Sunday, December 26, 2010


Merry belated Christmas everyone!

I left sunny California a few days ago to come to a semi-cold (but surprisingly not so bad) Chicago, which has welcomed me with open arms... and a blanket of snow. So exciting to have a white Christmas again! And what a white Christmas it was.

A few days ago the snow fell like a slow but steady dusting of powdered sugar, eventually covering even the tiniest branches of trees with a layer of fresh, white snow. It was gorgeous and magical and my favorite part of winters in Chicago.

It's no surprise then that Christmas stollen, a slightly sweet yeast bread with chunks of dried fruit and citrus, is covered with an equally healthy dusting of powdered sugar.

Look how GIANT it is!!

I made this recipe as part of my Daring Baker's challenge, and along with the steamed English "pudding", this has been one of my favorite challenges in the 9 months I've been a Daring Baker. The bread came out amazingly fluffy and tender, the fruit and citrus gave it flavors that I absolutely love, and the sweetness in the bread was perfect for me: not too sweet, but just enough to make it dessert-like.

The inside of my stollen: with chunks of home-made candied lemon and orange peel, 
home-made marzipan, and brandy soaked cranberries.

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.

The outside of my stollen: crispy and tender and bursting with marzipany goodness!

As far as difficulty level, the stollen wasn't hard, just a bit time consuming with the amount of time you needed for the bread to rise, especially on day #2. Relatively minimal hands-on time though, and a total show stopper, so it's perfect for a big gathering of people.

On the first day of stollen making you basically combine all the ingredients and knead the bread. I don't bake and knead bread all that often, but I should start doing it more. There's something so cathartic about the repetitive and physical process of kneading that puts me in a state of cooking zen.

After you're done, the dough will be smoother, but still a bit sticky. That's fine. That's the way it should be. No worries though, an overnight rest in the fridge will solve all your problems.

Note: it's best to cover the stollen directly with a piece of plastic wrap,
touching the bread. Do as I say, not as I did...

On the second day of stollen making the fun part begins.

First you thaw the bread for a few hours at room temp so you can roll it out into a large rectangle.

Sorry for crappy photos. That's a rectangle of bread with two 
hot-dog shaped rolls of homemade marzipan on top. Yum!

I have to say, I think this step was the hardest part of stollen making. I was having a really hard time rolling the dough without it coming back and shrinking on me. I don't remember exactly, but I swear it probably took me at least 10 minutes to roll it out. Maybe even longer. And I'm not exactly sure why my bread was doing that. Maybe because it wasn't completely warmed up and was being a brat to work with. Or maybe that's the way it always is. Or maybe you'll have a different experience with it and yours will be a breeze. I have no idea. This was my first time working with stollen so I'm not as expert about how it should be.

But all I'm trying to say is if you have the same problem as me, fret not! Just keep rolling it out, slowly but surely, and eventually you will be able to get it into the 16" x 24" rectangle it needs to be.

Then you roll up the stollen (lengthwise) so you have a fat, long tube of bread (24" long). Bring the ends together to form a wreath, and stick it on a baking sheet. Then, using kitchen scissors, cut the stollen every 2" or so to make a pretty wreath.

It's so festive looking!

And now, more waiting, as it's time for the stollen to get FAT.

I let my bread rise over 2 hours. Again, I'm not a bread expert, and the directions told me to let it rise when it was 1.5X the size of the original. That's a hard thing to gauge by eye, so I also used my sense of touch to help me out. When you gently poke the dough it should feel fluffy and bounce back pretty easily. That means the indentation from your finger shouldn't remain for too long in the dough.

Here you can see how poofy the stollen got before I popped it into the oven.

Another crappy photo, but you get the picture...

Hot tip: Even if you don't have a blog I'd highly recommend taking a picture of your bread pre and post-rise. It's easier to see how much it's risen that way. Just look at the writing of SILPAT in the two photos.

At this point it's ready for a trip in the oven. After 40 minutes or so, you'll get a beautiful stollen, complete with a golden hue.

But here's where the fun part begins. Brush your stollen with melted butter (maybe 2-4 TBSP), making sure to get in the nooks and crannies, and then sift a bunch of powdered sugar on top. You'll need to dust it a few times, as the butter will dissolve the first few layers of powdered sugar.

And there you have it, a delicious and beautiful stollen. I will definitely be making this again, and I hope some of you out there try it as well.

Buen Provecho,

Homemade citrus peel, by me Check out one of my earliest blog posts with a recipe and photos.

Homemade marzipan, from

Note: I cut this recipe in half and used the full half amount in the stollen


2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
4 cups ground almonds (or almond meal)*
2 egg whites
3-4 (or more) tsp almond extract
Powdered sugar for dusting

*I used Trader Joes almond meal, but next time I think I'm going to make it myself from blanched (i.e. peeled) almonds. I felt the purchased ground almonds were a bit too gritty.


1. Prepare a workspace by sprinkling powdered sugar over a marble slab, wooden cutting board, or large baking sheet. Fill your sink or a large bowl with cold water.

2. Place the sugar and 2/3 cup water in a large heavy saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the cream of tartar and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and cover, boiling, for 3 minutes.

3. Uncover and boil until the temperature reaches soft-ball stage, 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

4. Place the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water you’ve prepared, stirring the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes thick and creamy.

5. Stir in the ground almonds and the egg whites, the place back over low heat and stir for 2 minutes more until the mixture is thick. Spoon the marzipan onto your prepared work surface, and turn it with a metal spatula until it cools down enough to touch.

6. Coat your hands in powdered sugar and begin to knead the marzipan, working it until it is smooth and pliant.

7. Your marzipan can now be used immediately or stored by wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in an airtight container.

Christmas stollen, from Daring Bakers

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people


¼ 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)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
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
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins or dried cranberries
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum*
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
marzipan, optionalMelted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

* If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.


In a small bowl, soak the raisins or cranberries in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.

To make the dough

1. Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

2. 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.

3. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.

4. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. Then slowly 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.

5. Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.

6. Knead the dough. 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 8-10 minutes. The dough should have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. Note: You can also use your dough hook attachment and knead using the machine for 6 minutes. I used the machine for 5 minutes and also kneaded by hand for 10 or so minutes.

7. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the dough directly with plastic wrap and cover the bowl with another piece of 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.

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. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

4. Lay strips of marzipan on the dough, lengthwise, if using.

5. 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.

6. Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough. Separate the segments the big, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with kitchen towel.

7. Proof for ~2 (or more) hours at room temperature (or slightly warm oven), until about 1½ times its original size. Dough should bounce back very easily when gently poked with your finger.

8. With ~30 minutes left in the rise, preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Transfer to cooling rack and cool at least an hour before serving.  Note: I had to steal a bite while the bread was still warm and it was delicious. So feel free to serve it warm as well if you'd like. But traditionally it is served at room temp.

12. When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.


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 or
3. One month in the refrigerator well covered with foil and plastic wrap.

Ideas for variations

You can substitute the raisins with cranberries or other dried fruit. You can substitute the lemon and orange zests for other zests (lime). Fresh yeast is difficult to find but if you can get it, use it. It has good rising qualities and produces excellent tasting bread. If you are using fresh yeast: use double the weight of the active dry yeast that is in the original recipe. Example: if the recipe calls for 1/2 oz of active dry yeast use 1 oz of fresh yeast and you will have similar rising times as the original recipe.

Additional Information

Kneading Bread

Martha Stewart’s wreath


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