Friday, December 10, 2010

One Down...Christmas Stollen makes Good Study Food

I just finished the first of four exams!  I am thrilled to say that by this time next week, I will be finished for the semester, and can ponder the season without worrying about how much studying I need to do or what chapters I need to finish reading.  I absolutely love what I am learning; it is life-changing!  I even love how exams bring 12 weeks of classroom material and makes it "stick," in distilled form.  However, the plight of school is the never-ending to-do list that is always rumbling in the back of our minds until that last exam is submitted, and so until these tests are done I'll probably grumble and complain about them.  Thankfully, semesters end and the break ushers in a restful reprieve, and much more appreciation for my professors and their assignments!

As a teacher or student, sometimes it is hard to enjoy the Advent season and to enjoy those festivities which lead up to Christmas day because there is so much to do scholastically with final papers, exam prep, studying, and those pesky exams.  So we take our holiday cheer and make traditions where we can, even during study sessions.  I had some classmates over yesterday for a study session and decided to make a loaf of Christmas stollen for our brunch meeting. 

I'll be honest; stollen is far from traditional Christmas fare for me.  I had never made nor tasted it and none of my study-mates had even heard of it, so I cannot attest to its authenticity.  But that didn't keep us from immensely enjoying the loaf of fruit-studded and marzipan stuffed bread.  And it certainly didn't keep my husband from devouring the few leftover slices, while talking in a pseudo-"German" accent.  Authentic or not, we may have just added a new tradition to our holiday study time!

Christmas Stollen

Adapted from Cooking Light, November 1999

Give yourself plenty of time when making this.  While the hands-on time is relatively short and the work easy, there is a lot of resting time in this recipe (several hours plus an overnight rise, and cooling time after baking).  

3 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon cherry juice
1 cup mixed dried cherries, golden raisins, dried cranberries, and currants
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 package)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
3 1/2 cups flour, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sliced almonds
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
7 oz. box of marzipan 
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the brandy, cherry juice, and dried fruit.  Stir and let the fruit marinate for 1 hour. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and warm water.  Let this sit for five minutes, or until bubbly.  Turn the mixer on low and strain the liquid from the fruit into the bowl, then add 1 1/2 cups flour, milk, sugar, butter, salt, and egg.  Increase the mixer to medium-low speed and mix for 2 minutes, until combined.  Add the fruit, almonds, zests, cardamom, and an additional 1 1/2 cups flour and continue to mix for 6 minutes.  With the mixer still on, add up to 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. 

Transfer the dough to a second metal bowl that has been lightly greased.  Turn the dough to coat the top.  Cover with a clean towel and set the dough in a warm, draft free place to rise for two hours.  The dough will not double, but an indentation should remain when you push two fingers into the dough when it is ready.  Punch the dough down and let it rest for five minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a greased baking pan and stretch the dough into a large oval, about 13 x 8 inches.  Cut the marzipan in half length-wise and put the two pieces end-to end in the center of the dough.  Fold the two long sides over the marzipan, seal the ends, and flip the loaf over, reshaping it as needed (it should now be about 12 x 4 inches oval).  Cover with a layer of saran wrap and a towel, and refrigerate overnight. 

In the morning, take the baking pan out and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the loaf for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes, then brush with butter and sift powdered sugar over the top of the bread. 

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Margaret said...

Wow! No American I've ever met has willingly taken on a stollen! My grandmother used to make these and send them over from Germany, and now that she's 93 we import ours from a bakery in Munich. ;)

But I've always wanted to start making them, and the one thing she's always said is to let them sit. For like, three weeks. She always made hers at the end of November.

Yours sure looks good, though!

Monet said...

Isn't it funny how "Studying" can begin to feel like a holiday tradition. I've been in school for some time now, and December always reminds me of papers! Thankfully, I'm learning to let go of that stress and I'm trying to embrace the true meaning of the season more. Your stollen looks lovely. What a great snack to study with. Thank you so much for sharing with me today. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Unknown said...

I have never made one either, I am dying too! Yours is gorgeous.

DessertForTwo said...

Something you said totally struck a chord with me: that you love how an exam makes 12 weeks of classes stick. You know that most people don't feel that way about school, right? And that you are definitely meant to be in grad/seminary school (not sure which you're in). Anyway, just thought I'd mention that because maybe it's encouraging? I went to grad school for the exact same reason and loved it!

grace said...

good luck on the rest of your exams--it's rough at the time, but boy, the feeling upon completion is hard to beat!
gorgeous loaf of stollen--i'm impressed!

Delishhh said...

Great Bread. Nice pics!

The Duo Dishes said...

We've never tasted nor made stollen, so this is fun to see. So many ingredients, so much flavor. Had no idea marzipan was in there too.