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mohnstollen - poppy seed log

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Poppy seed stollen

Poppy seeds make such a fantastic festive filling for breads, cakes and little bites that it’s a shame they are not more popular in the bits of Europe west and south of Dresden. In Germany and Austria you can buy ready-made Mohnback – prepared poppy seed filling, ground and cooked, sugared and spiced, ready to use. I'd been feeling intimidated for a long time by the concept of making Mohnback at home, having vague recollections of my grandmother boiling the seeds for ages like she was auditioning for Breaking Bad, then putting them through an old-fashioned mincer at least twice, kitchen covered with black clumps of poppy because it gets everywhere.

There is a much easier way though (Grandma clearly liked a challenge) and it’s about grinding the seeds BEFORE you cook them, in an ordinary coffee grinder, easy-peasy, doesn’t take three minutes. They smell excellent when ground and there is a naughty waft of smoke/steam coming out of them when you open the grinder. The cooking and spicing takes no time at all either and you can make up a batch in advance to be used in the Stollen, Hamantaschen, rugelach or – which I have a good mind to give a go – a hybrid take on mince pies, stuffed with poppy instead of boring (or worse – shop-bought) mincemeat.

Poppy seed Stollen

The recipe for the poppy filling I lifted off the Jewish part of NY Times cooking site, and the Stollen dough has featured here already, this time sans dried fruit.

mohnstollen - poppy seed log

Servings: makes 2 Stollen loavesTime: 3-4 hours

INGREDIENTS

  • For the poppy seed filling:
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 vanilla pod, cut open and seeds scraped out
  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • ½ cup raisins
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • ½ tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • For the starter dough:
  • 175g strong white flour
  • 7g fast-action or 30g fresh yeast
  • 150ml whole milk, 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 coating:
  • 50g butter, melted
  • icing sugar to dust
Poppy seeds, raisins, brandy


METHOD

First make the poppy seed filling. It can be prepared ahead and will last in a jar stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Grind the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder almost to a powder. Put the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and the pod, and orange zest in a pan and bring to the boil. Fish out the vanilla pod and discard. Pour in the poppy seeds and raisins and turn the heat down so it just simmers. Stir every now and then and cook for about 15 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the poppy seeds thicken considerably. Add the lemon juice, the brandy and the butter, stir in and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mix reaches thick, spreading consistency. Leave to cool.

Poppy seed filling

For the dough, mix all the ingredients for the starter 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.

Add all the spice mix save for 1 tsp 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 knead in the bowl for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the butter. Knead until all the butter is mixed in and the dough is beginning to look silky smooth, stops sticking to your hands or bounces off the sides of the standing mixer bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean sheet of cling film and set aside to rise for 1 hour, punching it once to degas halfway through the time.

Divide the dough in half. Pat each piece down to form a rough rectangle, then roll it tightly from the top towards you. Leave it to relax for 10 minutes. Flatten each roll and roll it up again from the narrow side, leave for another 10 minutes – this will tighten the dough and limit the risk of the log unfurling or cracking when baking.

Rolling up poppy seed stollen log

Roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle about 30x30cm – it should be quite thin.  Using a palette knife spread the poppy seed filling thinly all over the surface and roll it up tightly. Make sure the seam is sealed very well and tucked underneath the log. Place the Stollen on a baking sheet lined with parchment, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for about 40 minutes while the oven pre-heats to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

Bake the Stollen for 15 minutes or until they start to brown, then reduce the heat to 150°C/ 130°C fan/gas 2 and bake for a further 35-40 minutes. If the Stollen turn dark quickly, cover with foil.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Remove the Stollen from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then coat them all over, at least twice, with butter using a pastry brush. Mix the icing sugar with the remaining spice mix and dust the logs generously.

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