Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Special Christmas PSA: Stollen

What is stollen, you ask? You must not have German grandparents. But seriously, stollen is a family Christmas tradition in the vein of panettone or fruitcake. But don't be put off by the mention of fruitcake - stollen is a soft, bready concoction studded with candied fruit, really more akin to challah in taste and texture.

Why only make it once a year? Well, aside from being a Dresden custom, making stollen is a huge pain in the butt(er). Because it needs several cycles of rising to develop its rich flavor, it takes about a day's worth of on-and-off labor to make one big batch. The process is much like that of any yeast bread, with a few extra complications: the batter is mixed, then left to rise and stirred down several times over the course of a few hours, adding butter halfway through. Afterwards even more flour is added to get the dough to its final bulk, followed by a few more cycles of kneading and rising. Some lemon juice, cardamom, vanilla, and almond extract are added for flavor.

The best part, of course, is adding your choice of candied fruits. Half of D4SA (Giselle) doesn't take too kindly to raisins, so we left them out, but traditionally they provide the bulk of the added fruit. We decided to stick with these guys:

Candied clementines, purchased from the Italian market

Green candied citron

Closeup of candied cherries

After some final cycles of kneading and resting, the dough is rolled out, braided into loaves, brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with slivered almonds, and finally baked. When it comes out warm and shiny the final touch is a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

One day of kitchen craziness is worth it for this much Chrismas cheer.

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