating. Mix the caster sugar with the vanilla seeds in a bowl, then sprinkle over a large sheet of baking paper. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.
10. Remove the Stollen from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then remove any fruit that has popped out and burnt (it will taste bitter). Using a pastry brush, coat the Stollen all over with butter, then sift the vanilla sugar over the loaves. Leave them to cool completely.
11. When cold, dust them generously with icing sugar.Wrap loosely in parchment then wrap tightly in foil. Keep in a cool place, easily for several weeks. It is supposed to get better while it matures but mine have never lasted long enough for me to test it...