If you're fortunate enough to live in the Hudson Valley area, among the many perks is the close proximity to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. I once hoped to attend as a full time student, but the school district I worked for "made me an offer I couldn't refuse," and so that was the road not taken. When I retired 4 years ago, one of my first adventures was to take one of their Saturday classes. I've since taken 5 more classes and hope to attend another in the near future. That first class was on appetizers and we ate our classwork. After that, the classes I took were all in the baking department, so in additon to bringing home armloads of baked goods, we were served a fabulous lunch in one of their beautiful halls. One of those classes was Christmas baking. We made cookies and tarts and breads from around the world. After your first class, you learn to bring lots of Tupperware and bags. I've been making this Christmas stollen every year since. Although it's supposed to "develop," I couldn't resist cutting into one of the loaves last night and sampling it with a cup of tea. It's still my favorite recipe for stollen. It's more cake-like than bread-like.
Like Panettone (Italy) and brioche (France) and Gugelhupf (Germany), stollen has a rich history. Its origins are in the 14th century when this delicious bread was given by the Bakers' Guild to the aristocracy and the ruling church in the form of a tax. The shape of the loaf alludes to the Christ Child, swaddled in white cloth. Stollen is very popular throughout central Europe during Christmas. It is often made days and weeks in advance of Christmas to allow the flavors and aromas to heighten. It's sweetened with sugar as well as candied fruits and raisins. My only deviation is to substitute regular raisins for sultanas. There's just something about the golden raisins that I don't find aesthetically pleasing.
INGREDIENTS - makes 3 loaves
- 10 oz raisins
- 2 oz candied lemon peel
- 3.5 oz candied orange peel
- 3.5 oz toasted slivered almonds
- 2 oz rum
- 8 oz unsalted butter
- 5 1/2 oz granulated sugar
- 9 oz cream cheese
- 5 extra large eggs (4 oz)
- 1/3 oz pure vanilla or 1/2 vanilla bean
- 3 drops almond extract
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1 lb., 2 oz all purpose flour
- 1/2 oz baking powder
- 1/8 oz baking soda
- 1/4 oz salt
(1-2 sticks unsalted butter, melted)
OPTIONAL: almond paste, softened and rolled into 3 logs, roughly the length of each loaf
The Day Before You Bake: combine the almonds, raisins, lemon peel, orange peel, and rum and soak overnight.
The Day You Bake:
- cream the butter and cream cheese in mixer bowl; add sugar and continue to mix; add eggs one at a time and continue to mix; add the almond extract and lemon zest
- sift dry inrediens together and add to the butter mixture
- add the dried nuts and fruit mixture
- scale into 1 lb, 4 oz loaves; shape the dough by rolling or patting it into an oval, placing an almond log in the middle; seam on bottom
- bake immediately at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes
- brush the stollen with melted butter as soon as you take it out of the oven
- cool the stollen completely, then brush with butter again and roll in granulated sugar
Wrap the stollen in aluminum foil and store in a cool place. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you wish, before serving.
I wrapped several pieces of cardboard with foil to place my wrapped loaves upon so they won't break in the middle. Whole loaves or slices of the loaves make a wonderful hostess gift.