I’m a fan of stollen, the buttery rich fruit bread that lands on every German table at Christmas. It’s a yeast bread. The dough is just a little bit sweet, but it’s studded with raisins and currants and citrus peel and candied cherries, wrapped around a sweet filling and baked golden brown.I have never baked a stollen, and get mine from Hoehn’s Bakery usually, but when a friend called and asked me over to give it a try I thought “Why not? How hard can it be?”
It’s not that hard, but it does consume the better part of a day. That’s no hardship at all when you are with a great friend like Mary Roby, executive director of Cylburn Arboretum and one of the founding members of the Friends of Patterson Park. She and her husband live in Upper Fells Point in a house they rehabbed from the basement up—and when it came to the kitchen they put in a Viking stove. It’s a dandy.
We went with a recipe on the brooklynfarmhouse.com website, “Christmas Stollen with Marzipan and Rum Frangipane Filling.”
There are a lot of different parts to this recipe so it’s good to have a couple of people working on it.
The dough was my department.
First things first:
1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup currants, 1 cup mixed candied citrus peel, 1/2 cup of candied cherries (cut in quarters), 1/2 cup golden rum.
Toss the fruit and peel together in a bowl and add the rum. Let soak for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, proof two packages of active dry yeast (about five teaspoons) by stirring it in to 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Think baby-bottle warm. When the mixture is clay-grey and frothy, you are ready to add it to the dough, which is made up of
5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp almond extract, 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon peel, 1 lukewarm cup of milk, two large eggs, and a stick and a half of softened butter.
Drain the fruit and toss together with a cup of slivered almonds.
Pat the dough out into a rectangle about 9 by 16 inches and put half the fruit and almonds onto one-third of the area of the dough. Then fold the dough over to cover the fruit and almonds. Put the other half of the fruit and almonds on top of that fold and fold the last third of the dough over. It’s a little like an accordion fold with a surprise inside.
Then knead. It is messy and most of the fruit will try to escape at some point, but after five minutes or so you will have a ball of dough with almonds and fruit smoothly kneaded into it.
Form the dough into a ball, roll it around in a large buttered bowl, cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and go do something else for two hours while the dough rises.
Mary and I had lunch and caught up on things. For instance, did you know that Cylburn Arboretum has nature walks? Birdwatching? Photography strolls? Check it out at www.cylburnassociation.org. There are also plenty of opportunities for volunteer gardeners, for those who have the gardening yen and no place to indulge it. There is plenty of information on the website.We went back to check on the dough, and Mary made a rum frangipane filling by beating together a stick of soft butter, 2/3 up sugar, a cup of almond meal, 2 tbsp flour, 2 eggs and 2 tbsp rum. She also cut a 14-ounce tube of marzipan into little cubes.
Meanwhile, I cut the ball of dough, now twice the size of the original, into four pieces. I patted out each of the pieces into a roughly 9 by 6 rectangle. We spread the frangipane filling on each of the rectangles, leaving an inch of dough all around, then put the cubes of marzipan into the filling, then rolled up the dough, pinched the seam and ends, and very carefully moved the rolls to two buttered cookie sheets.
We left the four loaves to rise for an hour and watched basketball. Butler beat Purdue at the buzzer, Mary’s husband Clint hung lights on the tree, we stroked the pets and chatted. As Purdue was coughing up an 11-point lead we preheated the oven to 350. Then we baked the stollen loaves for 35 minutes, glazed them with a mixture of butter and rum, and dusted them liberally with powdered sugar.
The stollen is delicious, and everyone at the office liked it.
But if you’re not into DIY, Hoehn’s Bakery sells a lighter and less elaborate version of stollen for $5.50.