“Is that your bread?”

“Nope”

“Well, who’s bread is it?”

“It’s STOLLEN BREAD!”

This is my family all day long, every day of Christmas vacation. We love corny puns…it’s kind of our thing. And we’re very good at them.

Ok so good might be a relative term (as in…everyone who’s related thinks we’re good! haha!), but really, if you came to hang out with us, I think you’d laugh.

This bread was actually kneaded in Pittsburgh, then rose in the car 8 hours, and then baked and sugar coated at my parents house in Chicago.

And hey, did you notice? Pictures from a real camera! I finally got it back from best buy with a new and pretty screen.

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.

I ran out of time to do the candied fruit so I just used orange zest, but if you’d like to make your own, a link to the recipe is here along with the original Christmas Stollen recipe.

Cranberry Walnut Stollen

¼ cup lukewarm water mixed with 1 tsp sugar
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup almond milk
10 tablespoons margarine
5½ cups (Measure flour first – then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ + 1/2 cup  walnuts separated
1 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons rum + extra for coating
1/2 cup brown sugar
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Soak the cranberries in the rum, set aside.

Pour ¼ cup  warm water with sugar into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup almond milk and 10 tablespoons margarine over medium – low heat untilmelted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl add vanilla extract (I also added a little limoncello, yum!).

In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and zest.

Then stir in the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/margarine 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.

Add in the soaked fruit and nuts and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.

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 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few cranberries will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with 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. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.

Special instructions: Prior to rolling I opted to coat the rectangle with brown sugar, ground up walnuts and almonds, and orange zest prior to rolling it up. I also brushed some melted margarine on top. Other options include marzipan, candied fruit, chocolate…

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.

Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.

Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. I forgot to twist mine outward, so it kind of looked like a giant sun rather than a wreath, but pretty none the less!

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
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.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter and brandy/rum/other liquor.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.

Repeat melted butter/rum step every ten minutes as much as you like. I did three coats, but a few more definitely would have been appropriate. The more you coat it the longer it will stay fresh.
Before serving, re-coat with powdered sugar.

It supposedly lasts in a plastic bag 3-4 weeks, or 2 months in the fridge, but I challenge you to not eat it all by week 2!

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