It’s that time of the year where my German heritage goes into full festive overdrive. German Christmas is all about Lebkuchen, Glühwein and the finest Weihnachtsgebäck. That’s gingerbread, mulled wine and Christmas baked goods to those not versed in German. Top of my list, when it comes to Weihnachtsgebäck, is my mum’s Stollen. As she lives in South Africa (where it’s hot and sunny for Christmas – weird, right?!) I don’t get to taste it much so it is down to me to make it myself.
Now is probably a good time to come clean and admit that it has taken me 3 years to perfect her recipe. I only bake Stollen in December so there are 365 days between each trial. The hardest part of making Stollen is to get the baking right and that has taken me 3 years. You want to bake it just long enough to get the crumb set otherwise you risk a dry Stollen. This step is very important because you need to allow the Stollen to mature for around 2 weeks in a cool place, wrapped up in paper and foil. During this process the flavours of the spices, almonds and rum soaked raisins spread through the Stollen and turn it from being just a fruity loaf into a feast of complex flavours and aroma. This is another reason why I love making Stollen, as it keeps well and makes a great present.
The ingredients listed are for one Stollen weighing roughly 900g. This is a good size for a family gathering, though you might want to double up and give the other one as a gift.
375g white bread flour
15g fresh yeast
65g caster sugar
½ egg whisked up
125g butter, softened
Zest of half a lemon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom.
37g ground almonds
50g mixed peel
60g skinned almonds, toasted
20g pecan nuts
3-4 tbs good quality rum
100g melted butter, for coating
Icing sugar, for coating
Method: A day before making the dough soak the raisins and currants in the rum. Give it all a good stir once or twice in between. I always add a bit more rum as I like my Stollen boozy.
The next day: Mix the flour, ground almonds and spices with the salt and sugar, crumble in the yeast and add the milk, butter, egg and lemon peel. Combine and knead for 10 minutes. It will be wet and sticky to begin with but persevere, soon you’ll have a lovely buttery fragrant dough. Alternatively, you can use a food mixer with the dough hook attached.
Cover the dough and leave to prove somewhere warm for an hour or more until doubled in size.
Once nicely risen add the boozy raisins and currants, the mixed peel and the nuts to the dough. Knead a bit until they are well dispersed.
Next, shape into the traditional Stollen shape. Use a rolling pin to flatten it roughly into a 1½-2cm thick oval. Now place the rolling pin in the centre of the dough so that the ends of the pin are in line with the “pointy” ends of your oval. Gently roll the pin back and forth by a few centimetres to create a dip in the dough that runs from one end to the other. Now take one of the long ends and fold it ¾ over as pictured below. If all of this sounds too complicated, just shape it into a cylinder and place it into a floured oval banneton.
Place the dough on a tray lined with parchment, cover loosely with cling film and allow to prove until risen by half. Roughly 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
When ready, put the Stollen in the oven for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it after 20 minutes. If it looks like it is browning too much cover it with foil. Once the 30 minutes have elapsed turn it down to 175°C (155°C fan) and if you haven’t done so already, cover the Stollen with foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. In the meantime melt 100g of unsalted butter.
Remove the Stollen from the oven and place it on a wire rack. You may find that some raisins onto the crust have charred, remove these. Brush the Stollen liberally with the melted butter. Try to get it into every nook, cranny and dimple – don’t hold back. The butter acts as a barrier that retains the Stollen’s moisture. Now get your sieve out and fill it with icing sugar. Dust the buttered Stollen all over with it and then some more. You want a thick coat of white on the surface.
Allow to cool completely, wrap in parchment and then in foil. Store somewhere cool for 1-2 weeks to mature.