This past Christmas one of my customers, Arthur Fleiss, ordered several stollen and sent me a story about his connection with this festive bread. His mother was from Chemnitz, Saxony, where stollen originates and she recalled the preparation of stollen by the family cook in the lead up to Christmas and Chanukah during her childhood in the 1920s. A dozen stollen were walked down to the local bakery on a little wooden handcart to be baked and the loaves were then given as Christmas presents.
It’s a story that speaks of connections between people during the festive season and the power of food to imbue memories and endure in the retelling for a hundred years. Arthur’s parents became refugees and the community in Chemnitz did not fare well in the years that followed, and so the story is tinged with sadness, too. I shall think of Arthur and his mother whenever I make stollen from now on. I appreciate the stories people share with me at the bakery; it is one of the greatest pleasures and privileges of the role of a baker.
Makes 2 loaves (700g)
WHAT YOU NEED
Stage 1: Refreshment
50g (2 oz) strong white bread flour
20g (¾ oz) water
10g (¼oz) wheat starter (12 hours after last refreshment)
Stage 2: Refreshment
100g (3½oz) strong white bread flour
40g (1½ oz) water
50g (2 oz) stage 1 starter 4 hours after final refreshment
Stage 3: First dough mix
244g (9 oz) flour plus extra for dusting
104g (3½ oz) whole milk
18g (½oz) caster sugar
36g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 2.5cm (1 in) cubes
sunflower oil, for greasing
120g (4 oz) raisins
50g (2 oz) candied peel
50g (2 oz) dried cranberries
35g (1¼ oz) rum or hot water
finely grated zest of ½ Orange
½ tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped or ½ tsp vanilla extract
75g (3 oz) whole almonds, skin on
150g (5 oz) marzipan
Stage 4: Second dough mix
12g (½ oz) whole milk
1 tsp sea salt
36g (1½oz) sugar
145g (5 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 2.5cm (1 in) cubes
For the coating
200g (7 oz) unsalted butter
1kg (2 ¼ lb) icing sugar
WHAT TO DO
- Mix all the stage 1 ingredients in a 200ml (7fl oz) jar or container with a lid, cover and leave at warm room temperature for 12 hours. Repeat this refreshment schedule twice a day, every 12 hours, for 3 or 4 days in the days before you start the more concentrated refreshments ready for mixing.
- The day before you mix the first dough, refresh your starter 5 times, every 4 hours with the stage 2 ingredients just before you go to bed.
- The day you will mix the first dough, refresh the starter every four hours again; adjust the number of refreshments to suit your schedule but mix the first dough 4 hours after your final refreshment.
- Combine the flour, milk and sugar, for stage 3, with 163g (5½ oz) of stage 2 starter in the bowl of free standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for 5 minutes on a low speed. Scrape down the sides, add the butter to the dough and mix on a medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough is fairly dry and firm and does not need extensive mixing. It can also be kneaded by hand on an unfloured work surface for 7–8 minutes.
- Use the sunflower oil to grease a rectangular flat bottomed glass or plastic container with a capacity of at least 3 litres (5¼ pints). Transfer the dough to the container, cover and mark the level of the dough on the side, so you can check when the dough has doubled. Place the dough in a cool place for 8–12 hours.
- Combine the raisins, candied peel, cranberries, rum or hot water, orange zest, caraway seeds, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl and leave at room temperature while the first dough ferments.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4. Place the nuts on a non-stick baking tray and roast for 5–10 minutes until golden and fragrant. Turn the oven off.
- When the dough has doubled in volume you can mix the second dough. Place the first dough in the bowl of a free standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk, salt and sugar for the stage 4 and mix for 2–3 minutes on a low speed until fully incorporated. Mix for an additional 3–5 minutes while rapidly adding the butter a cube at a time. When the dough is smooth and the ingredients are fully mixed into the dough, add the fruit mixture and almonds and gently mix for 2–3 minutes until incorporated evenly through the dough.
- Weigh your dough and divide it in half. Pre-shape into rounds, dust the tops with flour and leave to rest on the work surface for 20–30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- To shape your dough, turn it over so the top is now touching the work surface. Shape into a rough oval with your hands but don’t handle the dough any more than necessary. Roll the marzipan into 2 x 15cm (6 in) ‘sausages’. Flour your rolling pin and make an indent in the centre of the dough; lay your ‘sausage’ of marzipan in the indent and fold the dough over so you have a half circle with the marzipan inside. Find the point on the opposite side to the fold of the dough where the marzipan stops and make another indent here with your rolling pin, effectively sealing the marzipan into the dough and creating a dip in the dough which gives the traditional shape.
- Gently shape the ends of your loaf into soft points and lay the loaves on the lined trays.
- Bake for 35–45 minutes until golden or the internal temperature is 93–98ºC (199–208ºF) and a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the dough comes out clean. Set aside to cool on the tray.
- When the stollen is cool, melt the butter for the coating in a small pan. Brush the stollen all over with melted butter and then liberally dust the top and bottom of the loaf with icing sugar to create a thick coating. Leave to set on a tray for a few hours and then wrap firmly. You can serve straight away but the flavour is best after about a week. Well wrapped it will keep for a month.
- Serve thin slices with tea. It is meant to be a little dry, though not overly so but don’t think of it as a cake so much as a rich, dense bread.