26 Dec 2013

An unconventional Christmas Stollen

Back in November when it was 10°C outside, I wasn't quite yet in Christmas spirit, but as always up for a small challenge in the kitchen, I unexpectedly found myself "competing" against the big supermarkets in a Stollen taste-test.
For their December taste-testing "Off the trolley" column, the local Edinburgh Bite Magazine had sampled 8 industrially-produced Stollen alongside my home-made version. Full-well knowing that I was going to take a big risk in making a Stollen that differed from the beloved marzipan Stollen, I opted to make one of my favourite versions: A poppy-seed Stollen with an added twist of brandy-soaked cranberries.
Personally, I was very happy with the result and particularly with the first ever "excuse" to eat Stollen prior to the start of advent. But I seem to have strongly divided the jury who either hated or loved the stronger and less-sweet flavour of my Stollen compared to the industrially sugar-ladened Stolle. You can read all about the result of Bite's taste-testing here.

my first-ever home-made Stollen filled with poppy-seeds and cranberries

The following recipe is an adaptation from the traditional Christstollen that I was given from an old German friend of mine. The poppy-seed filling can be used for any other yeast-based sweet dough, for cakes and tarts or to make traditional poppy-seed dumplings. Of course, if poppy-seeds isn't your thing, you can fill the Stollen with marzipan or any other nut-based filling.a

For the Stollen dough:
  • 500g plain flour
  • 50g fresh yeast (I buy it in the Real Foods shop)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 150ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 75g lard
  • 75g butter
  • 1egg
  • 100g cranberries, soaked in brandy over night
  • 100g crushed almonds
  • splash of almond essence (optional)
  • 50g mixed peel
For the poppy-seed filling
  • 200g poppy-seeds
  • 1 tbsp rice
  • 200ml full-fat milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g good-quality or home-made marzipan, grated

For the finish
  • 100g melted butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 200ml full

Dissolve the yeast in luke-warm milk and add 1tbsp sugar. Mix the remaining sugar with the flour and the salt in a large bowl, make a well and add the yeast/milk mixture into the well. Cover the yeast/milk mix with flour from the edge of the bowl and leave in a warm place for 10-15minutes. Add the softened lard and butter and the egg and kneed for 10minutes (I happily use my wonderful KitchenAid dough hook). Add the remaining dough ingredients and mix well until evenly distributed. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size (takes about 1 hour in a warm place).

In the meantime, prepare the filling:

Grind the poppy seeds (I use a powerful coffee grinder). Finish by grinding the rice, which has the added benefit of cleaning your coffee grinder. Heat the milk until boiling stage and add the ground poppy seeds, rice, sugar and vanilla extract. Take off the heat and mix well. Let the mix cool before adding the eggs and the grated marzipan.

Knock back the Stollen dough and divide into two. Roll each half into a rectangle of about 3cm thickness and spread with half of the poppy seed mixture. Make an indentation side-length in the middle of the dough and fold one half into the middle and press down a little. Fold the other half onto the first in order to create the typical Stollen shape. Admittingly, this requires a bit of pratice, or better a professional to show you! Lift the Stollen on a lined and butterd baking tray, place some baking paper in between them if baked together, cover and leave to rise again for 1 hour.

Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 175°C and bake for another 30 minutes until golden brown.

Melt the butter and cover the Stollen generously with alternating layers of melted butter and icing sugar until a thick layer of icing sugar has been obtained.

If stored in an air-tight container in a cool place, the Stollen will be great for at least 3 weeks. In fact, as for Christas cakes, the flavours improve after a few days.
Happy Christmas!