Stollen for Christmas and Easter

The original recipe we used, many years ago, was from Paula Peck’s wonderful book, The Art of Fine Baking.  We have tweaked it, accommodating it to our various tastes, like Char’s dislike for citrus peel.  This is where the recipe stands at the moment.

This recipe makes 2 big stollens.  You have to start the day before you want to eat it.  This takes some effort, but it is so worth it!
Mix these ingredients together and let sit overnight.
1 cup white raisins
¾ cup currants
1 and ¼ cup mixed candied fruits:
Char hates orange and lemon peel, so we use
½ cup citron and  ¾ cup candied cherries, and it is excellent.
¼ cup cognac.  Elyn likes Cognac.  Mika likes brandy.  Brandy is fine too as long as you have some decent brandy.  The cheap Chinese stuff doesn’t quite do it.  If the fruit is very dry you may have to add more cognac.  I always do.  Chinese dry fruit is VERY dry.
Set out to soften
1 and ½ cups (yes, 3 sticks) butter  If your butter doesn’t come marked, then you can weigh out 340 grams.
Prepare: ½ cup blanched almonds which are kneaded into the dough with the fruits at the end. They taste better if you heat them in the oven and toast them very lightly before using them.
Make dough:
4 packs yeast, or about 3 tablespoons if you use yeast not in packets, proofed with a little of the sugar for 15 minutes, or longer if necessary.  We have had yeast failures with this – not sure why.  Make sure your yeast is very fresh, and proof it carefully before you mix in the other ingredients.  It should bubble.  One time we had to go out and find more yeast, because the yeast never rose, even though it should have.  I proof it with 1/2 cup water, and then the 1/2 cup of milk that is called for in the recipe.
1/2 cup sugar
Then add 1 tsp salt
½ cup cold milk
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg yolks
5-6 cups of flour (dough will be soft and fairly sticky)
Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Add in the 3 sticks of softened butter from above as you mix in the flour.
Dough TRICK:  The original recipe said you should make the dough, and then add in the butter at the end. Over the years we have settled on adding 3 of the cups of flour to the wet ingredients of the dough, and then adding half the butter, and then add the rest of the flour, and then the rest of the butter. Otherwise the dough gets too dry and hard to add the butter at all.
At the end I add the fruits, and the almonds.  Don’t knead them for too long or the fruits will get all squished up in the dough and have no character.  DON’T FORGET THE ALMONDS!
Rise until not yet doubled in bulk.  You can also add a log of marzipan flattened to the middle and gild the lily. Our European friends in Shanghai like it this way!
Refrigerate four hours before using.   I like to make the dough the day before, and then bake it the next morning.  Smelling the stollen cooking in the oven on Christmas morning is such a delight.  I am often up at 5 AM to get the stollen ready before everyone wakes up.
When you want to bake it:      Cut dough in half.   Roll half the dough into an oval about 1/3 inch thick, and fold over not quite in half.  Then do it again with the other half.
Allow to rise again, at least an hour.  Brush with butter.
Bake at 350 for one hour or more, then brush with butter again when still warm.  If your oven isn’t reliable, make sure you check the stollens towards the end.  In our China oven we have to cover the stollens with foil so they don’t burn.  You can check the internal temperature with a digital pen thermometer… it should be at least 190, and 200 degrees F is definitely okay too.
Dust with vanilla sugar.  It cuts better if you wait a bit.  But then again, maybe you can’t wait!

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