Christmas just wouldn’t feel right without baking a stollen. It’s a traditional German bread with a deliciously moist centre of ground almonds. This year I’ll make some as christmas gifts. Yes they are a little bit fiddly and there are a few stages in the process but it’s so worth the effort. Making festive breads always takes me back to when my now adult children were still at home. Then as now these breads were reserved for very special occasions. It was one of the signs that Christmas was nearly here. We are constantly bombarded with shallowness, commercialism and instant everything. Creating family traditions enriches. I enjoy the effort that I have to put into making the stollen just as much as I enjoy the pleasure that others will get when consuming it. When making festive breads if you can, use unbleached white bread flours. It makes such a difference in the quality of the finished product.
FOR THE DOUGH; 1/2 cup sultanas, 1/4 cup currants, a slosh of brandy or rum (I used cointreau cos that’s all I had), 3 &1/4 cups unbleached white flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup caster sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cardamon, 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon. A generous 3/4 cup lukewarm milk, 3 tsp yeast granules, 1/4 cup melted butter, l egg lightly beaten. 1/3 cup mixed peel. 1/3 cup almonds finely chopped. Extra melted butter and icing sugar.
FOR THE ALMOND PASTE; 1 cup almond meal, 1/4 cup caster sugar, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1 egg lightly beaten…but you’ll only use half.
Put the sultanas and currants into a small pot over a low heat, stirring for about 3 minutes until the fruit has warmed through. Pour over the brandy or rum and leave aside.
Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Stir in the spices and caster sugar.
Sprinkle the yeast onto the lukewarm milk and stir gently.
Pour the yeasty mix into the centre of the flour and slowly bring in a little flour from around the edge to make a thick batter. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour over the batter. Cover with a clean t-towel and leave in a warm place for some 30 minutes.
MAKING THE ALMOND PASTE.
Mix almond meal, caster sugar and icing sugar together then add the lemon juice and the egg.
Knead to a smooth paste, then form into a sausage about 8in 20cms long.
Cover and set aside.
BACK TO THE DOUGH;
Add the melted butter and the egg to the yeast and flour mix. Mix to a soft dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for at least 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put a little oil back into the mixing bowl and roll the dough around in it to stop it from sticking to the bowl. Cover with a clean t-towel, leave in a warm place for approx 2 hours or until it doubles in size.
Once the dough has doubled turn it out onto a lightly floured board and knock it back. Pat it out to about 1in thick. Sprinkle over the currants, sultanas, mixed peel and chopped almonds. Fold over and knead until you have incorporated the fruit and nuts into the dough. The fruit keeps falling through holes it makes in the dough but persist and it will soon look like
Roll out the dough into an oval shape about 12in x 9in. Make an indent along the centre where the almond roll will nestle in.
Fold the dough over to enclose the almond roll making sure the top edge is a little above the base of the dough. Press down to seal the ends and the overlapping edge. Place the shaped loaf onto an oiled baking tray, cover with your clean t-towel and leave to rise in a warm place, for about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C. When risen bake the loaf for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped at the base.
As soon as it comes out of the oven brush the top with the extra melted butter. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.